Photograph by Jeanloup Sieff (1933-2000)
A Palestinian priest teaching Christian children the Holy Bible in Kafr Bir’im, northern Palestine in 1930.
Lutz Bacher, Appropriated Celestial Photographs, (2012)
They Do Not Exist, dir. by Mustafa Abu Ali, 1974
In the late 1960s, a group of young Arab women and men devoted to the struggle for Palestinian freedom chose to contribute to the resistance through filmmaking — recording their lives, hopes, and their fight for justice. Working in both fiction and documentary, they strived to tell the stories of Palestine and to create a new kind of cinema.
These filmmakers included founders Mustafa Abu Ali, Sulafa Jadallah, and Hani Jawhariya. Others were Khadija Abu Ali, Ismael Shammout, Rafiq Hijjar, Nabiha Lutfi, Fuad Zentut, Jean Chamoun and Samir Nimr. Most were refugees, exiled from their homes in Palestine. And additionally there were fellow Arabs who stood in solidarity with them, devoting their work to a just cause. Their films screened across the Arab world and internationally but never in Palestine. None of the filmmakers were allowed into Palestine, or what became known as Israel, let alone their celluloid prints…
The second film was directed by Mustafa Abu Ali in 1974, who took his title from the remark made by Golda Meir that the Palestinians do not exist. Abu Ali, one of the first Palestinian filmmakers and founder of the PLO’s film division, began making films in 1968 in Jordan, along with Sulafa Jadallah and Hani Jawhariya. After Black September, Abu Ali and the others had to leave Jordan but continued making resistance films in Lebanon.
Abu Ali was able to return to Palestine after the signing of the Oslo Accords, following 47 years of exile as a refugee. However, he is forbidden by Israeli law to live in, or even visit, his hometown of Maliha (in the Jerusalem district) and must live in Ramallah — only 15 kilometers away. Maliha was attacked in July of 1948 and partially demolished by the Zionist forces. All the inhabitants, including Abu Ali, were ethnically cleansed and became refugees never allowed to return to their homes. Today, most Israelis know the area only as the Malcha Shopping Mall or Kenion.