Suppose that for one week the entire Israeli media - radio, television and daily newspapers - would decide to report everything happening to the majority of the population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In other words, to the Palestinians.
Let us suppose that space is not an issue; in other words, that the newspapers would publish a special daily supplement - every day for one week - covering all the events of the previous day in the territories, not omitting of course reports about attacks on settlers and soldiers. On television and radio, several long talk shows would be replaced - for a week, just for a week - with items about the neighbor/occupied people/enemy living just five minutes away.
During that week, the Israeli media would report not only every mortar shell falling near a Jewish settlement, but also every Israeli shell hitting a Palestinian home as its eight children are preparing to go to school; it would tell the stories of the Jewish casualties, but also those of the Palestinian ones: Who was killed holding a gun after firing at the Ofer military camp from a post in Bitounia's cemetery, and who was killed by a tank shell while sitting in her home in Jenin. The Palestinian dead would also be given names, ages and biographies, and the television would broadcast pictures of their family and friends crying on each other's shoulders.
The media would show Palestinian schools with walls riddled by Israeli bullet holes and sandbags blocking the windows to protect the children studying in their classrooms. It would not content itself with dry reports about "exchanges of fire," but rather detail the topography and technology of these exchanges: A barricaded military post on a mountain top armed with a tank and machine guns, facing AK47 fire from the foot of the hill. The media would devote ample space, from a journalistic point of view, to Palestinian claims that no shots had been fired that day from a specific site shot at "in retaliation" by IDF soldiers, and then request a comment from the IDF spokesman's office.
The media would report the story of every peasant whose olive trees were uprooted and shredded by IDF bulldozers, or chopped down by unknown perpetrators in the middle of the night. It would describe the occurences at every roadblock separating one village from the other, or separating a village from the nearby city: Patients laid out on stretchers moved from one ambulance to the other over dirt mounds, and children passing three roadblocks on their way to school.
It would carry reports about tear gas and stun grenades fired by soldiers at pedestrians passing through the roadblocks, give details of those wounded and try to find out from the IDF spokesman why the grenades were used. It would also interview children questioning their parents why they did not go to the beach this year, or why they are not visiting their grandmother in Nablus this year, or why she cannot visit them.
This imaginary project is not designed to bring about a change of heart among Israelis, nor to convince them that they are not the attacked, the victims, the betrayed. These are feelings that are difficult to root out. The aim of the project is first of all a basic journalistic aim: to try and report everything happening, and not only from the Israeli angle.
But the project also has a by-product with intelligence value, because without the full picture it is impossible to draw up a sensible policy. This project would force the Israeli public to pose clearer questions to its leaders about the path for the future.
Information of this type is usually given to the Israeli public in doses that do not enable it to judge the situation clearly. Were the information presented almost in full, the public would be exposed to the totality of the Israeli occupation of 3 million people, and realize the endurance and staying power of the Palestinian public, its determination and ability to live under inconceivable hardship.
Understanding the Palestinians' staying power should worry Israelis, far beyond the question of where the next terrorist will blow up. It might increase the number of those concluding that the government is not doing enough to defeat the Palestinians and that it must switch to new tactics or intensify existing ones - perhaps by deporting thousands across the border? Perhaps bombing inhabited buildings and open-air markets? Perhaps a really hermetic sealing of every Palestinian village and town? Perhaps barbed wire fences and armed guards around each such town?
Alternatively, some Israelis might be convinced by the Palestinians' stamina to listen more attentively to the basic Palestinian demands. To understand how deeply these are linked to their very existence, a fair, respectable existence. Not to fantasies, privileges, or luxuries.
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