When I first learned about the Hezbollah operations today I was at Al Quds Television in Ramallah watching Palestinian Sesame Street episodes. Because I had work to do I couldn’t spend a lot of time watching the news there, but suffice it to say I was so elated to hear that someone finally retaliated against the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). At the same time, I’m very fearful of what may happen to Lebanese and Palestinians living in the south of Lebanon in the coming days. Already 6,000 Israeli army reservists have been called up and Israel is threatening to invade south Lebanon and they bombed a bridge there. While the U.S. and Israel condemn the Hezbollah bombings, killing 8 soldiers and kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers, and bombing an IOF building north of the Lake Tiberias, somehow it doesn’t seem to register that they are, in fact, soldiers. These are not civilians. In contradistinction, Israel, which has killed 83 innocent Palestinian civilians in Ghaza and wounded 27 more using a range of weapons, including chemical weapons. Just today the IOF murdered 24 Ghazans including 9 people in the same family, leaving only one survivor, a 7 year old child. I’m not sure how people can fail to see the bombarding of innocent Ghazan civilians and not see why Israeli soldiers received a well-deserved retaliation.
All of this was in direct contrast to the work I was trying to do today: reading through Palestinian children’s books and watching Palestinian Sesame Street. And, later in the day, watching two films. The first was Encounter Point, which is a film about Palestinians and Israelis in various dialogue/coexistence settings. It was really difficult to be in this space and in this film that portrays all this as hopeful, but I felt the need to do it for the sake of my research. One of the strongest characters in the film is a South African Israeli from The Parents Circle, a forum for bereaved families. She makes some wonderful comments and connections to the apartheid situation she lived in before moving to Israel. It also included the usual suspects like Seeds of Peace but I’m left with the same feeling I have about all these types of coexistence texts (films, organizations, etc.): they always are unbalanced and rarely feature very strong Palestinians who speak up for their rights. Instead, they spend their time speaking up for coexistence almost in lieu of their rights. I am especially struck by the comment one of the audience members made about the fact that the film only shows one Palestinian who died, a young 12-year-old from Beit Lahem, while they showed more Israeli families suffering from their losses. Given that the reality is far more Palestinians die than Israelis on any given day, week, month, year this seems problematic. At the same time, I think that this film because of its imbalance might reach people in Washington DC or elsewhere who might be persuaded to listen to a different point of view. But given that Palestinians are not arguing for their rights–no refugees, no discussion of al awda, for instance–I wonder what a typically ignorant American legislator would make of this.
The other film was Shai Carmeli Pollak’s Bil’in Habibti, which is an amazing story about an amazing village of Palestinian non-violent activists. This is the village where I participated in ISM demonstrations last summer and where I got arrested. In fact, Shai is the Israeli man who came to the jail to show the border police film footage that contradicted every charge they made against us and help us to get released. He’s done this many times and his film footage has also been used in court to help release people arrested in Bil’in. The film is so moving not just because of the spirit of resistance in this village, but also because it makes it so crystal clear what happens to Palestinians who use non-violent demonstrations as a form of resistance: they are jailed, shot at, bombed. It shows how their land is being stolen by the illegal Israeli settlement of Modi’n Elite and how their olive trees are destroyed and removed by the IOF. The film movingly illustrates how creative and resourceful people in Bil’in are. It was amazing seeing some of the people from the village with whom I worked last summer. There were over 20 people from Bil’in at the film, which I had not expected given emails I read stating that the IOF refused to allow them to enter Al Quds for the film.
On a day like today Pollak’s film is a reminder that whether Palestinians use non-violent resitance, or whether they use weapons (as with Hezbollah) the response and retaliation is always the same. Violence seems to be the only language the state of Israel understands.