Hebron Exposed: A Weapon of Life
The Palestinians wielding cameras against Israeli violence
In this episode of BBC Arabic’s Hebron Exposed, the narrative turns to the Palestinians on the front line of the occupation. The Palestinian Human Rights Defenders (PHRD) have begun to film incidents and educate children to do the same. Unable to trust the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), filming attacks, misconduct, and abuse leads to the clips being used as evidence in court. Though sharing videos online is a non-violent form of protection, the result is often a double edged sword, with clips receiving both support and abuse.
After exploring the Settlers’ side to the story of Hebron in the first instalment of this BBC Arabic two-part documentary, Hebron Exposed, we hear the version of events told by the Palestinians who also live in the enclave. There has been a long history of abuse and attacks on both sides. Often, the blame falls on a blurred line.
Emad Abushamsiya, a member of the Palestinian Human Rights Defenders, is trying to bring this line into focus. The PHRD are committed to non-violent resistance, and campaign for rule by law, not by force. Their new strategy is to film altercations with Settlers and their armed protectors. “I started to see soldiers trying to prevent me from shooting and trying to force me to switch off the camera,” he recalls when thinking about his early recordings. “This increased my faith in the power of the camera. Although the violations didn’t end completely, their numbers did decrease because of the camera.”
Emad now teaches children in schools how to protect themselves and others by filming whenever they can. The students appreciate all they’ve been taught; one girl witnessed an unprovoked arrest of a Palestinian and immediately got out her camera. “When they saw me filming, they let him go”, she recalls. But filming in the enclave is dangerous. The IDF has arrested Emad and searched his home before. He laments how “the house was ransacked. Three phones, a still camera, a video camera, and a laptop were all smashed.” He informs his students that in legal disputes a film will be scrutinised second by second. “That’s why I’m telling you all that your safety is a priority because if they kill you, the story disappears.”
The stress of living amidst such tension takes its toll on the youngest inhabitants of the militarised zone. “We are unable to live like normal children,” complains Waad, one of the students learning to film. Another, Mahmoud, accepts the burden placed on his generation: “Palestine needs the weapon of the camera because it’s a weapon of life”. This compelling second part toHebron Exposed foregrounds the children who are becoming tools for a safer future amidst indefinite instability.