Behind the Masks

Posted on May 19, 2011

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An article on the challenges facing the US’s rejectionism on a Palestinian state in light of the Arab Spring, has this curious photo and caption:

The caption reads: “Two Palestinian men with rocks during clashes with the Israeli police on Sunday near Ramallah.”

But are these really Palestinians? According to many accounts, Israeli forces roamed the crowds during the Nakba demonstrations in Qalandia and other areas of the West Bank during the demonstrations, dressed much like the men in this photo. At appointed time, they emerged with weapons and summarily kidnapped and detained Palestinian demonstrators. The Wall Street Journal, in it’s web-video reporting called them “snatch squads” and the New York Times reported on them briefly in one of its photo essays.

I only mention this because I’m rather tired of seeing this iconic image of menacing, masked men shrouded in tire smoke in what looks like the end of days. Certainly, this is one aspect of the clashes, and seemingly one that Palestinians themselves accept and replicate in what is now something of a tradition. But it’s only one aspect of such demonstrations. Women and the elderly also participate in such demonstrations, they have a nearly universal demography.  These scenes tell only a part of the story, but they have become almost exclusively the entire visual narrative. And one that Israel exploits mercilessly.

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