Salwa Abu Libdeh
    Documentary Filmmaker
    quote
    "Use words instead of swords... You can either beat me up and get what you want, or you can talk to me and get what you want, and more."

    BACKGROUND INFORMATION

    Lives in: Shu'fat Refugee Camp Was born in: Jerusalem Year of birth: 1966 Identity: Muslim, Palestinian, West Bank/Gaza/E. Jerusalem Type of work: Arts and Media Website: "Dialogue On The Road" Works at Dialogue On The Road Interviewer Joline Makhlouf Date of Interview 2004

    Salwa Abu Libdeh studied Arabic Literature and worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming a news anchor with the Palestinian Broadcasting Company. She worked on a joint Palestinian Israeli German project that made a documentary film about life on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

    • Could you please start by introducing yourself and giving a brief history of who you are and where you come from?

      My name is Salwa Abu Libdeh and I was born in the old city of Jerusalem. My family is originally from Jaffa and they emigrated [from Jaffa to Jerusalem] in 1948. My father used to work with the British in 1936 as manager of the Russian Compound in Jerusalem, so during the war my grandparents left Jaffa and came to be with their son. I was born in 1964. I always dreamt of studying journalism, but we were a big family (18 all together, 9 boys and 9 girls), so instead of journalism, I studied Arabic literature at the Arab University of Beirut by distance learning. While studying, I worked at a newspaper called Al Fajr. Gradually, I started to get higher positions. I began as a reporter, then I became News Editor and by the time of my graduation I had two columns of my own in the newspaper, one about field investigations and one for and about women and children. In 1990, the journalism committee signed a contract with the German Deutsche Welle [a German Television channel] to train reporters for TV. There were 40 applicants and they chose nine. I was lucky to be one of the nine. I studied "TV journalism,", which is about producing and editing, etc. The course was two and a half years long. Afterwards, I worked on making a report for a program called "After Breakfast," for the same German channel. This channel broadcasts reports from all around the world, and at the time we were considered the nucleus of Palestinian television. When the Palestinian Authority came in, I worked with them as a news anchor in the radio station and I hosted some other local shows. Later on, they separated us according to our major, so I worked in television and my specialty was documentary film production. I work in these areas to this day, but I also work as a freelance producer for other stations. For example, I do a lot of work with Qatar TV. I set up everything for them here and they just came with their crew to film. I also worked on two films for Bahrain TV. One of them was about the Palestinian countryside and it won the Golden Award at a film festival. I'm married and have six children. Even though I'm 38 years old, I still haven't achieved my ambitions. I feel like I haven't left enough of a mark of my own. Even though a few days ago, some people from a Palestinian village called me—I had made a documentary about their village three years ago and the film is still being played on Palestinian TV—they called to thank me. I was so happy. In the film, I interviewed an old woman named Um Tareq, who is considered one of the wise people of that village. She has since passed away, and the people appreciated that I had documented some of that woman in my film. The call gave me a great feeling, as if I had won an award. The mayor, her family members and some people from the village called to thank me, and it feels so good when you do something so small that gets appreciated so much.

    • The documentary films you worked on before, what were they about?

