They Do Not Exist (Laysa lahum wujud) was directed by Mustafa Abu Ali in 1974, who took his title from the remark made by Golda Meir that the Palestinians do not exist. Abu Ali, one of the first Palestinian filmmakers and founder of the PLO’s film division, began making films in 1968 in Jordan, along with Sulafa Jadallah and Hani Jawhariya. After Black September, Abu Ali and the others had to leave Jordan but continued making resistance films in Lebanon.
Abu Ali was able to return to Palestine after the signing of the Oslo Accords, following 47 years of exile as a refugee. However, he is forbidden by Israeli law to live in, or even visit, his hometown of Maliha (in the Jerusalem district) and must live in Ramallah — only 15 kilometers away. Maliha was attacked in July of 1948 and partially demolished by the Zionist forces. All the inhabitants, including Abu Ali, were ethnically cleansed and became refugees never allowed to return to their homes. Today, most Israelis know the area only as the Malcha Shopping Mall or Kenion.
Abu Ali’s contribution to Palestinian cinema is significant, as well as his contribution to international cinema. He worked with Jean-Luc Godard, who always said his soul is Palestinian, on the acclaimed film Ici et Ailleurs. Godard is “a great filmmaker; dedicated, creative and imagnitatve. We were both concerned to find the right film language appropriate to the struggle for freedom,” says Abu Ali.