If you watched the 2021 movie “Farha,” you will relate to the following story. I had a quiet evening and decided to watch the film on Netflix. I was pleased to see that there was no Israeli funding involved, as there often is even for Palestinian films. The movie opens with lovely scenes from rural Palestine and young girls playing around. One girl, who we later learn is “Farha”, stands out. So far, so good. However, somewhere between the middle and the end of the film, I felt like someone kicked me in the gut so hard I would never be able to get up again. When it was over, I remained sitting, unable to get up and unsure what to do. My only thought was, “who could I call that would appreciate what I was feeling?” Just then, out of the blue, my friend Katie Halper texted me. “Have you seen ‘Farha?’” she asked.
The film opens by showing the beauty of pre-Zionist rural Palestine. The film was shot in Jordan, where the landscape is very similar. We see Farha in her village, we meet her father and uncle, and it seems like what one would expect in a Palestinian village in pre-Zionist Palestine. And yet, I could not help feeling that something terrible was brewing. Maybe because I know all too well what had happened to Palestinians in 1947- 48, how the ethnic cleansing campaign had caught most Palestinians by surprise. Maybe because of the countless stories I had heard of how the Zionist assault, like an unexpected storm, came suddenly, violently, and disrupted daily lives and destroyed plans that people had for themselves and their children.
Without giving away too much of the movie, it gives us a glimpse, a short moment if you will, of the personal story of Farha the girl. We see it described in some detail. How her ambitions contrasted with the old traditions of a Palestinian village, how her father, the Mukhtar of the village played by my friend Ashraf Barhom, needs to make an important decision about his daughter and about the future of the community his family has led for generations. Farha has no mother and up to this point the movie is quite innocent and lovely.
A kick in the gut
The attack on the village and its consequences come as no surprise to anyone who knows the history of Palestine. However, what transpired after the assault and the fate that befalls Farha is not at all expected. The chaos that follows turns the story to Farha and her particular strengths and ability to deal with enormous personal difficulty. She knows very little about the fate of her family, her village and her country. However, it slowly becomes clear to the viewer that the difficulties in which she finds herself cannot be separated from the fate of her people and her country.
Other than a small glimpse of the unbelievable horror that Palestinians had faced during that time, the movie shows and tells us very little. But the power within the little we do see, and the way in which Farha sees it, is so powerful that it kept me feeling like I had been kicked in the gut.
If the hat fits
In case there is anyone out there who is not familiar with the saying, “If the hat fits, wear it,” it refers to someone getting defensive before they have been accused. The official Israeli and pro-Israel response to the movie made me think of this phrase. Very little reference is made to Israel, and even that is only noticeable to someone who knows the history of Palestine. Israel, Jewish people or Zionism are never mentioned in the movie. We hear very little Hebrew spoken, but only Hebrew speakers can understand it, as it is not completely clear.
However, whatever the movie did not tell us about Israel’s culpability, Israel and its allies did. Demands were made on Netflix to drop the picture, and when that did not help, there were calls to boycott Netflix. Some Israelis, so we are told, even canceled their Netflix subscription. Clearly that made very little difference as it was recently reported that Netflix has experienced a huge rise in subscription levels and the company is reporting record profits.
Israeli papers and Israeli public figures complained that the movie was anti-Semitic; that it was spreading vicious rumors about their soldiers murdering innocent civilians. So, it seems Israel is admitting — albeit by its fervent denials – that indeed Israeli soldiers committed crimes during 1947-48, even though the movie makes no such direct claim.
A Second Nakba
Israel officially denies that there were forced expulsions and massacres during 1947-48; in other words, that there was no Nakba. In fact, in a recent interview Benjamin Netanyahu gave to Jordan Peterson, he said that when the Jews came to Palestine at the turn of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the country was empty and barren. The Jews, according to Netanyahu, made the country bloom and prosper and that was when Arabs (who now call themselves Palestinians) began to come. These Arabs, Netanyahu says, were welcomed by the Jews, who were happy for everyone to live and prosper together.
However, several Israeli public figures refer to the Nakba regularly when they want to threaten and frighten Palestinians. Only last weekend, a crowd of settlers gathered in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, chanting “we want Nakba now”.
Today the settlers are calling again for a Nakba in Sheikh Jarrah.
“We want Nakba now” they’re chanting.
— Free Jerusalem (@FreeJerusalem1) January 20, 2023
Two interesting things to note regarding the movie and the reactions to it. The first, the Nakba is never mentioned, it is the story of one girl in one village. The second is that there are many, many movies that show soldiers committing war crimes. Germans and Japanese perhaps more than any, but certainly Americans, French, Danish, and on and on. I cannot recall any of the governments or the people of these countries reacting as the Israelis did with regard to Farha. One has to assume that Israel and its supporters are particularly brittle.
Feature photo | Still from the Netflix film “Farha.”
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”