      I started with a series called Eyes and Witnesses. It was about documenting Palestinian villages, from the north to the south. I went to villages around Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Hebron, and Jerusalem. I used to choose random villages close to big cities and do research about them and their history, and then start filming. I focused on the villages that were damaged by occupation or ruined completely, or villages that had witnessed massacres. I worked on a film called "The Memory of Sand," which was about a village near Haifa. There had been a massacre in that village but no one has said anything about it in any official history. Almost no one—there was one historian who did his Masters degree on this village, which is called Tantura. I called this man1 and asked him to tell me more about the research he had done about that village, so we met and talked. There are people who witnessed that massacre and who are in a refugee camp in Tulkarm, so I also met with them. They took me to where their village used to be and they showed me around. Now it has been turned into a park. There used to be a glass workshop there that is left as a museum. I filmed there and the film was in the Cairo Film Festival and won the Bronze award.
      I liked working with different TV stations, because I had the freedom to choose my topic and I liked gathering information about the different villages. Doing this work, especially the film about the Palestinian countryside, I learned a lot about different sectors of our society. Being there with the camera taught me a lot - that no matter how much you read about those people it is still not the same as living with them.
      • 1. Salwa is most likely referring to Teddy Katz, an Israeli researcher at Haifa University whose 1998 thesis on the Tantura massacre elicited an enormous controversy in Israel. "On the night of 22-23 May 1948, a week after the declaration of the State of Israel, the Palestinian coastal village of Tantura (population 1,500) was attacked and occupied by units of the Israeli army's Alexandroni Brigade," the Journal of Palestine Studies writes. Katz's research findings "that more than 200 Tantura villagers, mostly unarmed young men, had been shot after the village surrendered, was published in an article in the Hebrew press in January 2000. The article unleashed a storm in Israel, culminating in a 1 million shekel libel suit brought by veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade against Katz (though his research was based on taped testimonies not only of survivors but also of members of the brigade)."(source: http://palestine-studies.org/final/en/journals/abstract.php?aid=4348&iid=&jid=&vid=) Surviving members of the Alexandroni Brigade sued Katz for libel. When the case went to trial, Katz signed a mea culpa that essentially repudiated his own findings. Haifa University professor Illan Pappe writes that Katz did so "for reasons Katz himself cannot explain even today... Weakened by a stroke several weeks earlier and subjected to enormous pressures by his family, friends, and neighbors in the kibbutz where he lived, he acquiesced..." Although he tried to retract his repudiation twelve hours later, the court refused. (http://palestine-studies.org/final/en/journals/content.php?aid=4227&jid=1&iid=119&vid=XXX&vol=134)

    • Can you tell me more about the last film you worked on?

      Actually, it is not out yet. UNESCO1 is supervising this film. They wanted to make a film about Palestinian, Israeli and German producers. The Israeli producer's mission was to go inside the Palestinian side and to make a film about anything he wanted that involved profiling different sectors of Palestinian society from his point of view. He was to be accompanied by the Palestinian producer, who showed him around. At the same time, the Palestinian producer did the same about Israeli society. He had the freedom to choose the topics to be covered, but was shown around by an Israeli producer. There was a third team, which included the German producer. His mission was to film these two producers working together, how they cooperate, and how they deal with each other and with the society of the other. The film will show the producers talking with people from the other society while making the film.
      The film is in the final stages of editing and I think it will be ready by the end of March. This is the first time I have worked on anything with an Israeli producer. When I used to work for Qatar Television I used to film in cities like Haifa and Jaffa, but it was not with as much depth as in this current film. I mean, we used to film random people on the streets in Haifa, but in this film we had a plan. We knew that we wanted to cover the story about poverty in Israel, for example. Everybody thinks that Israel is all good and powerful and that everybody is happy, but it is a country like any other country, and there is a sector of poor people. Instead of investing all this money to bomb somewhere, why not give the money for your people to buy food? I've also met a lot of women who are not able to buy milk for their children!
      There is another sector in Israeli society, which comprises the people who refuse to serve in the army in the Palestinian territories. I met a lot of soldiers and air force pilots who refused to serve there because they said that they couldn't bear the thought of killing civilians. There are a lot of sides in Israeli society that we don't see. There's also another group of people, those who served in the army in previous wars, like the war in Lebanon. I met with a soldier whose leg was injured. He said "What good is it for me to fight to be on this land if I'm going to live crippled on it? What good is war if it's going to leave crippled and bereaved families?" The film shows all the anger and suffering. Who causes all this? It's the ones who claim that they are working for peace.
      • 1. United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization. http://www.unesco.org/

    • You said that you could choose the topics you wanted to cover in your film—did you choose these because you think that those topics are not well covered by the media?

