Demonstration is a fitting name. They call them peace walks or non-violent protests, but we run from the teargas, and the youth most often come with slingshots. These “demonstrations,” held all over the West Bank, protest the past and present construction of the apartheid wall between Israel and the West Bank. Internationals, Palestinians, and even Israeli’s march together with flags chants and provocations for soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force. ”The goal in Beit-jala is to get to the bulldozers without getting arrested,” I was told most recently.
Palestinians suffer great injustices; their land, their families, their ways of life are trespassed by Israeli occupation on a daily basis. Jewish settlements and housing demolitions grow hand in hand as more and more land is colonized by the Israelis. Arabs suffer violence, oppression, and arrest for peaceful and aggressive resistance alike. And all of this, you can find at a demonstration. Their cause and effect is symbolic. Both sides provoking an assumed response.
When people see my equipment, I’m herded towards the demonstrations, they’re unavoidable. Press is everywhere, Foreigners are everywhere. Their cameras keep the people safe, while secretly hoping for a soldier to step out of line and respond in violence. As I see it, any still image of violence, acts as a symbol, an ambassador of all the violence and oppression suffered by the Palestinians under Israeli control. But in the setting of the demonstration, those acts feel provoked. As an Israeli soldier, what else can you do in the face of a shouting mob, hurling rocks, threatening to interfere with construction, or tear down the walls.
I have mixing emotions about demonstrations, but my strongest and most consistent reaction is the one I feel when the adults stand by and watch as the youth hurl stones at the soldiers and the settlements. You can’t call something non-violent if people are hurling stones. I understand their frustration, their anxiety, their desperation, it’s all justified in my opinion. But when you respond in even the smallest forms of violence, you affirm any perspective of the Palestinian people that sees them as a danger and threat to the Israeli population.
photos taken during demonstrations in Beit Jala and Beit Omar