lördag 25 september 2010

Israel v Israel

DSC_5763, originally uploaded by abcharlie.

Last night I saw the premiere of a film about Israelis who protest against the occupation of the West Bank. They are a handful of people who are making a brave stand against the Israelis, often at considerable personal risk. The film showed the degrading conditions the Palestinians are having to endure with the constant security checks at an increasing number of barriers where they are caged in whilst they wait to be searched and have their papers examined. And to add to their problems are the settlers, often from the USA, who are stealing land and then abusing the local Arab population - even the young children of orthodox Jews in Hebron are behaving in this way. And then there is the hideous concrete wall.

The trouble is that the Israelis have not done this for no reason at all. The draconian security is largely a response to the suicide bombings that were a regular feature of Israeli life before these measure were introduced.

One difficulty is that the Palestinians have got themselves an image problem. The picture above is iconic of Palestine. One interpretation is that it is a case of David fighting Goliath. But there is another reading, and it is not favourable to the Palestinian cause. Quite the reverse. It is very unflattering. Like Yasser Arafat's constant wearing of an army uniform. It inspires no confidence. It does not suggest the possibility of peaceful intent.

Where does this end? To help in understanding, it is really necessary to go back to the origin of the occupation in 1967. Unfortunately, supporters of the Palestinian cause tend not to do that. And there is also the issue that there seems to be more concern about Palestine than a host of other injustices round the world that receive nowhere near the same amount of attention. Israel is of course a nice assignment for journalists who want to record disturbances. They can live in a nice air-conditioned hotel in conditions of safety that depend on the effectiveness of the very Israeli army whose behaviour they condemn. The film shows how ugly that behaviour can be. It reflects no credit on the Israelis and is immensely damaging to the fabric of Israeli society itself. This is a situation with two sets of rights and wrongs and it is not useful to take sides at all.

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