      We always see on our media that Israel is the power, and maybe that's why we raised our children in fear of it. But it is a society just like any other society, and it has corruption. For example, Sharon – look at how many corruption charges he has. Look at how much poverty there is among their people, how drugs are widespread. This is the Israeli society too, so why are we so scared of it? We always thought that the Israelis had the power, but that's not true. The conclusion I got out of this film is that if there were no Palestinians then the Israelis would fight among themselves. The hunger they have on the streets… I met one man in Mahane Yehuda,1 I wanted to meet with people in the places where the most bombings have taken place—can you believe that the people over there did not talk about the bombs as much as they talked about the deteriorating economic situation? I wanted to go there to talk about something but it turned into something else. They knew I was from the Palestinian Television, but they kept talking about the economic situation. There were 500,000 Israeli children without food.2 I reached a conclusion—why isn't the Israeli government taking care of its people instead of fighting people who are asking for their rights?
      • 1. Outdoor market in West Jerusalem where many Jewish Israelis shop. Also the site of several suicide bombings. See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1004099.stm
      • 2. Over 650,000 Israeli children live below the poverty line (Maariv, December 4 2004). One in five Israeli children suffer from hunger (Maariv, November 1 2004).

    • What do you think the results of your work will be?

      The film is about the possibility of co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis, and how the relationship between them could be. It could be a friendship, but what I figured out is that when you start to talk about your rights as a Palestinian to have land and a home, that is when the trouble starts. I could sit and make friends with Israelis but when it comes to talking about our rights, it becomes a problem. I got to see my family's house and I told them "you are living in my house." There's a Jewish family living there, and I told them that this used to be my family's house. They said that they rented it from the government and that this was not their problem. In the end it's true that it's not their problem because the Israeli government is the problem. I once visited a settler named Rina in the town of Tekoa. Her son was killed. When I was about to go in to see that settler whose son was killed in the valley, I was worried—what should I say to her? That I'm a Palestinian and I want to interview her? But I tell you this, it was the first time that I loved a person like that, she was such a nice lady, very respectful and classy. She said that she had always dreamed of having a house and that she had drawn it on a piece of paper when she was young. I asked her, "Did you think about the land that you were going to build your house on, who it belonged to? Did you ever think that this land belongs to a Palestinian who is going to claim it one day?" She said, "I didn't think about the land, I thought about the location." So I told her that land means everything for the Palestinian, his dignity and honor. She said, "If I knew that by leaving this house there would be peace, I would leave." If there were many Israelis like that I would respect them very much. If there were people like Rina. There are people who want peace, but it's the Israeli government that doesn't want peace. I told one of the people from Alei Sinai,1 which is one of the settlements [in Gaza] that is going to be evacuated. I told him, "Sharon is talking about evacuating this settlement." So he said, "In his dreams!" Here you can see the contradiction among them. I said to him, "You took half of the pie, or maybe three quarters of it, and left the rest to the Palestinians. Later on you wanted to take the rest and you started building settlements everywhere. You took more than 78% of the land and built settlements on the rest."2 The problem in the end is that I don't know what they want. The Israeli people and their government want different things! If the government does what the people want, believe me, it will be good for the Palestinians and the Israelis alike.
      • 1. Israeli settlement in northwest Gaza, founded in 1982.
      • 2. Referring to the creation of the State of Israel on approximately 78% of historical (pre-1948) Palestine. The settlements were then constructed in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

    • Did you feel your sense of belonging change after this work and dealing with Israelis?

      No, you can deal with people from the other side and still hold on to your beliefs. You cannot change your beliefs overnight, but when you want to accomplish something, you can use words instead of swords. We shouldn’t carry swords and cut off each other's heads. We can get what we want by proper words and a good approach... this is how the world works. You can either beat me up and get what you want, or you can talk to me and get what you want, and more. It's all about politics and diplomacy, and how you handle things. For example, how you handle your little child. If you tell your kid not to take something he will listen, but if you yell at him, he will come back and take it. So you should talk to him and convince him, this way you will have a good relationship with him. It should be the same in everything.

    • What do you hope for?

      The Israelis took the lands of '48, then the Palestinian Authority came in but they kept building settlements on our lands. Just give the Palestinians the lands of '67, remove the settlements and leave the settlers to live in peace and security in their own country. You can't tell what it will look like after generations. We should plant flowers for the generations to come, for the next five or ten years, and leave it to them. Maybe they will plant flowers too or maybe they will come back to the same situation.

