We had Shivani interning with us this week. Check out her thoughts on working on the series below.
Working as an intern at Spirit Level Film over the past week has been both informative and fun, and has allowed me to explore the worlds of politics and film from a refreshing and interesting perspective. Helping around the office by writing blogs, printing invoices, researching, talking to the team and even going out to get a laptop repaired has helped me get to grips with the reality of office life in a film company and understand everyone’s roles in creating, producing and promoting the films. Having had little knowledge of Arafat or Peres before I started, working at Spirit Level this week has definitely developed my understanding of and interest in the leaders, their successes and failures and the personal and political sacrifices they made to achieve. It has also demonstrated the patience, perseverance and the significance of work required behind the scenes necessary to undertake such a difficult project. Today, on what would have been Arafat’s 83rd birthday, I will try and unravel the enigma of his early life, a significant stage which triggered his rise as a leader for the Palestinian cause.
Arafat was born in Cairo to Palestinian parents, which he later disputed when he claimed he was born in Jerusalem in an attempt to enhance his Palestinian identity. Interestingly, as a young child, he watched his father struggle in the Egyptian courts, trying to claim Egyptian land that was part of his inheritance. This battle was, I think, a simple but important precursor to the territory negotiations with the Israeli government that Arafat would face later in his life.
Arafat began to be exposed to violence relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1933, when at the age of four he was sent to Jerusalem to stay with family after his mother’s death. He remembered British soldiers storming in to his uncle’s house after midnight, beating family members and smashing furniture, and incidents such as this as well as a growing desire to fight for his homeland, resulted in him becoming an Arab nationalist. By the age of seventeen, he was smuggling arms into Palestine for use against the British and the Jews and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, he left university to fight in Gaza alongside the Muslim Brotherhood. However, Arab defeat and the establishment of the Israeli state left him distraught, and he briefly considered leaving the region before reviving his spirits and returning to university, where he spent time as leader of the General Union of Palestinian Students.
Arafat never had a healthy relationship with his father, and when he died in 1952, he did not attend the funeral. In an interview with British historian Alan Hart, Arafat’s sister claimed that as a child, Arafat was beaten by his father for attending religious services in the Jewish quarter of Cairo. Arafat, however, reasoned that he was just trying to improve his understanding of the Jewish mentality, foreshadowing the similar understanding he would strive to develop with Israeli leaders when securing peace later in his life.
It is clear that from the outset Arafat was dedicated to the fight for the Palestinian cause, and the events of his early life were crucial in shaping his development as a prominent leader who would stand firmly for his beliefs. The scale of his dedication is evident from the ultimate sacrifice he made by giving his life to the cause in the controversial and unclear circumstances in which he died in 2004.
Working at Spirit Level has been a great opportunity for me to get introduced to the work environment through areas of interest to me. Unlike working at a bank or law firm, life here has been down to earth and really enjoyable, so starting school next week will probably come as something of a shock. Learning about world leaders and film journalism has been really fulfilling and I look forward to watching the rest of the films in the series when they come out over the course of the next few years!
Today two of the Spirit Level team headed down to Hyde Park to meet with some of the members of the Palestinian Olympic team, who have been in London for the 2012 games.
The Palestine Olympic Committee was accepted into the Olympic Council of Asia as a provisional member in 1986, allowing Palestine to participate in the Asian Games. Yasser Arafat was made head of the Palestine Olympic Committee in these early days.
Palestine first joined the International Olympic Committee in 1995, being recognised as a competing country but not as a modern state. Palestinian athletes first competed at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
This year, six athletes travelled to London to compete in the games:
- - Maher Abu Remeilah from Jerusalem, competing in the Men’s 73k Judo
- - Nader Al-Masri from Gaza, competing in the Men’s 5000m Track
- - Ahmed Gebrel, born in Cairo, competing in the Men’s 400m Freestyle Swimming
- - Woroud Sawallah from Shamaliya, competing in the Women’s 800m track
- - Sabine Hazboun from Bethlehem, competing in the Women’s 50m Freestyle Swimming
- - Bahaa Al-Farra from Gaza, competing in the Men’s 400m Track.
It was Bahaa Al-Farra that we met with today, whilst he took time to explore the city. He told us a bit about how his time competing in the 2012 games has been:
How has your time in London been?
It’s been different, London is very different to my home town. Plus it’s been the first time I have visited Europe, and I would really like to get the opportunity to visit again.
How does it feel to be representing Palestine at the London Olympics?
It’s a beautiful feeling, I’m so happy to be representing Palestine, a population that’s been largely forgotten. Even not winning any medals, just being here has been amazing.
Did you enjoy the opening celebration?
It was very interesting, just walking out into the stadium and holding the flag, it’s great feeling you are part of a country, that you are important on the world stage.
What’s been your best moment whilst you’ve been competing in London?
I’d have to say my most memorable moment was walking into the stadium for the opening ceremony, being visible amongst all the other athletes. On a more personal level, competing in the race was an incredible experience.
Do you feel like there has been strong support for the Palestinian team?
If you mean whether people have shown encouragement, then yes. Everyone has been very supportive – people showed us a lot of respect and love, and have supported us as a nation.
It was really great to meet Bahaa and the rest of the Palestinian Team, and great to learn about their experiences in London for the 2012 Olympic Games- we wish them all the best of luck in the future!