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Israeli media ignores a week of non-violent protests

The Israeli media gave almost no airtime or print space to two non-violent protests this week, in the Jordan Valley and south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park. For Haggai Matar, it’s been a heartbreaking sight.

Demolition at Ein Hijleh (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Demolition at Ein Hijleh (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

So they destroyed Ein Hijleh. This small protest camp in the Jordan Valley, built by hundreds of non-violent Palestinian activists and kept alive for a week of resistance against plans to annex the valley to Israel and deprive a future Palestinian state of its eastern border, was been evicted over night by army and police forces.

For Israelis – it won’t be missed. The whole “Salt of the Earth” campaign to protect the valley, with Ein Hijleh at its core, has been widely ignored by Israeli media as is almost always the case with non-violent Palestinian protests (Bab al-Shams was perhaps the one unique exception, shining in its singularity). Aside from the short online newsflash here and there, no serious coverage of the encampment was offered. No television crew was sent to tell its story and no newspaper sent a single reporter to interview activists about their choice of protest method or to write a colorful feature about life in the renewed village. No serious discussion took place — nor will there be in all likelihood — about the speed in which this “illegal” encampment was evicted in comparison to the hardship Palestinians face in trying to get illegal settlements off their lands. In addition, it seems that only Haaretz is seriously monitoring and criticizing the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the same Jordan Valley, which was sped up this passing year with 390 demolitions in Palestinian villages, more than double the number of last year. That led the Red Cross this week to stop offering evicted communities tents as humanitarian aid, because they too are destroyed or confiscated by the army, as Amira Hass reported.

Setting up Ein Hijleh, one week ago (Oren Ziv/ Activestills)

Setting up Ein Hijleh, one week ago (Oren Ziv/ Activestills)

I’ve been meaning to write about Ein Hijleh every day this past week but felt I just couldn’t. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because the way this specific action was so widely overlooked by Israeli journalists made me too sad for words. It made me sad because I know the people behind it, the people with great vision and faith and determination, with a will to make a true difference on this issue, to end occupation and build a true and just peace. People who are my friends, and who have put so much thought and effort into this – and are rewarded so little for it. In Israel only a few journalists and activists even know their names. It also made me sad because of the joke of a “peace process” taking place, that U.S.-sponsored theater production that absolutely no one has any faith in or cares about. The peace process that is gradually grinding down to dust everything Palestinians, just like the ones in Ein Hijleh, have been struggling to achieve for decades.

Asylum seekers' sit-in, Levinsky Park (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Asylum seekers’ sit-in, Levinsky Park (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

And then there’s a third, seemingly unrelated reason that this passing week was a sad one, locking the words inside of me. At the same time as hundreds of Palestinians were being ignored in their Jordan Valley protest encampment, thousands of African asylum seekers have been similarly ignored in their south Tel Aviv protest encampment. For days on end the latest anti-imprisonment sit-in has been taking place in Levinsky Park, in the cold and rain. The protesters declared that they won’t budge without a proper solution to end the persecution of asylum seekers and their indefinite imprisonment. Much like Ein Hijleh and much unlike the previous round of demonstrations by asylum seekers a couple of weeks ago, in Levinsky Park I saw crowds of people who are trying through any possible non-violent means to fight for their dignity, attract the attention of the Israeli public and ask for basic human rights – and thus far failing.

African asylum seekers rally in Levinsky Park (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

African asylum seekers rally in Levinsky Park (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

It is a heartbreaking sight. Although I’m usually an optimist and a great believer in struggle, seeing these two unheard protests has brought me down. I can only wish these strong and determined people will continue for as long as it takes, slowly gaining support either among Israelis or foreign states – enough to make a real difference.

PHOTOS: African asylum seekers renew protests with sit-in
PHOTOS: Palestinians establish new protest village in Jordan Valley

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    1. Kolumn9

      They might as well give up now because their ‘struggles’ are rather pointless and hopeless. The game is fixed, the end is near, and none of these people are invited to play.

      The Palestinians will accept a demilitarized state on part of the West Bank. They will do so because they have no other choice. Protests like the one held in Ein Hijleh are incapable of changing anything. Several hundred people doing a picnic in an abandoned village is pretty boring stuff. Was there really a single interesting thing that happened or was said in Ein Hijleh? A bunch of Arabs showed up over the weekend, made some noise, put up a bunch of flags, then most of them drove back home. The small number that stayed were removed by the Israeli soldiers that came back from the weekends at home. Why would the Israeli media cover it? It is sure to bore their audience. Only people like Hass or Levy who are obsessed with Arabs would waste the column inch and even so, only a couple of dozen people would bother reading it, even in Haaretz. Even the Haaretz readership is bored of this stuff. The same is true of the international media. The only thing that matters to anyone is how many trinkets need to be thrown to the Arabs to get them to stop being annoying pests.