    • What are the greatest challenges that you faced in this work?

      It was the language. I can't speak Hebrew, so I decided to start learning Hebrew. If I want to understand the other and try to create a link together, I need to understand his language. There's a proverb in Arabic that says, "If you learn the language of a nation, you guarantee that they can't harm you." So I followed the same idea, to understand him more to be able to deal with him better. So my first goal now is to learn the Hebrew language.

    • What do the people around you think about this?

      About this film? At first I was worried to do this work and to work with an Israeli journalist, because I didn’t want people to think that I was normalizing relations with the Israelis. But I think that anyone could do his work and maintain his personal opinions. I didn’t change who I am or what I believe in, I just did the work. I didn’t humiliate any value or principle, I just went and filmed and did my job. I also delivered my message. I had the freedom to decide what I wanted to cover and what questions I wanted to ask, nothing was imposed on me. However, we were careful not to touch religious issues because it's very sensitive, even though I, as a Muslim, believe in all three religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. We just wanted to see the average person on the street. A lot of my friends told me to be careful that the film should not turn out to be about normalization, but I told them that I am working on this film with my own thoughts and beliefs, and I have the right to agree or disagree with the work. Even the management of the television station supported us.

    • How did the Palestinian-Israeli conflict affect your life?

      My brother was martyred in ‘79 and our house was demolished and until now we can’t rebuild it. My brother was 24. He had just come back from Saudi Arabia 6 or 7 months before, and he used to work in the post in the city of Dammam. He died when the house exploded in February ‘79. I was still a student back then. The house was in the old city of Jerusalem. How did it explode? The Jews say that he was making a bomb when it exploded and that he was the one responsible for a number of operations and such things. Until this day we can’t fix the house. A Jew once said that he was going to turn our house into a park for people to smoke nargila and so on. It still looks the same, it doesn’t belong to us or to them. It's all ruins now, but my mother still lives in part of it. It’s in part of the old city called Aqbet il Saraya near Khan El-Zeit. Before you turn right to go to the church of the Holy Sepulcher.

    • You told me about how your family moved out of Jaffa and lost their home, then you told me about how your brother was martyred, and today you are working with Israelis—did those experiences affect your work in any way?

      I was raised in a very conservative home, I learned that the land equals the soul, and my brother died for that cause. Our dream is to go back to our home. My father died here, but he always used to tell us about his house and the orange groves. We have carried on his dream to this day and in turn I tell my children about the house of my family in Jaffa. We will pass it from one generation to the next; this is something that will never be forgotten. My brother sacrificed his life for something he believed in, and that is the land. Even if the method changes, the aim is the same. You can handle a certain topic in different ways.
      I worked on this film not for the good of the Israeli government; I worked on it because of a certain thought within me. If I knew that the Israeli was going to make a film and offend the Palestinians I wouldn’t have worked with him. At the same time, if I knew that my work with an Israeli would mean that I gave up one drop of my brother's blood or one orange from our orange groves, I wouldn’t have done this work. But I had a thought in mind, which is to be able to go inside Israeli society and know what it is. If you see the film, you will see that I filmed the nighttime there, how they dance and party, and at the same time I filmed the poverty in their society. I also filmed the ones who refused to serve in the army, and the extremists who are also a sector in this society. When the film is played, people will see that I saw those sectors of Israeli society as an individual Palestinian. Other Palestinians could see something else. They might look at Israeli society from a different angle. What I saw is that this society has many sectors and you can decide which one you want to deal with. In the end I decided who I want to deal with, and I chose to deal with the extremists. I met some guys and I'm sorry to say that they told me that they think that an Arab should be locked up in a cage for people to look at just like an animal. Another one said that we should draw them their limits and the ones who cross should be shot in the head. I just want to show in my film the different sectors of that society, that there are the ones who you can deal with and then there are the extremists and so on. Yoram Binur1 did the same thing when he profiled the different sectors in Palestinian society. I'm sorry to say this but I am surprised by the Israelis. Even though they have their differences and disagreements, and some of them won't serve in the army, they still voted for Sharon in the election.
      • 1. Israeli journalist who posed as a Palestinian to experience life in the Occupied Territories and in Israel's Arab communities for his controversial book, My Enemy, My Self.

