June 14, 2023

Erasing Time

On an average day, a Palestinian who works in Jerusalem and resides in the West Bank must wake up at four in the morning in order to arrive at work by nine. The reason is not the distance between workplace and home. With the construction of the separation wall that began in 2002, and is still underway as of 2022, the Israeli state entered into a new stage of encroachment on Palestinian territory. The Palestinian worker has to wait in line for hours at checkpoints staffed by soldiers who are incentivized to make the line move as slowly as possible. Most of these border-crossers have a long day ahead of them in various kinds of construction work. After crossing into Israel, they must spend hours every day passing through checkpoints to get to work, even though they often have only a few kilometres to travel.

The short distance traversed by Palestinian workers who commute from the West Bank into Israel for work encompasses one of the most humiliating and dangerous journeys that can be undertaken by any human being. Recent films by Palestinian filmmakers shed light on the ongoing paradoxes of occupation.

In 200 Meters (2020), Amen Nayfeh chronicles the short but dangerous journey of the protagonist, Mustafa, as he travels a mere 200 metres in the boot of a car. The film is set in the Palestinian city of Tulkaram, which was one of the first cities to be bisected by the Israeli separation barrier. Mustafa needs to cross the Israel-Palestine border in order to see his son, who has been hospitalized by a car crash. He has to pay a smuggler to get him across the border, and nearly dies of suffocation on the way. He ends up journeying hundreds of kilometres, scaling walls, going undercover, and risking his life simply to get to the other side of the nearby border. Unlike in many comparable films, the protagonist's journey is not far: the challenge he faces is how to cross a border a few miles away.

Erasing Palestine: Free Speech and Palestinian Freedom by Rebecca Ruth Gould

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