Friday, 3 July 2009

Soussia - South Hebron Hills

South Hebron Hills, farm land. Settlers surrounding Palestinian farms, and the people here don't live in houses. They have only tents, not connected to any electricity grid. This area, near Nasr's family, gets power from a wind turbine and a solar panel, no reliable power supply. (Donald MacIntyre recently wrote about them here)

I've seen a BT'selem video from here, a girl films here parents working on their land. Three settlers approach with t-shirts wrapped around their faces. One is carrying a heavy stick, and he walks quickly to the father and starts beating him. The girl panics and drops the camera. That video made it around the world, broadcast on international news stations, came to represent both the potential of the shooting back project (evidence) and the growing threat of settler extremism (violence).

A dog skips over the stones and tufts of grass that define the ground in Soussia. It's dry and rocky, no place for a farm. Look up - the roof has pieces missing, charred edges from where settlers tried to burn the place down a few weeks ago. Nasr's dog was also killed. The one outside isn't his, it must belong to someone else.

Eid, red t-shirt, one year with the BT'selem project. The camera is a weapon, he says, but it's a legitimate weapon, not forbidden, they should be afraid of the camera, not us. But some are just thugs, and they're not even afraid of the camera.

Majdi, (blue striped shirt). "The army is starting to get scared of the camera, because it gives power to the other side."

Jamal (blue eyes, check shirt) "I like anything that shows the truth of the situation."

Why do we film?
Show another image of Palestinians.
If the media was here they would see the truth.
We want to reach the people, not governments.
We need to understand who the Palestinians are (how images are used)
The true image is not present, it doesn't exist.

Issa (older man, not afraid) "the camera is my weapon. Even if your brother is being beaten by soldiers, don't put the camera down. He's not your brother any more, keep filming." If you stop to help him, he explains, you'll just be beaten too. Then you have two beaten Palestinians, and no evidence. Keep filming. Don't think of him as your brother anymore, think of him as evidence.

I'm surprised to hear this. Some of the group disagree, they say no, I have the right to defend myself, I'll do it, I'll put the camera down and do it. Issa says keep filming. Even if they fire tear gas at you, even if they try to shoot you. He tells the story of once holding the barrel of a soldier's gun with one hand, and his camera with the other hand. Keep filming.

There's no end to it. During the workshop, Nasr gets a call that a group of settlers has arrived at a nearby Palestinian farms. He disappears with Yoav and Assaf, both from BT'selem, to follow it up and make sure the situation is under control.

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