    • Did this film give you the chance to meet with someone that you wouldn't have met otherwise? Did you experience a situation that you wouldn't have otherwise had?

      I am very happy to have met Israeli producer Yoram Binur. I used to see his work about the Palestinians on TV and I liked it very much, and when I actually met him he seemed like a wonderful person. I also met with Rena, the woman in the settlement. I think that maybe I could be a friend of this person, because I truly felt that she is a person who doesn’t hold a grudge. I felt like she is like a lot of the Palestinian women who accepted the death of their children—she accepted the idea of her son's death. If there will be peace, they will consider those who died as the foundation of what's to come. At the same time, I was very sad to see that those guys who were cheering for the Maccabi Haifa soccer team were very bitter and grudging. I couldn’t believe that a 21 or 22-year-old guy could hold such a grudge. You would be amazed by how many good people there are, and how many bad. In the end, it all comes back to educating those people and raising their attitudes. I think it all comes down to the government that teaches their children to hate the Arabs. Those 21 and 22 year-old guys claim that the Arabs are becoming suicide bombers. But the Palestinians will bomb themselves because of guys like that. When you say that the Arab men make those bombs, you should know that there are men on your side who pushed them to do it.

    • Did you have to give up anything to do this work?

      I shouldn’t have talked about the Arabs of ‘48 in the film; I should have just made the film about the Israelis. My idea was to include the Palestinians who live inside Israel in the lands of ’48, to show how bad their life, their economic and political situation are. But they told me that I am supposed to work on the Israeli society only, just like Yoram was supposed to focus on the Palestinian society, and not on the Israelis who live in settlements in the Palestinian Authority territories.

    • Through this work, was there anyone that changed how you think?

      There were times when I was told to ask certain questions, but I refused. For example, a crewmember would tell me to ask a certain question and I would ask it, but I wouldn’t put it in the film when I edited it. I only put in the questions that I wanted and the questions that I asked. There was a Hebrew translator who used to translate my questions, and the answers were in Hebrew as well. So when I felt like the translator was asking questions that he came up with, I would immediately cut off the question, because I wanted this to be my film - a film that represents my views not the views of the crew.

    • What did you learn from doing this work?

      I think that the most important thing I learned from this work, and I think about it a lot, is that in life you don’t need to take everything by force—you can take anything with words, with composure and diplomacy. I'm sorry to say that we, the Arabs, do not have diplomacy, even in small personal relations, but this is all due to the situation we live in, because of the political and economic pressure. In our Palestinian areas the infrastructure is ruined and the political situation is getting worse. In the end, you learn that whatever you can take by force you can take with diplomacy, but at the same time, what diplomacy are we talking about?
      What we need to do is to raise another generation. But if my son gets beaten up by soldiers after school, how will I raise him on diplomacy and tell him what's right and what's not? I think we need to raise new generations on both sides. The Israeli families should raise their children to respect human dignity, not like the kids from that Kibbutz who said that Arabs should be shot in the head. At the same time, we should also raise our children to know that you can take your rights in many ways.
      I don’t want to lose my son. I lost my brother before and that’s enough. I want my son to grow up and get educated. Until this day I think about my brother and what it would have been like if he had lived and had a family and children. Until this day my mother grieves for him. He died in 1979, but she still keeps his clothes in a bag and takes them out once in a while to look at them. Why? Doesn’t she have the right to see her son grow up and have a life?
      It's true that he fought for a cause, for a belief he had. I also want my son to live, to live with dignity. But what is dignity if he can't get his education? For example, I leave the house at five in the morning to pass three checkpoints to get my kids to school. My kids pass the checkpoint of Shuafat camp at six thirty, to guarantee that they get to school on time. So how will you convince your kid to wake up at five in the morning to go to his school that isn't more than seven minutes away in a normal situation, to start his class at eight. Sometimes I have to take the settlement road by Pisgat Ze'ev, and once my son got beaten up because he forgot to take his birth certificate with him (he's tall so they do not believe that he is under 16). We need factors to create a different mentality. The Israelis keep saying that Palestinians are terrorists, but they are holding a gun in my face and they don't want me to be a terrorist? When the PA first got in they gave an olive branch to every soldier, but during the intifada when Sharon went to the Al-Aqsa mosque, that same soldier who took the branch started to fire back!
      We now need to establish a new means of education, a new mentality. But when you demolish my house, or put up that wall… it's preventing school boys from going to their schools. I know one boy in the ninth grade who can’t go to school because of the wall and is now crying because he has to change schools and leave his friends. His mother told me that he is having psychological problems because he had to change schools. So how will you convince this boy that the Jews are good? The Israelis need to give me the reasons to convince him.

