WE SEE NO ENEMY: A New, Must-See Documentary on Palestine

(To watch the film, visit the website: www.weseenoenemy.com)

“The truth of story is transfiguration. People’s minds are rarely changed by abstracted information. Otherwise we would weep every time we watch the news. I think people’s minds are usually changed by encounters that question our reality. And I don’t think stories always try to answer all these questions, but rather instead present a way in which to live them.” – Jonathan McRay

These words, among others, narrate the opening of the brand new film We See No Enemy. In 2010, director Zachary Crow visited three of his friends – Jonathan McRay (my brother), Patrick Covert, and Paul Elliott – who were living and working in Beit Sahour, a small village next to Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Crow came to shoot a documentary that has now been three years in the making. As Crow describes it, We See No Enemy is an anthology of the West Bank. There are no interviews with political personnel; no maps or graphs charting the history and contested statistics of the conflict. Instead, this film invites us to consider five real stories of people’s lives under occupation. As Patrick Covert says, for the people on the ground, this is not “an international conflict to them; it’s daily life.”

Any attempt to summarize the five stories will inevitably do them a great injustice, but permit me these few lines. Through a look at the Al Basma Center for the Developmentally Disabled and conversations with its founder Abdullah Awwad, we see a place of paradoxical embrace, holding together joy and sorrow, hope and despair, beauty and mess, sound and silence, life and death. It is a paradise, a place that practices resurrection.

(Trailer for first story)

Through the work of Paidia International Development and conversations with Saleem Anfous, we hear of a Palestinian who grew up under occupation, feeling the anger of injustice and the urge toward violent resistance. But Saleem’s is a story of conversion, drawn away from the myth of redemptive violence to an alternative vision of nonviolence.

(Trailer for second story)

Through exploring the story of a beloved family friend Mahmoud Abu-Eid, we enter into a tale of hospitality, rootedness, and familial devotion. Before my family developed an understanding of the plight of the Palestinians, we held fairly unquestioned pro-Israel sympathies. For 28 years, Mahmoud’s parents welcomed my family into their home, even though we knew nothing really of their struggle under occupation. Mahmoud’s family, like so many Palestinian families, offers an unconditional hospitality.

(Trailer to third story)

Through stories of trespass and intrusion, we enter into a recurring thread in the fabric of life under occupation. John, Patrick, and Paul faced the violation of home invasion near the end of their time in Palestine. But they had the privilege of returning back to the U.S., escaping the frustration and fear of occupation. As they say, they tasted only partially what Palestinians face day after day, except Palestinians do not have another home to return to for safety.

(Trailer to fourth story)

In the final story, we are presented with the heartbreaking stories of families in Jerusalem – in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah – who have been evicted from their homes to make room for Israeli Jewish settlers. In the middle of the night, the Palestinian families were forcibly removed and now live in tents on the street in front of their homes, while other families claim their sanctuary.

(Trailer to fifth story)

Through watching this film, we are led down from the balconies of objectivity and guided into the “beautiful risk” of human encounters. This film embodies the powerless power of stories, real stories of real people. It is not abstract and indifferent. It takes you up close; it makes the occupation personal.

If you believe that Palestinians are simply Arab terrorists desiring the destruction of Israel, if you believe all Muslims are hate-filled and violent, if you believe Israel is not occupying another people, if you believe Palestinians deserve whatever happens to them – if you believe any of these things and want those beliefs to remain unchallenged and safe, then by all means, do not watch this film.

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