Living under occupation: ‘I have no memory of a time without struggle’

Emad Burnat is a Palestinian farmer and director of the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras. His film is raising the profile of the Palestinian non-violent resistance movement. Most Americans still know nothing about the occupation, but with testimony such as Burnat’s now appearing on mainstream outlets like CNN, awareness is starting to grow.

I come from Palestine. I have lived my entire life under military occupation, and I have no memory of a time without struggle.

I have seen my neighbors beaten, blindfolded, and kidnapped. I have seen children snatched from their mothers in the dead of night. I have seen my brother shot and friend murdered.

I can’t tell you how this holy land felt before the armored jeeps’ rumble. I can’t trace a path from here — from where the Wall surrounds me — to the sea.

But for as long as I can remember, I could not forget. Forget the checkpoints, the harassment, the detentions. Forget that I am not free.

Like all prisoners, my memories are what sustain me. But what I need now are new memories. Happy memories.

That’s why I started filming.

I wanted to make memories of my son, Gibreel. I wanted to capture his smile, to chronicle his life in close-up. I wanted to crop out the occupation, the violence, the hopelessness.

You know the scenes. Maybe you, too, have captured your loved ones’ firsts: the first words, the first steps, the first glimpse of that way he angles his head and grins. Just like his mother.

Soraya’s gentle voice is in so many scenes of our son’s early life. But as I continued filming, Gibreel taught me that there are other sounds more urgent in his world.

His first words were “army” and “wall.” His first steps were in the shadow of groaning bulldozers and screeching cranes. Not the kind children play with. The kind that build the colonies that are stealing our land. [Continue reading…]

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