    • Do you consider the film to be peace work?

      This film is about sharing viewpoints, not about promoting peace. It is about exchanging Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints, and even a German viewpoint. It is about how a Palestinian views the Israelis, where an Israeli helps him find his story on the Israeli side, and how the Palestinian helped the Israeli find what he wants in the PA areas. Exchanging points of view helps you deal with the other person and understand him more. There's an Arabic proverb that says: one asked the other "do you know him?" He answered, "Yes." The first asked, "Did you get to know him, to spend time with him?" He said, "No." So the first said, "Then you don't really know him." When you deal with someone, when you live with him… we worked together for a month, we got to know each other. For example, with Yoram, I was very reserved when I talked to him at the beginning. Later on, we started talking and joking, so we broke that wall of separation just like the wall that Israel is building. Among the people we are breaking the walls, but the Israeli government is building one! When I went to the house of that settler woman, I didn’t know what to say. I was a bit hesitant, nothing came to my mind, but I was determined to go see her. She agreed to meet with us, knowing that we were making a film. We started a general conversation. The thing that helped is that she was a nice lady, she showed me around her house, and I liked how it was constructed. I told her that I loved her house—I only wished that it was not built on Palestinian land. She said, "I have built this house in my mind since I was little." She took me to the upper floor to show me. I liked it very much and I told her that when I build my house I will make the same one. We broke the wall of hatred. When I started this film, I disliked the settlers, but there are people among them who are good people. This woman said that if she knew there would be peace, she would leave her house. But she said that because she knew that her government will not make peace! I talked to my friends about her, and I told them that she is counting on the fact that the government will not make peace. Sharon keeps changing his mind. Sometimes, honestly, you feel like you are a ball in a playground.

    • What does the word peace mean to you?

      It means the same as it would mean to any Palestinian. It means to be in my house and feel like I can sleep safely in it. Peace is to be in your home on your land. For example, when you are abroad you start to long to come back home. So how do you think it feels when you are on your land and you still have that feeling? Real peace is the peace of the soul. Peace is when your children are safe. Real peace is to close my door and know that there won’t be anyone breaking in. I think that every Palestinian thinks the same way, that peace is to live on our land, in our homes, just like other people, and that our children should have the same life as other children. It is also that I can be able to go to work without problems. For example, there was a shooting at the checkpoint when I was coming back from work. I was standing behind a wall wondering if I will ever make it home, and I started thinking of my children and remembering when I'd last seen them. At the same time, I think of peace on the Israeli side, that they shouldn’t go out on the streets and get killed. Just like I am a mother and care for my children, there are other mothers who feel the same way. This is why I want peace for my children, to live in comfort and security, and I want peace for myself to know that I will not get hurt. But I want peace in my home, on my land, while I am still on it.

    • Who do you blame?

      In this situation? It is not the responsibility of one person; it is the responsibility of the regimes. Since the Balfour promise until today, succeeding regimes, Arab and international regimes, USA and Britain. We are the only case in which every country has had a say about it. If you looked at the facts you would find that there was a big Arab international conspiracy against Palestine. If any of the Arab leaders wanted to win his elections all he would have to do is adopt the Palestinian cause! For the time being, the Zionist movement is in charge of everything in the Arab countries and the world.

    • Is there hope?

