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Visualizing Occupation: The right (or privilege) to protest?

Israel and its defenders often boast that it is the “only democracy in the Middle East,” where people can openly express opposition to government policies. However, when comparing a protest in Tel Aviv for “social justice” with one in the West Bank for Palestinian rights,  it becomes clear that the freedom to demonstrate and the means used to disperse them depend on where you are and who you are. This illustration is the third in a series of infographics on the effect of the occupation on the Palestinian civilian population.

By Michal Vexler

 >For the entire Visualizing Occupation series click here

Protest in Nabi Saleh, West Bank
Protest in front of Tel Aviv train station 

Michal Vexler is a designer and activist. 

 >For the entire Visualizing Occupation series click here

Previous posts in this series:
Visualizing Occupation: Ethnic cleansing
Visualizing Occupation: Palestinian Prisoners’ Day – the numbers


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    1. the other joe

      Huh, nice. But how do we know you’re not just picking particularly bad examples at the opposite ends of a spectrum?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Michal Vexler

      I have been going demonstrations in the west bank almost every week for the past 3 years, and i assure you these are not the extreme ends of the spectrum. (If you look closely at the video in the first link you can even see me getting clubbed by riot cops in the 13/5 Nabi Saleh demo).
      If you look at all the videos from these demonstrations on Youtube you’ll get the point.
      In all the demonstrations inside the 48 borders that I have participated in, no Skunk was used, no tear gas an certainly not plastic-coated metal bullets. As far as I know, the only time those were fired at Israeli citizens was at the October 2000 protests of Palestinians in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Woody

      The religious and political symbols on the t-shirts of the differing protests is totally unnecessary. It implies that only non-Jews protest in Nabi-Saleh and that no non-Jews protest in Tel Aviv. If that’s your message, then you should check your own privileged “awareness” of our situation here. You also far under-count the number of police and their weapons.

      This is just more abstract fodder for those in BDS who aren’t willing to articulate the strategic role of J14 in changing Israeli society to end the occupation and want to point a finger at Israeli society’s attempts at internal change. Sure, there is much more violence in Nabi Saleh, but it’s an occupied village – I’m not sure what the comparison to Tel Aviv means. Do you think you’re changing people’s minds (who didn’t already agree) by putting these two side-by-side? Is it really true that J14 is a manifestation of “Democracy in the Middle East”, as you suggest? I get the impression that real activists would consider both groups of protesters (and there are some overlaps) to be victims of such a democracy – rather than one of them being an expression of privilege (which is an offensive articulation to the poor and working class involved in these movements).

      I guess you’re right if you totally remove any class analysis from the comparison. And all of this is not to say that the military occupation isn’t horrifically violent, but you also need to be aware that there weren’t only J14 protests in Tel Aviv. Police did attack poor and non-white people throughout the country during J14. It is a neat trick to try to make Tel Aviv’s protest look 100% Jewish, but that only reveals your fantasy perspective about who is at fault and why.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Leen

      Actually what seems from the poster is that people protesting in occupied territories compose of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Anarchists, etc, while people predominantly protesting J14 are Jews, not nonwhite or poor people, just Jews which is not terribly off the spectrum since most of the protestors were Jewish, not that it matters but it’s what it is.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Piotr Berman

      Woody, Michael strived to be very accurate, down to stars of David among demostrators in Nabi Saleh.

      Also, no critique of J14 was provided here, so you raise a red herring. Actually, at the time of summer protests most commentators of +972 were very supportive, as opposed to foreign readers who were mostly oblivious.

      Most importantly, why brutality is OK if it happens in an occupied village? Why occupation has to be combined with dispossession, oppression and humiliation?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      The design just isn’t really that great. First, it is unclear from the image or text where Nabi Saleh is located. The green line is shown but many people wouldn’t know that it separates Israel from the West Bank. There are too many icons on the screen and too much text. You can cut out the first two lines of people characters on both sides and after the ‘vs’ just leave the police cars on the left side and put a few soldiers and a tank on the right side. The text just needs to be shortened and most of the icons right of it ( icons of rubber bullets, tear gas canisters) needs to be removed. It is just too crowded.

      Steve Jobs would have been disappointed.

      Reply to Comment
    7. J-Sauce

      An interesting point, but you should rid of the stupid quotation marks around social justice and only democracy.

      Also, what are the numbers from the Nabi Saleh rally? Were there more military than protesters? Was one person injured, or is that a percentage? Was there any violence in either rally, or threatened violence?

      More work needed, right now amateurish at best.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Sol Salbe

      I know I’m a pedant and I admire Michal Vexler commitment to the cause. But a bit of attention to the details wouldn’t go astray. would it? The Tel Aviv demo that I recall was on 3 September, not 1 September. Even I somehow missed one on Thursday 1 September (which would have been a bit sectarian, seeing that everyone supporting the social justice slogans were concentrating on the March of the million on Sat night) the 99 per cent slogan is ahistorical. It was coined by the Occupy Wall street movement which commenced a fortnight later on 17 September. In order to cover the 3 September rally at Kikar Hamdina properly I criss-crossed it several times. That slogan wasn’t there.

      Also it would be worthwhile to indicate the proportion of members of the security forces police/army to demonstrators. It would certainly be telling.

      Reply to Comment
    9. I think this is a fantastic depiction, and it is mostly very true, and very telling.

      It really should be noted that in the Tel Aviv protests there were also Magav (the same military/border police that put down protests in the Palestinian territories), and they beat up a fair share of people — just in the early days of J14 they waited until the masses went home and did it off-camera.

      In later protests, when they saw how easily they get away with it even in Tel Aviv, the violence has escalated. Every protest I’ve been to in Tel Aviv since the summer has included violence (and while no skunk trucks are used, tear gas certainly is).

      Reply to Comment
    10. Chris Whitman

      The wounded person from 13-5-11 in al Nabi Saleh is not Muslim, he is an American atheist.

      Reply to Comment