In THIS PALESTINIAN LIFE, director Philip Rizk uses an oral history approach to highlight the stories and perspectives of Palestinian villagers and Bedouin. This method avoids using "experts" to interpret the broader Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Rather, the film's anthropological and ethnographic method portrays the daily life of Palestinian communities, in order to explore in greater depth how Palestinian life is being undermined by the pressure of Israeli occupation. Especially in Gaza, this style reveals the profound fragmentation of community life. The following stories are threaded together and interlaced to reveal the similarity of Israeli measures of occupation throughout Gaza and the West Bank, and the similarity of Palestinian reactions through sumoud – perseverance – to remain on the land.
In Ghwein and Susya, south of Hebron in the West Bank, we meet villagers who for centuries have inhabited caves, their existence unknown by many outsiders. The crew captures stories and images of the villagers and shows the undeniable contemporary parallels to Israel's 1948 ethnic cleansing the area. Today the Israeli strategies occur more slowly but no less tragically, forcing out communities by making it illegal for them to dig new wells, repair their homes, or develop their fields. In Susya, the film shows Israeli settlers brutally attacking an elderly Palestinian couple and their niece. The incident made news in June 2008 when villagers, using video cameras provided by an Israeli human rights organization, caught the attack on film. THIS PALESTINIAN LIFE features the home video footage as well as interviews with the couple.
In the Jordan Valley we meet villagers and Bedouin who express their determination to remain on their land no matter how militant the settlers become, or how hard the Israeli occupation forces crack down. The Jordan Valley is rarely mentioned among the more commonly featured portrayals of the occupation. This relative anonymity and isolation makes these groups more vulnerable to aggressive acts by the occupation forces. In Fasai'il, Jifftlik and Al-Hadedeya, home demolitions, land annexation and the destruction of water sources are a common occurrence. In the film, we are shown Zeinab, who is rebuilding her neighbors' home a second time after the Israeli army had destroyed the first two. We also meet Abu Sagr who won't leave his land even after the army bulldozes his tents multiple times, kidnaps his granddaughter (named Sumoud), and confiscates his water tanks while ever encroaching on his property. Finally, we meet Abu Ali, the mayor of a community that has just completed building a school without a building permit because even this kind of civil development the Israelis have deemed illegal.
In Gaza we meet the Salah family, who have had their home and sheds demolished and their land completely bulldozed. The family land now lies in ruins, without hope of renewal, because Israel will fire on anyone that even accesses the land. Today, the family barely survives by farming rented land. In a recent Israeli raid the Israeli army arrested all the male members of the family except for 22 year old Eid. His father, uncle, brother and cousins remain in Israeli prisons without trial to this day.