Side By Side - The Palestinians have learnt pioneering from the SettlersThe Palestinian tent camp set up on Friday (10/1) on the E-1 enclave east of Jerusalem that has since been forcibly vacated from its residents by the Israeli security forces is a wonderful case study of an event covered in an absolute opposite manner in Israeli and Palestinian media.
The attempt of founding a new Palestinian village, called “Bab El Shams” (Gate of the Sun”) marks a new form of non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation. This being a year of prominent development in Israeli Settlements in the West Bank, according to a recent report of Peace Now, the matter of real estate development remains a thorny issue for the Palestinians. This attempt was enacted by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, an umbrella organisation that has recently acquired international attention with the Oscar nomination for the film about their involvement in the weekly protests in the village of Bil’in “Five Broken Cameras. The interesting thing about the Popular Struggle movement is that it’s currently unaffiliated with the major players in Palestinian politics – neither with the PLO administration nor with the Hamas. Their credo of nonviolence has set them apart from better known Palestinian organisations, and the Bab El Shams case is their first successful attempt in creating a media event that attracts both Israeli and international attention. The tents currently remain on the E-1 ground, while the Palestinians case is pending deliberation at the Israeli High court.
Prime Minister Netanuahu called the camp “a large gathering... Causing friction and breaching the public order” (apparently the term “outpost” is reserved only for Jewish activity), expressed the mood of parts of the Israeli public, but most of the Israeli media stuck to the term “outpost”. The Palestinian media quickly adopted the name “Bab El Shams”, a name referencing the famous novel about Palestinian refugees from the 1984 war in Lebanon by Lebanese-Palestinian Author Elias Khoury.
“Haaretz” reporter Hain Levinson observed the marked difference between the eviction of Jewish outposts and the eviction of the Palestinian outpost in E-1. While the IDF forbid the eviction of a Jewish settlement on Saturday night because it might cause the Jewish soldiers enacting the eviction to break their observance of the Sabbath, it seems that for the eviction of E-1 the religious consideration suddenly disappeared.
“Maybe because of the upcoming elections, these time the usual military explanations and excuses about shortage of manpower, upcoming military exercises and other operational difficulties, were put aside. While a Jewish outpost would take a week to evict, a Palestinian outpost was evicted within hours.”
Channel 2 news, the most popular news edition in Israel, noted in their coverage that the IDF soldiers preforming the eviction “didn’t meet violent opposition” and that “The Israeli government wanted to get this done quickly and with no upsetting sights. The eyes of many over the world are set upon this event”.
“It was expected. All were waiting for this. At two o’clock AM it has arrived”, Ehud Hamu, the Channel 2 reporter reported. At the end of the item, that included mostly amateur night shots of the eviction. The reporter concluded: “In one thing the Palestinians succeeded. The eyes of the world are set on E-1”.
On the Palestinian side, the act of settlement was seen rather differently.
The PLO’s Executive Committees has published this Sunday (13/1) an announcement praising the “pioneering and initiating” action of the Palestinian youths that arrived to the hill on Friday, One columnist called the seizure of the land as a continuation of the Palestinian activism that was started during the demonstrations in Bil’in, demonstrations that succeeded to force the IDF to change the route of the barrier following a high court ruling about the matter.
“The Palestinians have learned a lesson in steadfast opposing six or seven years ago in a school called Bil’in, but Friday’s lesson was a different one”. Wrote Hassan in Al Ayam (“Today”), the PLO Identified daily. “Peaceful mass protest has turned into peaceful resistance, and passive protection has turned into initiative”.
In the competing newspaper, “Al Hayat Al Jadida” (The New Life”), columnist Adeli Sadek wrote that on the battle for International public opinion, Israel cannot win if it insists on the evacuation of the Palestinian outpost.
Sadek wrote: “Should (Israel) attack, it will create a new equation: an army that prides itself for its combative capabilities is waging war against villagers returning to their homelands. In such case, both near and far will know… that these wars are an embarrassment to those that initiate them”.
Despite its geographical distance, the Hamas movement that governs the Gaza Strip also involved itself when it released a press release about the evacuation of the E-1 outpost. The organisation’s press officer Fawzi Barhoum falsely claimed that Israel destroyed the tent camp and called the residents of the West Bank to increase their “Resistance and offensive activity” against the “Zionist occupier”.
“This action proves the ongoing (Israeli) policy of uprooting and expulsion that the occupation inflicts on our Palestinian people.”
The irony is that the nature of the discourse regarding pioneering between the Palestinians and the Israelis has been turned upside down. The Palestinians have learned to emulate their neighbours, the Jewish settlers, who always speak in the rhetoric of Zionist pioneering of their right to forcibly occupy lands. Now the Palestinians use similar rhetoric regarding their initiative to seize lands independently at the E-1 enclave. The Palestinians understanding of the realisation of their legal right on their lands while copying the settlers Zionist modus operandi is described as the realisation of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the President of the PA call to resist Israel in nonviolent ways.