Ramallah, Palestinian West Bank
Bristol based video activist Ian Ferguson travelled to Ramallah on the Palastinian west-bank with the aim of filming life in the region. When the current political upheavals flared up he decided to stay on as an alternative media witness. He sent this frontline report back to SQUALL.
13th November 2000
Guns will always make me nervous. Outside my house guarding the main road into Ramallah is a checkpoint manned by earnest-looking police armed with AK's. When the Police station was bombed three weeks ago in retaliation for the mob-lynching of two soldiers, they all legged it. Not surprising. Cobra gunships are ugly business.
Ramallah is a town of few smiles. You can see its fabric crumbling around you. Empty shops, cafes and long queues of frustrated taxi drivers with no where to go. Yesterday was a strike. The only shops open were the pharmacies. Nuff said. People here are biding their time. Waiting for things to get back to normal. 'Normalisation' is a term frequently used by the Israeli politicians but THEIR definition is what this whole conflict is all about. Business as usual, I believe they say in the U.S.
An Arab-English psychologist I spoke with can't wait to leave town. She's been here for five years and has young twins. The first month of the intifada has burnt her out. She spoke of how the Israeli soldiers are deliberately targeting the groin area of stone-throwing youths. Illegal exploding 'dum-dum' bullets are reported being used on the ground as well.
Daily there are new martyrs. A never-ending vicious circle - funerals, clashes and martyrs. Each martyr has their face fly-posted around town. Young men executed for daring to wield stones against a 'peace process' that for them never existed. 'Peace process' is a misnomer - it serves only the national interest of the Israelis and the USA. There are few things better off since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. Water has become a major issue here. 1999 was a drought year. The Israelis consume three times as much water as the Palestinians. Oslo should have addressed this but conveniently Israel still controls the flow. The right wing Israelis would like to see a freeze for all Palestinian utilities including gas & electricity during this lop sided conflict.
Across from my house is a partly built five storey apartment block. The owner also has a restaurant in town called Nefertitis which is empty. No customers and no building supplies. He is losing a lot of money. But you seldom hear his story on CNN. They prefer to hole up in Jerusalem's American Colony Hotel (a snip at $200 a night) and only have time for the REAL story. You can spot them easily at the clashes with their enormo-zoom carnage with a chilling detachment...scores on the doors ...business as usual huh?
And I make no apologies for the one Palestinian channel operating. 24 hour loops of Arafat's propaganda machine and a constantly evolving montage of death, funerals and teenagers armed with slingshots attacking Israeli machine gun posts. No respite - any time of day and night...Someone told me that Propaganda + agit-prop equals pornography. hmmm.
Yesterday I met with Toufic Hadid. He co-edits a magazine called 'Between the Lines'. 28 photocopied pages. They've just completed issue one. They are the remnants of the prestigious 'News from within' and offer a platform to the lone dissenters such as Chomsky, Edward Said, Graham Usher et all. The only english language magazine that gives a clear analysis of life on the ground. They have just enough money for 2 more issues, then who knows...When your choice is CNN propaganda or Palestinian channel porno, you really need these publications. (PO Box 681, Jerusalem - in case anyone feels the need) It's not a pretty picture. Dr Mahid Abed Al Hadi, director of Passia (Palestinian Acadamic Study Analyists) was quoted in Haaretz as saying "the new intifada has opened wounds on both sides. It has generated attitudes of real enmity, hostility, and hate, leaving both sides feeling cheated and betrayed." His pessimistic estimate is that this has become a relationship patterned upon the Lebanese conflict. In other words it could get much worse, heavy bombings, kidnappings and snipers...business as usual?
Ian Ferguson works with the i-Contact video-network - see www.icontactvideo.org