The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains a headline, or a daily story, on TV channels and in newspapers. It seems to be the most well-known case world-wide. Tens, if not hundreds, of films have been produced about Palestine, and plenty on the Nakba in different languages.
1. The expulsion of over 800,000 Palestinians, over almost a year is documented in only two video sequences; each is less than a minute, and in less than 10 still images! The image that most of you remember of crossing a broken bridge is of 1967, not of 1948. This image is used incorrectly to represent the expulsion. Many of the images are wrongly classified in the Congress Library or here in London. You find pictures classified under Haifa while being shot in Jerusalem, etc. Many are archived under Israel, while being shot before Israel was even created. Using the archive becomes a tedious task, as the researcher or the journalist needs to double – and even triple – check any acquired material.
2. While we lack videos of the Nakba, all the Jewish and British activities are well documented since the 30s. There are lengthy videos, with audio, for the Haganah training, the arrival of the Jewish immigrants, building of settlements, the British soldiers and even evening parties by the British community in Jerusalem. There is a video as early as 1919 showing the building of Tel Aviv.
3. 4000 Palestinian fighters and demonstrators were killed between 1936 and 1939. Yet, there are only 5 still images covering this fact. On the cultural and personal levels, we do not have videos for the Palestinian lifestyle during the 20s, 30s or the 40s of the last decade. Tel Aviv is filmed as an icon of modernisation in the 30s, while the Palestinian cities: Jaffa, Haifa or Acre are completely ignored. Instead, the Palestinians are only represented in the European news as Bedouins on camels.The bias in recording the life in Palestine can easily be spot. All this is not a coincident. It signifies a bias in the recorded material, as well as a biased archive. There is evidence of Israel possessing some of the missing archive, yet this is strictly confidential. One example is the images of the Kofr Kassem massacre in 1956, when the Israeli army killed 49 Palestinians who held Israeli passports. These images are accessible to view, but one cannot copy or record them for media usage.As a result of this scarcity of visual material, a Journalist is directed to documents as a source of information. Documents are usually overlooked by tv journalists, and deemed less interesting to the general public. In my research for the Nakba series I found numerous neglected documents, from which many of the facts I mentioned earlier were acquired. Israel has not ignored this source of information and made all possible attempts to hide or damage any documents on Palestine. Just as the Palestinians are scattered everywhere, the Palestinian archive is similarly scattered and poorly preserved. Our archive, especially after the Israeli raid on the Palestinian studies centre in Beirut in 1982, is mainly here in Britain, in the United States and within the Israeli archives. All the libraries owned by Palestinians before 1948 were stolen and are now in the basement of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem under the special collections section.In Oxford and in particular at the Middle East Centre, Antony’s College, there are thousands of the original British Mandate documents related to Palestine, thanks to the public domain archive scheme. I still recall how I found Herbert Samuel’s document “The Future of Palestine” lying there amongst piles of his personal letters. I also encountered correspondences between Samuel, Allenby, Belfour, Weizmann, and Marks Sykes.Another example of neglected documents is the work of the Physician Dr. Hussein Fakhri Al Khaldi, the ex-mayor of Jerusalem and a member of the Arab High Committee in Palestine. These were written during his stay in Beirut after 1949. The first is his memoirs and the second is entitled the “Arab Exodus”. Neither was published to date.It has long been realised that the Palestinian story needs to rely on oral witnesses, due to the lack of visual archive and the scattering of documents. It should be mentioned that only 10% of those who were born in Palestine before 1948 are still alive. Many oral history projects were carried out since the late 1970s. All those projects were by individuals or small institutions and a centralised library for all these recordings is not available.Finally, we should certainly salute the PRC for adopting the slogan “the On-going Nakba”, and keeping it on the political and media map. The last episode in the Nakba series was also entitled “The On-Going Nakba”. We are still experiencing the long process of transforming Palestine to a Zionist state and erasing it from the world map. Many might think the term on-going Nakba is merely related to the refugee camps in Gaza or Lebanon. It should be clarified that the current expulsion of Sheikh Jarrah area in East Jerusalem is part of this on-going nakba, as well as the constant demolishing of houses in Lod and Jaffa.Many Palestinians who stayed within the borders of Israel were displaced inside Israel and are refugees within their same city or in different cities and villages. They are unable to return to their homes to date, despite holding an Israeli passport.Only this year, I finished a five-hour documentary entitled “Homeland’s Owners”, which was shown on Al Jazeera Arabic. This tackled the extremely sensitive topic of Palestinians inside Israel, often incorrectly referred to as “Israeli Arabs” in the media. The 160,000 Palestinians in 1948, who became 1.5 million today, are still deprived of their basic rights of housing and lands. Around 50 villages are deprived of water and electricity. Confiscation of their lands, and demolishing their houses is continuous as well as threats to transfer them under the slogan “Mevet-Le-Aravi” – Death for the Arabs. Here, it is worth noting how the media manipulates the facts, including the fact that half the jews who immigrated to Israel were and still are indeed Arabs. The Palestinians – the “Homeland’s Owners” – are discriminated against in every aspect of their daily life. After broadcasting the series, I was surprised to discover that Palestinians in the West Bank are unaware of the situations under which Palestinians live in Jaffa, Lod, Ramleh and Acre today.For this, we surely need a specialised Media institute that aims at documenting, in a professional manner, what happened and is happening. This institute should collect and verify all pictures and documents. Despite our passion, I do not believe that we are doing what we can. Not only is the European and American public unaware of the truth, but we – Palestinians and Arabs – are equally unaware of the Nakba, its past, presence and Israeli plans for the future. In conclusion I would like to quote Mr. Wakeem Wakeem, “I do not blame those who plan day and night for their ideological project, which serves their interests. I blame us. What are we doing to ensure that any future plan that could become a new chapter of the Nakba will not succeed?”