[-empyre-] images hard to watch

Pia Holenstein pia.holenstein at gmail.com
Sun Nov 9 20:56:15 EST 2014

Dear friends

Johannes asked me to tell you some of my impressions from staying in the
Occupied Palestinian territories as a human rights observer. Which I find
hard to fit into your discussion. But let’s go.

While I never experienced open terror and killings directly, I know now
something of the ever underlying carpet of terror, fear, and desperation,
like a sticky juice of this-is-what-it-is-like-since-always oppressing the
private and professional life, childhood and their future.

I witnessed diverse incidents and examples of a life under constant
oppression and it took some time to explain to myself what it might
implicate to a people.

For the ones who know the situation, just skip the following. It is tiring
to recount it, but necessary to know the impression.

Imagine getting up in the mornings at 02.00 in order to catch a taxi to
bring you on slow unending streets (while there are direct roads close by
that you are not allowed to use; you get 6 months of imprisonment for being
caught driving on an Apartheid road.) to a Checkpoint. Checkpoints only for
people of your “race”, run by private security firms. They have the
possibility to test their equipment for years and and sell to other regions
in the world: To secure mines and other spots from enraged people or to
keep immigrants and refugees away.

The Checkpoint opens at 04.00 (why are you not allowed to travel before or
stay outside for the nights?). There are hundreds of rules of what you have
to have and to do in order to get through – a special permit for this place
and time, issued for 6 months – fingerprint-check - not more than say 300
grams of food for lunch – no thermos-bottle etc., but complying with all of
this is never sufficient to pass. On the other side, if they let you
through this day, there are buses; some weeks ago a bill passed that stops
Palestinians from using Israeli buses. But there is nothing else, because
they are on the occupied ground (still in their own territory, but taken
over by settlers), where they are completely at the mercy of the illegal
inhabitants. Now they are here, on this side of the wall, for a reasen, to
work. The employer is Israeli, and he can refuse the worker from one day to
the other. Then there is no permit any more, no work, no income.

Unnecessary to point out that the permits are not given to young men and
taken away from fathers whenever one of their sons has been arrested –
arrested for no reason mostly.

Or the farmers with own land, that has been taken over when the wall was
built . Nobody can dispute that the land is theirs, but they are refused
access, sometimes completely, some may go through a gate a certain time in
mornings and evenings, but many are allowed to go and see their olive or
fruit trees – which make the income for all the family -  just a few days a

We watched the “rightfulness” of these passages, whether people are
harrassed – which is the case very often – or not. But how should we
content with having “smooth” passages through a wall that is illegally
there in order to suffocate the people and make them leave or die, to allow
the occupier to take it over?

We watched children, being intimidated and harrassed on their way to
school, every day, but even worse on exam days. Soldiers arresting one
night twenty young and older men out of their beds, blindfolding,
handcuffing, throwing them in the jeeps. (And releasing them in the
morning, because it was just a military training).

And what of ten army vehicles invading one morning  an autonomous
Palestinian town (built up areas are not officially open to Israel army
like the rural areas), throwing sound bombs and tear gas into every school?

When the three yeshiva-students were captured and murdered, the army had no
restraint any more – though I had not expected before that it could be
worse – and invaded every house and school and demolished whatever they
choose. And arrested whoever they liked. People knew that they are shot by
any move they did, insecurity was at its peak. What I did not really judge
right when I saw it first was the blocking of the narrow Palestinian
streets by the Israeli army. But after some time you realized, that one
blocked tunnel blocked the whole region from every movement: It – and its
repetions - strangles economic life, education, professional development,
and civil social life, of course. And this is the design.


I should like to tell you of some aspects you might not have realized, even
if you heard about the bombing and blockade of Gaza, the “targeted”
assassinations and demolishions of the houses of suspects and their

There was a marathon runner from Gaza who was prevented from taking part in
international competitions. Because he was not eligible to leave Gaza,
Israel said. And this was right, but it shows, that roughly no man under
fifty is ever allowed to leave Gaza.

You probably did not notice that there is a great hope of the Palestinian
youth, a young singer called Muhammad Assaf, who won the “Arab
Voice”-competition in 2013. He looks like Justin Bieber and has a very soft
and comforting sound, and girls and adults all love him. He grew up in a
refugee camp in Gaza and was made Ambassador of Peace 2013. Josef Blatter
seems to have invited him to sing at the opening of the world cup. And
there is already a song, recorded for the event, in February 2014 it was
all ready for this event.

And then you did not hear any more of him. The invitation was retracted,
but nobody noticed. I heard, Shakira refused to sing in solidarity with
Assaf. But you don’t find anything about the whole proceedings in the
internet. Entries in Wikipedia end with 2013.

World Cup 2014 in Palestine: There are no screens showing the games. Not on
the streets, not inside the cafés, not even in the hotels of East
Jerusalem, the part of Jerusalem left to get ruined to be taken over in due
time. Yes, there were ways, Israeli channels were being adapted, some
managed to get very expensive Arab channels. But most Palestinians just had
their everyday suffering and never heard of what the rest of the world was
enjoying. I asked the boys in a town, if they liked football. Yes, they do.
But their only football field is not accessible, taken by the Israeli army
for training.


I try to tell what it felt like when being closer to the hot spots of
danger and violence. It is a moment, there are pictures and voices, anger,
stress, and fear.  You may know more of the affected people, see more
vatieties of the acting, exercing power. You feel the tension. And you may
discern the difference in the same place when there is terror or when it’s
(more) calm.

There is a lot going on in this society that we were not able to notice,
about corruption, collaboration, internal disputes. I tried to gather as
much as possible. But even on the „ground“, as a rule with little
exeptions, you are never actually and directly there when it happens, or
you see a single moment, a spot, one incident, without being able to
connect it to a whole. In short – you know even less what is going on or
why, than a distant, well-informed TV-watcher.

I found the Video just sent by Simon telling the same story – and much

Best regards - sorry I cannot revise my long post, as time is running


2014-11-09 5:24 GMT+01:00 simon <swht at clear.net.nz>:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear <<empyreans>>,
> this work struck me as important for the conversation.
> Akram Al Halabi writes: "Harsh images and videos of massacres published in
> the media. Images hard to watch. During the last three years, I was writing
> on these images what I see in the image itself.
> "Calling upon things by their names ... to remind ourselves that they
> exist! Writing words or the names of what we see... no more.
> ""Ear, Eye, Brow, Window, Blood, Nose, Child, Neck, Throat, Chin,
> Shoulder, Heart, Mother, Fingers, Cheek...""
> http://vimeo.com/60739363
> http://vimeo.com/37774195
> ...
> Simon
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Pia Holenstein Weidmann, Dr. phil.
Bergrain 11

CH- 8910 Affoltern am Albis

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au/pipermail/empyre/attachments/20141109/6b923146/attachment.htm>

More information about the empyre mailing list