Bedouins in the occupied West Bank live without basic resources and under threat of forcible transfer by Israel.
Award-winning producer and director John McColgan documented his journey through Palestine with Trocaire, an Irish human rights charity. This is Palestine aims to “raise awareness of the human rights abuses that have been happening and are still happening in the West Bank and Gaza”, McColgan told Al Jazeera, noting that he hopes his film will help to pressure the Irish government to recognise Palestine and encourage a peace process.
Many Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – especially those living in Area C, which is under full Israeli military control – live in constant fear of having their homes and communities demolished.
The documentary sheds light on life in Hebron, whose old city is under Israeli control. A military order closed all shops and businesses, and the daily life of the remaining Palestinian residents is made difficult through checkpoints, military raids and harassment by Israeli settlers.
“I had done research in advance, but nothing prepares you for what you witness on the ground,” McColgan said. “I found Hebron’s deserted old town an extraordinary encounter. I had never seen anything like it.”
In Gaza, many Palestinians have lost family members to bombing raids and the 2014 war. The documentary allows them to describe their experiences, providing personal perspectives to give context to the larger picture of Israeli domination and control over Palestinian lives.
The film attempts “to tell the story as honestly and balanced as possible within the context of the situation”, McColgan said. The idea was born out of an art exhibition with the same name, in which McColgan and his brother photographed Palestinians living under occupation.
During 10 days of filming, McColgan and his brother interviewed Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip and in the occupied West Bank. They also spoke with a former Israeli soldier, Yehuda Shaul, an advocate for Palestinians who founded an organisation called Breaking the Silence.
“We also worked with Rabbi Arik Aschermann, who works for the Palestinian people in areas at risk of home demolitions,” McColgan added. “He supports Palestinians in court to prevent their homes from being demolished, and is frequently subjected to attacks and vilification.”
In Gaza, the Palestinian struggle is depicted through the stories of farmers and fishermen who have difficulty making a living amid Israeli restrictions on the territory, as well as through the story of a children’s psychologist, who works with the children traumatised by years of conflict. The film also sheds light on residents of Hebron’s old city and the Bedouins, who live under the constant threat of home demolitions.
“I was really struck by the heroism, the dignity and the stoicism of the Palestinian people in telling their stories,” McColgan said. “It also struck me that the Palestinian women were very strong, eloquent and very dignified.”
The documentary is available for streaming on Trocaire’s website, and McColgan said they were also encouraging schools and universities to screen it. This is Palestine will be entered in multiple film festivals, including human rights-themed festivals, and they are even discussing the possibility of a screening and art exhibition in Tel Aviv.
“All of the people we met … were astonishing people in their patience, when telling their stories, and they deserve to be heard,” McColgan said.