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Palestinians Revolt Against War By Art

Palestinian filmmaker Khalil Mozayen’s latest work was already complexly layered — a movie within a movie about a director and screenwriter producing a film about an honor killing in the Gaza Strip. Then the latest Gaza war burst in to add yet another layer: An Israeli airstrike levelled the 13-story apartment tower where Mozayen’s office, studio and archive were located. So he filmed the mountain of rubble and used it for the final scene of his movie, “Sarah 2014.” Mozayen had hoped to create a film not connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he and his screenwriter Naim Al-Khatib said they decided they couldn’t avoid addressing the war. “It is like, as a Palestinian, you don’t have the right to have your own dream, that everything in your life has to have something to do with war and (Israeli) occupation,” said Al-Khatib, who also plays the fictional screenwriter in the movie. “The occupation crashed our privacy ... and the war became an integral part of the film’s ending,” he said. The themes and reality of war impose themselves on Gaza’s small but vibrant arts scene, and the latest war has been a powerful inspiration for its artists in their new work. The 50 days of fighting, which ended with an indefinite truce on Aug. 26, was the deadliest and most ruinous of three such conflicts between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers since late 2008. More than 2,143 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 left homeless. The artists also incorporate the death and destruction into themes drawn from the other realities of life in the tiny Mediterranean coastal strip — a seven-year blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt and the restrictions on freedoms imposed by Hamas on a society that is already deeply conservative. Manal Miqdad, a 27-year-old poet, has lived through all those restrictions. She wanted to study music, but there was no place to teach her that, so she joined the information technology department in the Hamas-run Islamic University, where a flowing robe and a head scarf are obligatory for women. When she fell in love with a colleague and a fellow music buff, she could not be alone with him except on a handful of occasions. Once, plainclothes Hamas security men stopped the couple as they walked together, demanding to know if they were married or related. After seeing each other for four years, his family prevented them from marrying. His mother, a native of Gaza, objected to her son marrying into a “refugee” family. Miqdad’s family hails from the village of Hamamah, now in Israel, just outside Gaza. Thrown into depression, Miqdad said she didn’t leave her home for 243 days and attempted suicide twice. Her boyfriend eventually left Gaza.

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