      There could be hope, if there were give and take. There will have to be compromises from the Israeli side, for example, evacuating the settlements. Half of the settlements are empty, and vast areas inside Israel are empty, so why go build a settlement inside Bethlehem or the borders of Gaza? We know that they go by Jewish history and beliefs, but they should also know that there is a Palestinian history, as well. You need to give something in return. If you want to live with the Palestinian people, you have to compromise, evacuate the settlements and give them the lands of 1967. After that you can blame us if we come your way.

    • You are suggesting that both sides know their borders and live within them. What do you think about coexistence?

      When you have a home and I have a home, we can be good neighbors, but if you have a home and I don’t, I will continue to "screw" you until you get out of the house! I mean, I had a piece of land, and you took it from me, built your house on it and forbid me from building my house! Let me build my house like you did. There needs to be compromise, giving and taking. We could have good relations, but not when you have a high quality of life and I live in the dirt under your feet. There can never be peace between the master and the servant. The Israeli will accept you as a friend as long as you work for him, but you can never expect the servant not to pick up the stick he works with to beat his master. There will be peace in one case—if we are equal. We could have good relations and even be friends, but not as long as you beat me with your stick. So for us to have the kind of relationship called friendship, you need to give me my rights. It is my right to build a house. I live in Jerusalem, but I can’t build or buy a house in Jerusalem. I can’t afford to buy a house in Beit Hanina example, even though I've been working there for the past 21 years! The price of the land and the construction license fees are very expensive, aside from the arnona [municipal] tax. But if a Jew comes from South Africa or anywhere else, he will find a house already built for him in a settlement or elsewhere. Why is it not possible for me, the one who owned the land? Give me life and then ask me to be your friend, but don’t suck my blood and then tell me you want me to be your friend. It's impossible. We could have economic and cultural relations just like other countries around the world, if we have a stable economic situation and proper infrastructure. When Israel went into the PA territories it destroyed the infrastructure completely, so now the PA needs ten more years to fix the damage.1 There could be peace if there was a balance, not when you are my master and I am under your feet.
      • 1. Following the outbreak of the intifada and a wave of suicide bombings, Israel re-occupied large portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in April 2002. In the process, it caused serious damage on Palestinian infrastructure, including PA ministries and security facilities. [source: "IDF admits `ugly vandalism' against Palestinian property", Haaretz, May 2 2002, http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=157479&contrassID=2&s%20ubContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y; "Operation Destroy the Data," Haaretz, April 24 2002, http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=155181&contrassID=2&subContrassID=4&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y).

    • What do you think are the roots of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

      It's obvious; the main cause is the land, from the time of our prophet Mohammed until this day. Israel has a belief that Israel should be from the Nile to the Forat River.1I remember I read somewhere that before the promise of Balfour to establish a state for the Jews in Palestine, they had the option of making it in Kenya or something,2 but then they chose Palestine. It is about land and about being. The whole conflict is about being, to be or not to be. It's either us or you and that's impossible, it's impossible to make a nation vanish. As long as there are mothers giving birth and as long as there's history, a nation will never vanish. The Israeli school curriculum erased anything called Palestine; even in the curriculum they teach the Palestinians, there isn't such thing as Palestine. But that Palestinian student who is studying in your school knows from his family that you are lying to him. As I said before, you inherit certain thoughts, ethics and beliefs from your family. They will always tell you about their lands and homes, and this becomes the child's dream, too. So you can tell me that this is where you are and this is where I am, but do not lie to me. When they made the new school curriculum in 1967, it turned out to be against them, and not with them, because the ones who are fighting against Israel are the generation of 1967, which was raised under occupation. This means that Israel chose the wrong way to bring up the generation of ‘67. They thought that they could make them forget the history of the nation, but the exact opposite happened - they made them remember. All the martyrs are young men in their twenties, so they are all the generation of ‘67 and that generation is the one that took the slap from the Israeli occupation. Most of the prisoners as well are from that generation—the PA did not exist in their time. They grew up under occupation and Israel was using violence against them. Do not expect from the one who is getting whipped to keep bowing his back. There will be a day when the tables will turn. We want an end to this; we want a solution so that neither my son nor yours gets whipped.
      • 1. A reference to the position of extremist right-wing Israelis, who seek to establish an Israeli state in what they regard as its biblical kingdom, interpreted by Salwa to include the Egyptian Nile to the Syrian Forat river [also known as the river Euphrates]. Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, stated in 1937 that "The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan; one does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today. But the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them." (Speech of 1937, Ben Gurion's Memoirs, cited by Chomsky, Fateful Triange, p. 161) Noam Chomsky comments: "It might be noted that the 'boundaries of Zionist aspiraions' in Ben Gurion's 'vision' were quite broad, including southern Lebanon, southern Syria, today's Jordan, all of cis-Jordan, and the Sinai." (Chomsky, p. 161)
      • 2. In the early 1900s, the British government discussed with the Zionist Congress the possibility of establishing a Jewish homeland in Uganda. (Tessler, Mark. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1994, pp. 55-57).