      The illegal migrants from Africa are even more boring. There is an overwhelming consensus in Israel that they will not be allowed to stay. Not only that, but they have stopped coming and are gradually leaving. For most Israelis it would appear that the approach taken by the Israeli government is both effective and entirely correct. Why change course now? If the migrants want to protest in Levinsky park nobody cares. Most Israelis wouldn’t step foot anywhere near those neighborhoods. It might as well be the moon.

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        “The Palestinians will accept a demilitarized state on part of the West Bank. They will do so because they have no other choice.”

        Spoken like a true rightist – twisting and contorting reality to fit his ideology. Next you’ll tell us that the sun will rise from the west because it has no choice, or that birds will fly backwards because they have no choice, or that Iran will give up its nuclear ambitions because it has no choice.

        What choices does Israel have other than watching its international standing erode on a daily basis, and the boycott movement growing stronger and stronger by the day?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          I spend way too much time reading the various harebrained schemes that Palestinians and left-wingers come up with. None so far look like a plausible course of action as an alternative to the Palestinians accepting some sort of negotiated settlement which ensures Israeli security.

          Israel has no choice except to maintain its own security and prevent an outcome that would undermine it. If that means damage to its “international standing” or a stronger “boycott movement”, then so be it. These things are preferable compared to bombs blowing up on buses or rockets landing on Azrieli. Nor do any of these things change the outcome one bit. That’s reality.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Philos

      After decades of being told that the Arabs only understand force, it has come to be that we Israelis only understand force.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        It has come to be that we Israelis understand that only force keeps us alive.

        Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      Not so pointless, not so hopeless K9. The BBC did report on Ein Hijleh, although a little late. This went out this morning, replete with a video:

      Hope that brings a little comfort to Haggai and the Salt of the Earth campaign.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Watched the report. Some Arabs fixing up abandoned houses, then some weird Arab with a beard arguing with a soldier, and then the reporter dryly bringing it back to negotiations. Hopeless and pointless are pretty reasonable conclusions from that little gem.

        Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        The CNN article has no context. It is pure ‘Israelis removed protest camp’

        The Guardian article is definitely a different story. Lots of context, lots of quotes.

        So, good job! They got articles to be written with proper context in Haaretz and the Guardian. They might also get a glowing review in Al Jazeera and RT. Great success!

        Reply to Comment
    4. The Salt of the Earth and its like will ultimately be seen as an ally of coexistence. Those who refuse to quit, beginning similar campaigns irrespective of immediate futility and belittling (hello K9), struggle against not only their own despair of outcome but as well that hatred which turns to violence. They act not for now, but for a later even they cannot envision clearly. I’d say Zionists where once that way, too.

      Unfortunately, one must ask them to continue despite failure. Roads are built most slowly when stones must be carried individually.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Sure. It is the people that fundamentally refuse all negotiations with me because they reject my presence here that will become my ‘allies of coexistence’.

        I too hope they continue. It is entertaining to watch the pointless, misguided and hopeless actions of one’s enemy, especially when such actions are entirely harmless to me. It must be nice to act pointlessly out of a faith that something positive will/must eventually result, even when all evidence points to the contrary. I suppose that is the idea behind irrational blind faith. Yet, so much wasted effort if they are wrong and such terrible bitterness and disappointment just around the corner..

        Reply to Comment
        • Submitted for your inspection: an imagination so embittered it sees people squirming even when they are not.

          Reply to Comment
    5. Rehmat

      The Zionist leaders never agreed with Gandhi-type protests. They love Irgun-style terrorism.

      On April 4, 1969, daily Ha’aretz quoted Gen. Moshe Dayan, saying: “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You don’t even know the names of these Arab villages, and I don’t blame you, because these geography books no longer exist, the Arab villages are not there either. There is not one single place built in this country that did not had a former Arab population.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. bob wisby

      As long as we remain faithful and strong in our belief that we are the victims, not the others, nothing can stop us in our pursuit of land, power and dominion. We have all the guns, after all.

      Reply to Comment
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