'Palestine Under Siege' documents oppression and resistance

February 27, 2024
people standing outside a building
On location during the filming of 'Palestine Under Siege'. Photo: Dare To Struggle Film Festival/Facebook

An eager audience was treated to the award-winning documentary Palestine Under Siege by filmmakers Jill Hickson and John Reynolds in Gadigal/Sydney on February 24 at the Resistance Centre.

Dare to Struggle Film Projects partnered with Wattan TV, a secular Palestinian television service operating in the West Bank and the Hebron Human Rights Defenders to make the film. The project was also supported by Defence for Children International.

Palestine Under Siege delves into the carve up of Palestinian land by the British and other Western powers in 1948 to provide a homeland for Jewish people and Israel’s accelerated colonisation of Palestinian land under its colonial Zionist apartheid regime, propped up by the West.

Much of the film was shot last year, a few months before the events of October 7, on location mostly in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and brings together the past and the present by interweaving multiple perspectives through interviews conducted by Dr Peter Slezak, a professor of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales, Australian-Palestinian artist Rand Darwish and former Australian Greens senator Lee Rhiannon.

The film team visits the homes and lands of Palestinians, including survivors of the Nakba, as well as Israeli activists and academic researchers, all of whom share their experiences, memories and insights, and their hopes for a just future.

Some well-known figures appear, such as Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against Home demolition; Salman Abu Sitta, renowned for mapping historic Palestine and developing a practical plan for the return of Palestinian refugees; and Dr Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian politician and winner of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize.

Interspersed through this stream of lively, articulate and moving conversations, often in situ on the stolen land or erased villages, are archival images and footage of recent events prior to October 7, which underpin the narrative.

The result is a clear and visual proof of the daily harassment and abuse of Palestinians at the hands of illegal settlers and Israeli soldiers and police, and provides a rare and comprehensive view on the struggle for Palestinian self-determination.

When the film switches location from Palestine to Sydney in the post-October 7 present, we see how Slezak, Darwish and Rhiannon continue their activism in the Palestine solidarity movement.

The acuteness and increasing severity of the situation in Gaza (and the West Bank) is seen in the film through the eyes of the Palestinian diaspora, and those who have come out in Sydney to support peace, justice and liberation in Palestine.

While always staying close to the human story — to the people’s struggle — the film is a call for a true investigation in the midst of the decades-long racist bias and lack of factual reporting by the Western media.

On another level, the film exposes the political manoeuvring of the lawless imperialist war machine generated by the countries supporting Israel — financially, militarily and diplomatically — such as the United States and Australia. They are complicit in the crimes against humanity and genocide unfolding before our eyes.

Watching this powerful documentary one wonders how anyone, once familiar with the historical facts and with the painful reality of Israel’s brutal apartheid regime, would not stand up and take action in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

“One cannot just lie down and accept that, yes? Then one must be cold and heartless, no?"
Mother Courage and her Children by Bertolt Brecht

Zionists are doing everything they can to prevent anyone from becoming informed. However, looking at the current international movement in support of Palestine, Israel’s credibility is crumbling fast (together with the credibility of their backers).

Israel’s claim to be the “only democracy in the Middle East” with the “most moral and noble defence force in the world” is rapidly eroding.

Thanks to the Palestinian resistance, brave journalism and alternative news channels — and the help of this important documentary — the mountain of lies and disinformation can be dismantled.

Following the film, Palestinian Australian activist Ahmed Abdala, and Jews Against the Occupation ’48 activist Michelle Berkon shared their responses. This was followed by a dynamic and equally informative Q&A with Hickson, Abdala, Berkon and Reynolds.

When asked how she dealt with fear when filming in a threatening situation, Hickson told the audience that being white gave her protection, while Darwish was constantly singled out at checkpoints and severely scrutinised by officials.

Hickson said her impression from making the film is that the Palestinian people are deeply resolved in their decision to stay and are deeply connected to their land, but also willing to live in a Palestine, from the river to the sea, shared alike by Muslims, Jews, Christians and seculars, all with the same rights.

[Visit palestineundersiege.org for more information about the documentary. To organise a free screening at your workplace, campus, community or in your own home, contact daretostrugglefilmprojects@gmail.com.]

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