    • What do you think are the most important events that helped shape the conflict?

      The promise of Balfour, which divided Palestine. Then came the war of '48 and the forcing out of the Palestinians.Then the '67 war forced Palestinians out of even the '67 borders. The war of Lebanon contributed to the conflict as well. The war of the Gulf in '91 shaped the living standard of the Palestinians.1 In 1994, the PA came in, it was their dream to have a state, so they started to work on it. There was the first intifada in '87.2 Then the second intifada in 2000. As for the Camp David agreement, I'm sorry that it didn't work and I think that if we had accepted it then a lot of things would be better than they are today. It is better than the Oslo agreement, because at least it included no settlement inside PA areas. When I look outside my house now, from ‘91 ‘till now, it is surrounded by settlements. Everywhere I look, there's a settlement. They weren’t there when I got married in '87. Then the Oslo agreement… there was an Israeli who said to me once that this is a "war agreement" not a "peace agreement". I argued with him at the time, but it's true, there is more fighting and more killings on both sides. We had never seen an Apache airplane until the Oslo agreement. When I was editing the film I thought to myself, "Why did I argue with him? It's true that we had never seen Apache or the F16 airplanes until this agreement."
      • 1. PLO leader Yasser Arafat expressed support for Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War. Over 300,000 Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait. These developments, coupled with the US' resounding victory, left the Palestinians in a particularly vulnerable position by war's end.
      • 2. Arabic for "shaking off." It is used also to refer to uprisings, especially during times of widespread Palestinian revolts against Israel. While some scholars consider the 1936-39 Palestinian uprising as the first intifada, the first intifada (1987-1993) usually refers to the popular uprising whereby Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza rose up against Israeli military rule through a coordinated movement involving multiple sectors of Palestinian society. Actions included mass rallies, general strikes, unarmed and stone-throwing confrontations, the use of Molotov cocktails and limited arms against the Israeli army, combined with self-administration of daily life and attempts at nonviolent civil disobedience. The Israeli military was unable to quash the rebellion, although they implemented a harsh "Force, Might and Beatings" policy under Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, involving widespread arrests, detention and torture. This intifada came to an end when Israel entered into negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization and co-launched the Oslo Peace Process.

    • Is there anything you want to add?

      I want to say that the people are tired, that's it. There isn't anything more beautiful than the word peace, peace within yourself. How happy will you be when you are at peace with yourself? Imagine how you will feel when you are at peace with yourself and the ones around you. Peace will be beautiful when you get your rights and I get mine. I look farther into the future, to the time of my children and grandchildren, to guarantee that there will be a strong basis for them. I look forward to having no more killings; I would have wanted to see what my brother would have turned into, or even the son of Rena (the settler woman) to see what her son could have been. Every mother has the same dream. From the moment you give birth, you start to think about his future. It's like you bring him up to become a flower that started to flourish, but it gets cut off all of a sudden. This is when you feel the pain. If you have a piece of land and you plant some seeds, you will keep coming to check on the trees when they have grown. If someone comes and cuts down your trees, it's hard. Let nature have it her way. It's like painting—if there were many painters, each with his suggestion, they would ruin the picture. Leave the people to live by their nature. But the leaders and the ones in authority all seek to enlarge their own bellies, Palestinians and Israelis alike.