In the absence of any sustained conflict, packs of photojournalists and freelance photographers have taken to covering the so-called “Friday demonstrations” staged weekly by Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank against settlements and the Israeli West Bank barrier. Each Friday, Israeli Defence Forces and border police routinely trade tear gas for stones with Palestinian youth, thereby presenting photographers with opportunities for dramatic images. Easily accessible by taxi and safer than an actual conflict zone, these demonstrations have become training grounds (some might saybattling grounds) for young conflict photographers. Documentary filmmaker Andrew Lampard is preparing an hour-long film on the subject. This video piece, excerpted from the longer documentary, examines the issues that arise when “the pack” visits these demonstrations.
In this video is that you see numerous journalists and photographers saying, quite clearly, that if there were no journalists there would be no demonstrations and that there is really no news here but it is a play where photographers jostle to outdo each other. They say that while the intifada was a real story, the weekly Silwan and Bili'n demonstrations are little more than a game, where reporters who want to pretend to be in a war zone go to dodge tear gas and feel macho.
The place I saw this video was in a blog entry by Lisa Goldman in 972 magazine who is disingenuously claiming that this video, and another video I had linked to earlier, are not showing the real truth. Incredibly, she believes that the two videos are being more deceptive than the photos filed by wire services where you cannot see the gaggle of photographers crowding around a single stone thrower mugging for his audience.
But there are a few questions that are not asked by these journalists.... Questions like, Why are these Palestinians out demonstrating in the first place? Why do they come out, week after week, to face Israeli security forces who choke them with tear gas, beat them and arrest them? What are their grievances?This video says, quite clearly, that the tear gas always comes after the Arab youth start throwing stones. And that the stone throwing is magnified by the media. The arrests are not unprovoked. But Goldman specifically ignores that and frames these events as if these stone-throwing youth are peacefully demonstrating and then the evil IDF, for no reason, starts choking and beating them. How objective she is!
The video also shows that there is nothing newsworthy about the demos, that they are the same every week, that there are literally thousands of photos that show the same thing - and that they are boring. But that enrages our intrepid journalist Lisa Goldman:
Neither of the two video reports include any background or explanation. They also don’t really touch on the fact that very few of the photos and videos shot at these demos are ever published. Editors are not interested anymore. Their readers have turned away; Israel-Palestine is regarded as a story that is stuck in Groundhog Day, doomed to repeat itself in perpetuity.Instead, she wants the world to remain enraged in perpetuity! How dare the world media decide that weekly staged demonstrations - a game played between the Arab kids, the journalists and the soldiers - are anything less than an expression of sheer anger and desperation! How dare editors choose stories from Syria or Yemen or Tunisia instead of yet another story of pawns playing a game in Silwan every damn week? Don't they know what is newsworthy, like Lisa Goldman does?
In fact, Goldman lets us in on a secret:
Do teenage boys wearing jeans and muscle shirts swagger and act all macho when a bunch of photojournalists point big lenses in their direction? Yup, they do. Do they sometimes make a mockery out of stressful, frightening situations in order to preserve their dignity, their cool and their street cred? Sure. Does that mean they have no reason or purpose in demonstrating? Of course not. Would the same people demonstrate if there was no media presence? Yes. I know, because I have attended many demonstrations from which the media was completely absent, and events unfolded in pretty much the same way as they do when the photographers are there.It is a mystery how Goldman, a journalist, has attended demonstrations where there was no media. Was she was wearing a burqa? She is obviously Western - is she really claiming that she is not part of the audience for these demonstrations?
There is no shortage of other observers besides the mainstream media who play parts in this charade. NGOs, so called "peacemaking" teams, and other Westerners are always around for these exercises and they are just as much an audience as the photographers. Their mobile phones take pictures and videos too, and they post things on their websites.
Goldman's piece is fascinating in how she gets so angered at the truth being revealed about the staged charades that occur every week. Perhaps because she knows that a large chunk of her paycheck comes from her inflating the importance of these trivial events rather than uncover real news - news that might even show Palestinian Arabs as less than heroic youths fighting to "preserve their dignity."