“Peace is not just the absence of violence; but the presence of justice,” Samah Sabawi, Palestinian-Australian writer, and co-author of Journey to Peace In Palestine, told an audience of about 80 people at the University of Queensland on March 31.
She was commenting after a showing of Michael Weatherhead’s excellent documentary Return to Gaza. The documentary is based on the journey of her brother, Fetah Sabawi, who returned to Gaza with his wife and child in 2006 to visit family members and set up a music school for young Palestinian refugees.
The core of the movie is Fetah’s personal journey of discovery as he travels from suburban Melbourne to the besieged war zone of the West Bank and Gaza.
The film is a moving account of Fetah's quest for peace. It confronts the reality of Israeli apartheid against the Palestinians, with its walls, checkpoints, tanks, air attacks and ever-present military oppression.
The background to the personal story is the controversy over the 2006 Palestinian elections, which the radical party Hamas won.
However the Fatah faction organised a Western-backed coup that left Hamas only in control of Gaza. Fatah retained power in the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority.
“I personally feel we did justice to Fetah's story,” Weatherhead told the audience. “We had some 40 hours of footage to work with in the end. It was hard at times to choose, but the film speaks for itself.”
Samah Sabawi added: “Around two-thirds of the Gaza Strip population of 1.5 million are young people. And three-quarters of the people are refugees from other parts of Palestine.
“Despite the intense pressure of Israel's blockade, there is strong hope among the Gazan and Palestinian people.”
[For more information about the film, visit www.returntogaza.com and www.justiceforpalestinebrisbane.org .]