This past weekend’s demonstration was my first involvement* in political action on the ground in Palestine, and I came out of it both enlightened and disenchanted.
Seeing the Palestinian and Israeli activists working together was exhilarating; however, the entire demonstration was a media bonanza. The event was completely geared toward the smattering of journalists whose able reporting draws outside attention to the Palestinian plight. Imneizel must have been just one stop on their itineraries, since they stayed only long enough to witness the construction of the ramp and the herding of sheep over it into the pastures on the other side. Within minutes after the crowd’s triumphant cheer, they packed up and were gone.
As they disappeared in the desert horizon, it was as if the tape was replayed backwards. The sheep were quickly herded back over the wall, and the Israeli activists were directed to disassemble the ramp, presumably according to the agreement made between the army and the villagers that I mentioned in my article.
Despite the partnership displayed between the Palestinian and Israeli groups during the event, the imagery was undeniable. The Palestinians built the ramp, and the Israelis had to tear it down.
Moreover, what I originally took for a sense of humanity and decency within the attending military unit was also merely show for the media and international observers. The Ta’ayush convoy was accompanied by three independent internationals, including myself, and several representatives from the Michigan Peace Team, as well as a few from regional media outlets. In my opinion, thispresence was the reason that the army kept their teargas canisters capped, although easily accessible, and brokered a deal to open a gate in order to facilitate Palestinian access to land and water.
The army was peaceful. The Palestinians were peaceful. The Israelis were peaceful. The Americans were peaceful. You may think I’m going to break out in a neo-patriotic ballad at any moment, but don’t let this fool you.
Later in the day, after a quick peek at the nearby settlements, our military escort, which had followed us from Imneizel, let us know our time had come by hassling our Palestinian drivers. As they led us and our video cameras (us on foot, them in trucks) down the road to our vehicles and off settlement “property”, I stopped to look down at the dust road upon which we were walking. Caught off guard by the revving of the engines behind us, I looked up just as the soldiers passed on our left. Not more than 20 feet ahead of me, one of the border patrol guards reached his arm out of the window of his Hummer and smacked an Israeli activist in the back of the head.
Was it a peaceful demonstration? Thankfully, yes. But for all the army’s promises and restraint, it was obvious in that final moment in the southern Hebron hills that looks can be deceiving.
For years, I thought that if only I could get past the television, newspapers and radio, if only I were able to witness events in person, then I would have a realistic perspective on the world.** But here it was, happening right before my eyes, and still I had to ask: what is media, and what is reality?
Posted By Sarah Sachs (Palestine)
Posted Jun 28th, 2006