Saturday, July 26, 2008

June 17, B'tselem - "Shooting Back"

When we visited B’tselem, the Israeli Center for Human Rights, we met Anat, a young Israeli woman who had never met a Palestinian—never known that Palestinians were treated badly by her government—until she went abroad to study. She came back to Israel and now works for B’tselem, monitoring human rights, hoping to make a difference in the lives of Palestinians.

Anat’s organization, B’tselem, has a new project that has made the news several times lately. In January, 2007, they began a project called “shooting back,” which has given video cameras to Palestinians living in high conflict areas, especially those living near military bases or sites of frequent incursions by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces—the Israeli Army), or areas where settlers frequently attack and harass Palestinians. Over 100 cameras have been distributed and footage shot by these cameras is seen on the web and has been aired on major news shows in Israel and internationally.

“Shooting Back” is making a difference. Video footage of an IDF soldier shooting a blindfolded Palestinian detainee at close range with a rubber bullet prompted an investigation by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. On July 7, the detainee had been protesting the Israeli construction of a security wall in the Palestinian village of Ni’lin in the West Bank.

One of the videos documents the struggles of the Abu- Aisha family in Hebron. We also heard about their ordeal when we visited the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron. The Abu-Aisha family lives on a dead-end street. Across the street from their home a new Israeli settlement was established in 1986. The settlers live on one side of the street, the Arab Abu-Aisha family on the other. The settlers come to Hebron, a traditional Arab community, hoping to make it more and more a Jewish city. Sometimes the boys throw stones at the house, intimidating the family, who cannot come and go when they wish because of the violence and intimidation. Because of the harassment from the settlers, the Abu-Aisha family has installed wired mesh, a sort of cage, around their home. Soldiers patrol the street, to keep the Arabs and the Jews apart. Sometimes this means closing streets, like the main Arab market of Shuhada Street, where shops are shuttered and Jewish stars of David spray-painted on the doors. 14-year-old Fida' Abu 'Ayesha uses her camera as a form of protection, and as a way of documenting her reality. Videos of her family’s struggles have been seen on web sites and television around the world. “Shooting back” has made it impossible for Israel to deny or diminish the harassment she faces every day. You can see her videos and others on B’tselem’s web site:

Anat told us that B’tselem means “in the image of.” The Hebrew words are found in the creation story in Genesis 1.27, "And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him." B’tselem’s name refers the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that "All human beings are born equal in dignity and rights." The workers and volunteers who do the work of B’tselem are doing the ordinary work of protecting the dignity and human rights of all—Palestinian and Jew, in ordinary places like Hebron.

MSNBC aired a story about “Shooting Back” on their news show this week. You can see the segment:

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