“Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away” – Ismail Haniyeh, Palestinian Politician
The Palestinians’ suffering as well as their hope and struggle to return and reclaim their occupied homeland are famously known to the whole world. Not to mention in today’s borderless era where their stories of misery are easily accessible, especially through social media. In addition to new media, other platforms such as books and films still play an important role in spreading the word about the Palestinians’ hardships and the atrocities committed against them. Movies, for example, have a great impact in revealing hidden truths and raising awareness amongst the audience. They are also capable of raising fascinating questions about the representation of human rights, history, and the lives of real people in this world.
This is exactly what Farha, an eye-opening film by Jordanian filmmaker Darin Sallam, shows. The ever-inspiring film, based on actual events, focuses on the experiences of Farha, a 14-year-old girl who is locked in a storage room by her father during the events of Nakba. Nakba, an Arabic term (catastrophe), refers to the ethnic cleansing and displacement of about 750,000 Palestinians and the siege of 78 percent of historic Palestine. Through a crack in the door of the storage room, Farha witnesses the murder of an entire family, including two young children and a baby when Israeli soldiers enter the village. Since its release last year, Farha has been screened at several film festivals around the world. On 1 December 2022, it was also broadcasted on Netflix, leading to criticisms from officials and the Israeli public. In addition to accusing the film of spreading a false narrative and inciting violence against Israeli soldiers, they called for a boycott of the film. Ironically, on the same day, an Israeli soldier shot and killed a Palestinian young man in a town near Nablus, and on 11 December, a teenage girl was fatally shot in the West Bank. The fact is that brutalities made against the Palestinians can no longer be concealed. For more than seventy years, it has been made crystal clear to the world that Israel is a barbarous occupier of Palestine.
In the context of the Nakba events in 1948, the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinians were an integral part of the infamous Plan Dalet and implemented based on systematic terror as well as a series of massacres. The Deir Yasin massacre in April 1948 was the most infamous of these. The Nakba led to the destruction of much of the Palestinian society and the Arab landscape by the Zionist state. About 90 percent of Palestinians were expelled from the territory occupied by the Israeli state in 1948 – many through psychological warfare or military pressure and a great many by force of arms. The destruction of 400 to 500 Palestinian villages and homes and their conversion into Jewish settlements, national parks, forests, and even car parks, apart from the planting of forests in the depopulated villages, served not only to veil the existence of the Palestinians but also to ensure that they would never be able to return to their land.
Since 1948, Palestinians have been victims of war, dispossession, and unjust policies that push many to live as refugees around the world. Today, an estimated 5.4 million Palestinians are internally displaced, including 3.19 million in the West Bank and 2.17 million in Gaza. Meanwhile, there are about 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in Arab countries and about 0.7 million in other countries. The ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians does not end with the Nakba in 1948 but continues to this day. As stated in Amnesty International’s comprehensive report entitled “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and a Crime against Humanity” (February 2022), Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighbourhood occupied by Israel in 1967, began protesting in May 2021 against Israel’s plan to forcibly evict them from their homes and land to make way for Jewish settlers. This encouraged thousands of Palestinians across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to hold their own protests as a form of support and resistance to their collective deprivation and fragmentation. Unfortunately, their unwavering insistence was met with excessive and lethal violence by the Israeli authorities, with thousands injured, arrested, and imprisoned.
The report also describes how massive confiscations of land or property, unlawful killings, forced displacements, draconian restrictions on movement, blockades, fences, and other structures that serve as open-air prisons, and denial of citizenship and nationality to Palestinians are components of a policy that amounts to apartheid under international laws. This system is perpetuated by violations that Amnesty International considers to constitute apartheid, which is a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute and the Apartheid Convention. Amnesty International further argues that for more than seven decades, the international community has given Israel a free hand to dispossess, marginalise, oppress and dominate Palestinians, despite existing legal remedies and other measures that could have been taken. Amnesty International also warns that the international community has helped to undermine the international legal order and has encouraged Israel to continue committing crimes with impunity by failing to take meaningful actions to hold Israel accountable for its systematic and widespread violations and crimes against the Palestinian people.
With the caution given by the organisation, and in conjunction with the celebration of International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2022, the global community should express solidarity with the Palestinians and work together to end Israeli tyranny. Apart from Farha, Palestinians could also receive meaningful support during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. The waving of the Palestinian flag, especially by the Moroccan team after reaching a World Cup semi-final, and the call for the liberation of Palestine by supporters of the England team during an interview with an Israeli TV prove that there is still humanity in people around the world who believes in the genuineness of their agony.
Nonetheless, the conflict between truth and falsehood will always remain. Let us choose to be the group that upholds truth and fights against falsehood, injustice, and cruelty, as we believe in Allah’s saying in verse 18 of Surah al-Anbiya’: “And say: Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Lo! falsehood is bound to vanish.”
Wan Roslili Abd. Majid
Fellow, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM)