In his book ‘A Place Under the Sun,’ former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Palestinians had emerged victorious after the First Intifada as a result of their superior exploitation of the media. With the press on their side, they were able to demonstrate to the international community their status as victims of the Israeli army and the outcome of this is what led to the Madrid Peace Conference and subsequently the Oslo Accords.
The Palestinian people are undoubtedly victims and they are living the archetypal tragedy, however the First Intifada did not so much ‘exploit’ the media inasmuch as it used it as a medium to document the violent and despicable practices that the Palestinians were systematically subjected to on a wider scale.
And yet, this old story continues to repeat itself and today it is in the form of the investigation that Israel was forced to make public after photographs and video footage were revealed showing a bound and blindfolded Palestinian youth being shot by an Israeli soldier who fired a rubber-coated bullet at him in the Naalin village near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The soldier and the commanding officer who allegedly issued the command to shoot the youth are currently under investigation.
Photographs and footage of the silent, bound and helpless Palestinian who was oblivious to what was about to happen was cruel and malicious to the extent that it disturbed the Israeli army that tried to stop the soldier [from shooting] then justified the incident only to later deny that it ever happened. The incident compelled Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to say, “This is not how soldiers should behave; the Israeli army is an ethical and moral army,” and added that the army only “kills cleanly”– then he demanded trial and investigation!
The fact is that these statements, and especially coming from Barak, seem ridiculous and lack credibility and are evidence of the embarrassment that can be caused by photographs and footage such as this for Israel, particularly since it has already suffered a steadily deteriorating image over the past years.
It seems that Israeli practices on both the official level and through the practices of the [Israeli] settlers against the Palestinians have driven the Palestinian people to devise new confrontational methods that depend on cameras.
Photographic and video documentation and broadcasting technology have become among the most vital and lasting tools of confrontation that are adopted by Palestinian activists to prove and illustrate the Israeli violations and atrocities leveled against them. Thus, it is now used in courts and by the concerned human rights organizations.
Modern technological means, especially with their continuous evolution and advancement, have secured the dissemination of information in a manner whereby such means, including cameras, have become new weapons that are arguably more powerful than conventional weapons. This is a fact that is worthy of contemplation and further development.
Some Palestinian activists uphold that it was the camera that saved some Palestinians from detention since photographs and footage refuted the allegations made by some Israeli soldiers who had stated that they were being subjected to violent acts by the Palestinians when in fact the documented evidence had proven the opposite.
The ability of photographs to document and spread far and wide has become an unprecedented force, and thus the Palestinian appropriation of this tool and technique against Israel is a matter that requires further reflection.