The Palestinian and foreign anti-occupation activists responded to the tape of the Israeli soldiers dancing in Al-Khalil [Hebron].
Indeed, a group of six young men, three of whom wearing the keffiyeh, advanced into the town market. After the inhabitants gathered around, the group started dancing on Lady Gaga’s Poker Face. They were divided in two groups. Those wearing the keffiyeh played the role of the Palestinians being subjected to searches and arrests, while the three others represented the soldiers of the occupation in the dance that was received by the market-goers to the sound of applause and cheers of support and encouragement.
The anti-occupation dance tape was posted by the same websites that carried the tape featuring the dance performed by the elements of an Israeli patrol in one of the neighborhoods of Al-Khalil. The Israeli show starts off with an empty street, while the voice of the Muezzin rises in the background, showing that the videotaping occurred in the early hours of the morning. After the soldiers gather in the street while carrying their weapons, wearing their helmets and equipped with their full gear, the sound of dance music rises and the soldiers respond to it, starting to move on the rhythm of a fast beat. When the music stops, the soldiers resume their military role and continue patrolling the empty street.
The Israeli tape raised angry reactions, and the objections voiced by numerous sides ranged between its perception as being a violation of military discipline – considering it is not honorable for any army to show footage of its soldiers dancing in a military (occupied) zone - and protests in which the participants raised banners saying: “Go dance in your own streets.”
There are many discrepancies between the two tapes. The soldiers used the fact that the old street was empty to announce they were not “occupation soldiers,” but rather kids who love to dance even when wearing their full military gear. Moreover, the emptiness of the street and the timing of the early taping indicate that the Israelis knew they were doing something they should not be doing in a place in which the absent inhabitants did not feel any affability toward them. The activists on the other hand used the fact that the street was crowded to convey an opposite message saying: “The place is ours and we convey our reality by dancing among the people.”
There were helmets on one side and keffiyehs on the other. Arms and military gear in one place and no equipment whatsoever in the other. There was an old street with sandstone buildings in the face of the market and the silence of dawn in the face of the noisy souk.
The comparison between the two tapes only confirms the existence of two realities that are clashing on a daily basis: an occupation with soldiers playing roles and saying – through their street dancing in Al-Khalil – that they did not understand those roles or at the very least preferred others over them, and citizens helped by foreign activists announcing that they belong to a land whose occupier is subjecting them to endless humiliation.
At this point, it is not important to wonder about the side holding the higher “truth” on the moral and political levels, as this issue is out of the context of discussion, obviously in favor of the owners of the land. What is worth considering however, is this ability to come up with new ways to reject the occupation, announce its bankruptcy and call for its end.
Following the armed struggle, the stone Intifada, the suicide attacks and all the means to which the Palestinians resorted to show their insistence on regaining their rights, the modern communication means gave them the chance to digitally expose the truth with its scenes, music and young beat before the whole world.
While it would be hard to judge the extent of the impact of such direct media, field and political action, there would be no harm in saying that it is imposing itself in a highly varied environment willing to receive all that is new.
* Published in the London-based DAR AL-HAYAT on July 17, 2010.