Resistance needs to be recorded. Resistance needs symbols: ideas that can travel faster than speech, last longer than memory. Nowhere is this more understood, more fought over, than in Palestine.
From the inception of the Zionist project, battle has raged over language, over landscape, over image. The ‘land without a people’, the ‘merciless terrorist’, the ‘humane soldier’, the occupying army searching for a ‘partner in peace’. For over one hundred years Palestine and her neighbours suffered countless defeats, losing land and lives again and again, facing up to a vastly superior military power again and again - yet somehow remaining the aggressor in the mainstream Western media.
And for Palestine, public opinion in the West is one of the keys to freedom.
Times are changing. The internet has widened the battlefield – citizen journalists, bloggers, photographers make up a limitless army of volunteers. The Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement empowers everyone with effective moral choices.
The Palestine Festival of Literature, PalFest, is an annual series of readings, talks and workshops featuring writers and artists from Palestine and around the world. For the last four years it’s taken place in cities across the West Bank and historical Palestine. This year will be our first in Gaza.
PalFest is by its very nature transient – it moves every day, crossing borders and military checkpoints to get to the audiences that aren’t allowed to come to us. But its aims are long term. So we’ve always made sure everything is recorded, and that videos are cut and uploaded live throughout the festival. To present to the world a vision of Palestinian life that is not directly related to the Israeli occupation. To show how keen the audiences are, how good the art is, how smart and resilient the students are.
We were lucky to have my good friend, the documentarian Murat Gökmen, with us last year. Over the festival week he went through a nasty interrogation, a full body search and a healthy dose of tear gas but he’s produced a film that captures the feeling of being on the road with PalFest and puts forward useful observations about what we’re all trying to do with it. It has both action and ideas, it is full of movement but makes time for reflection. And so keeps in step nicely with its subject.
There is a growing global consciousness that we are being lied to – some of us for our whole lives. But the time for excuses is over, the time for action is here. We’re all involved. If anything in your house is made by Motorolla, L’Oreal, Intel, Sara Lee, Estée Lauder or Victoria’s Secret you’re involved.
It’s time to work out what you’re going to do about it.
Omar Robert Hamilton is Producer of the Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest)