In April, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned from office, five months after Palestine received non-member observer state status at the United Nations. The new documentary State 194 teases apart Fayyad’s efforts to make Palestine the 194th member state of the U.N., and how those efforts were received in Palestine, Israel, and abroad. Filmmaker Dan Setton highlights the grinding political processes that halted the realization of a two-state solution and full recognition of Palestine. The best part of State 194 is its domesticity, its low-key approach to a conflict that has been widely sensationalized in the media. Fayyad is depicted not just as an international spokesperson for a peaceful struggle, but as a man whose wife criticizes him for not packing enough oil in with the olives. He is Westernized and palatable to American and Israeli leadership—and to many Palestinians. The heated, urgent talk here comes from activists—from the rallying masses of youth in Ramallah calling for a united front rather than Fatah’s and Hamas’s factionalization of the Palestinian nationalist movement, to the rage-filled speech of an Israeli woman urging Palestine’s recognition. Fayyad expresses hope for his country, but his personal comfort and privilege—the ability to travel, to access sufficient water—suggest that his hardships are more ideological than the harsh realities faced by many Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Is the two-state solution more appealing to Westerners with the ability to ignore the conflict? Will Palestine gain international recognition? The film delivers no answers, but it ably articulates how important it will be to keep asking those questions.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 17, 2013