Thursday, September 22, 2005

Women's Film Festival etc . . .

Today I went to the opening of the Women’s Film Festival in Ramallah, sponsored by an NGO called SHABBAT. This NGO focuses on identifying and changing stereotypes about women in Palestinian society. After a ridiculously long series of introductions, we watched a 90 minute film called Yasmin and 15 minute documentary called 25 kilometers.

Yasmin is about a British woman of Afghani descent who lives in a conservative family. The film is about her living the life of a normal British woman by day, and an Afghani, Muslim woman by night. The film is set in September of 2001, so the audience gets to see how her life is influenced by racism before and after the World Trade Center bombings. It was an uncomfortable movie for me to watch in many ways, not because I experienced the same kinds of situations that she did, but because the potential is there. I have certainly dealt with racism in the US since September 11, but I do not wear the hijab and most people don’t even recognize me as Arab at first glance.

The part of the movie that was most difficult for me actually dealt with Yasmin’s younger brother, who is in his mid to late teens. After the attacks he becomes much more politically involved and decides to join a group of freedom fighters who are going to Pakistan and Palestine to fight for their Muslim brothers. Her brother didn’t really remind me of my brothers, but her relationship with her brother really hit home for me. Just before he leaves Britain he comes to her and asks her to give him her blessing. She refuses, begging him not to go – but he leaves anyway.

Her brother became politically motivated as a direct response to the racism he was forced to live with every day. My brothers, one in particular, have also become motivated because of our reality as Arab-Americans in the US, as have I. I don’t think that this is a bad thing, but I worry about them anyway. As Arab-Americans they have less rights than other Americans today . . . political activities that most people take for granted can have far more serious consequences for us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of both of my brothers for their awareness and involvement . . . but I am scared for them as well.

After the film P, M and I headed back to Birzeit and grabbed a bite to eat. We also bought some kanafa and stopped at a corner store to pick up a couple beers. Outside the store we ran into Mike who told us that Israeli troops had just driven through town. There were a lot of youngish men hanging around the store, and Mike said they were waiting for the Israelis to come back through so that they could throw rocks at them. We took that as our cue to buy our beer and head out. After smuggling in our contraband (the alcohol and P) we settled down to enjoy our kanafa. As we sat, we heard gunfire and men yelling. I turned off the music and we all sat in silence and listened. P wanted to go out with his camera to get pictures, but I convinced him not to after the second round of gunfire went off. I don’t know if anyone was hurt, but I do know that the shooting started less than 10 minutes after we had been at the corner store where all the men were hanging around. . .

In unrelated news, there was a big Hamas rally today in Ramallah. I didn’t go, but one of my friends was showing me pictures of some of the Hamas posters. The posters feature very large guns, clenched fists, and the Dome of the Rock. The message is pretty clear – even without the Arabic words which translate into “I am coming for you, oh Jerusalem” (I think). Hamas only aggravates the situation with Israel, in my opinion. It’s like they are in a pissing contest with the Israelis, except the Israelis have a lot more money and much bigger guns . . . and a lot of innocent people’s lives are a stake.

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