Commenting on the settlement architecture and encroachment of colonial Zionist settlers on the land, Jibreen noted: “It is interesting that colonial Zionist settlements from 1981 and their confiscation of mountain[tops] and hilltops [are] very similar to the colonial practice and invasion of the land we see today. It is as if the past and the present are one. It is a continual process of land confiscation and occupation, pre- and post-Oslo. The colonial architectural style of settlements violates and intrudes into the landscape in past and present times.”
Through social media, students began to search for and reach out to members of the Deir Hanna community, looking for the individuals they saw in the archives filmed by Tartagni and Pardini. This realization on behalf of the students concerning how the archive could connect them with Palestinian communities of 1948 was particularly exciting. The archives provided them concrete space to connect with Palestinian communities they had been unfamiliar with and to question and contemplate the realities of identity fragmentation. To that end, Hamdan explained: “The process I am going through of viewing the material, of thinking about the archive we are working with, is making me realize how flexible and nonstatic the archive is. I am thinking of building bridges and connecting with the people I see in the archives, virtually creating access for myself and my peers into communities we have been denied connections with.”
Questions about the gaze, the fetishization of Palestinian bodies, and approaches to solidarity formation were other salient points students raised. Critical of the representation of the Palestinian people through a white or European male gaze, Zboun declared: “I am weary of the images that show Palestinians as victims and helpless, or images of the Palestinian women in traditional roles or stuck in a static world between modernity and tradition. Whenever there is a political event, an intifada, major protests, or whenever Israel wages a war on the Gaza Strip, our cities get flooded with journalists who are eager to create news. Under the auspices of solidarity, we open up our homes to them and share with them our stories, and on numerous occasions our positions are misjudged and we are misrepresented.” To Zboun, nuanced gender realities and complexities of gender representations are not captured by this type of gaze. Women were not depicted as agents for change, and Palestinians remained stuck in a position of victimhood. Students raised these points in their discussion with Mauer, Tartagni, and Pardini and were interested in knowing how Tartagni and Pardini treated their subjects. Tartagni made the point that the most important aspect of the work they did was to have empathy with the people they filmed. The context of the times also mattered. He explained, “We were working at a time when people’s grievances, globally, were closer to one another, and at times of transglobal solidarity when people’s vision was more unified across geographic boundaries.” Tartagni did not expect these questions. The students, based on their experiences with white foreigners coming to the country, argued that, for them, solidarity is an evolving condition that entails spending time in a place and building networks and relationships with people on the ground through forms of kinship.
Through this collective viewing of the archive, we interrogated contested political and cultural realities in Palestine together. We were working on our project when the Israelis were confiscating Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah and more broadly across Jerusalem.10 It was a moment for us to reflect on pre- and post-Oslo conditions and contemplate sumoud and resistance in the present context. Through this reflection, we aimed at garnering a sense of hope and affirmation for how film may be used as a medium of change and expression.