Sweden was the first European country to recognize Palestine as a state in October 2014. But this has not changed the classification of Palestinian refugees by the Swedish Migration Board as stateless citizens. We are developing a documentary film project to investigate how this recognition of Palestine is reflected in the daily life of Palestinian refugees in Sweden. The project will use documentary methodologies to create a film which will track and analyse the status of the Palestinian as "stateless" in the period after the recognition.
If stateless means vulnerable to constant attack and an absence of protection by a state with all its institutions, what has changed with the recognition of Palestine? And what happens if we combine this condition of statelessness with the recognition of the Palestinian Right of Return? We want to track the effect of geo-political decisions, resolutions, international law and human rights law on the lives of those who continue to live without the protection of statehood and citizenship, even though it is now recognized they belong to a state.
Background and Context;
Leaving Palestine, leaving refugee camps, becoming displaced again and again has been the constant and continual fate of Palestinians all over the world. This is the case for those who managed to stay in parts of Palestine in 1947/48, but also for those in surrounding Arab countries. Even after 1948 there was a constant expulsion of Palestinians by the Zionist state. This continues up until now with the last few years witnessing the largest number of native Jerusalemites expelled from the holy city. The Lebanese civil war, the Gulf Wars and recently the agony of Syria have all involved mass displacement and expulsion (massacre) of different Palestinian communities, both as a result of attack by militias or armies or as a result of state policy to punish Palestinian grassroots activists or the leadership.
UN General Assembly Resolution of 194 was passed in 1948 and reaffirmed every year since. Among other issues it reaffirms the Palestinian Right of Return and guarantees its legitimacy and international recognition. There have been countless studies and documents which also prove that Right of Return is guaranteed under international law and there is a general consensus about its legal status, especially among most of the nations and peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law argues that Right of Return is guaranteed by eight branches of international law. http://cjicl.org.uk/2012/11/26/bases-for-the-palestinian-refugees-right-of-return-under-international-law-beyond-general-assembly-resolution-194-2/
The Israelis continue to deny the legitimacy of 194 and international law and refuse to even negotiate Return. Among other illogical claims, they continue to argue that Palestine never existed, not as a Nation or as a State. This is in direct contradiction to the principle of jus sanguinis, mentioned in 194 which affirms the Palestinian connection to land and nationality – as do our histories, our dialects, our folklore and all the other aspects that make us Palestinian, including the collective experience of violent and forced expulsion from our homes and lands. But the Israelis have continued to argue that jus sanguinis applies to them only, even though the mass majority of them came from somewhere else.
"What mechanism is there in Israel for making European and American Jews into immigrants, then citizens, and how does this mechanism prevent Arab Palestinian refugees from benefiting themselves?" Edward Said.
The production crew plans to spend time with Palestinian refugees seeking asylum in Sweden. Some of the people we will speak to have received a deportation decision, but have not been deported yet. They spend their lives surviving and waiting. Each one of them has a history of "statelessness" and each comes from a different country with no possibility of being returned to the land they actually come from: they are stateless, but possess a state.
During an interview with the Swedish Immigration Board, Alaa Al Ali said clearly and loudly, “I am ready to leave Sweden, but to my homeland, to the Palestinian state.” Alaa has lived in Sweden for two years, seeking asylum. Recently the Board has decided to deport him to Lebanon where he was born as a refugee.
The situation of Palestinians in Lebanon is well known and documented: the general human rights of Palestinians are denied with severe restrictions on work and employment, education, health care, ownership, inheritance and regular government (often military), media and institutional attacks on Camps and Gatherings.
Alaa is one of the characters of the film, while also being one of the filmmakers. His stories as asylum seeker and filmmaker will be entwined with the stories of others. Maher and Mohamed have both agreed to take part in the film and share their lives and thoughts with us. Maher is a Palestinian refugee from Occupied Gaza, born and raised in Syria. Mohamed is a Palestinian born in Iraq and in 2006 he left his home to build a life in the safety of Syria. Eventually, like millions of others, both Maher and Mohamed were forced to flee when the war in Syria escalated.
Israel continues to deny Right of Return so return to Palestine is forbidden. Mohamed has proven he is not allowed to go back to Iraq and possesses documents from the Iraqi embassy in Sweden that clearly state this. And despite the viciousness of the war in Syria, Swedish immigration policy continues to deny both of them asylum and refuge.
Why? The contradictions, absurdities and surrealness of the situation (and life in its details under such a situation) will be explored in the film. And as more and more European countries recognize Palestine as a state, we will, with an open heart, ask when will this recognition impact on our lives and the lives of Palestinian asylum seekers? There will also be interviews with everyday Swedish people to listen to their point of view and meetings with lawyers to look at international and human rights law.
Risks and challenges
Independent film production always involves risks and challenges....
At any point our subjects/actors could disappear: deported by Swedish immigration policy or gone into hiding, even away from us. The film may have to stop before it begins again, looking for other people to pick up the narrative, making the film itself like a refugee, away from its subjects, its home. And at the same time making it as a documentary more unique and interesting.
- (51 days)