Truth or Dare: Who’s fooling who in West Bank?
“This was neither the time nor place to create such a media stunt, not with children having been invited along, who were in a real danger of getting hurt,” Sarah Madsen
New facts are emerging about the incident that took place on 14th April on the West Bank, when a Danish protester was knocked to the ground by an Israeli soldier. The soldier, Shalom Eisner has since been suspended and the protester, identified by the Guardian of London as Andreas Lars, was treated for light injuries. The event was widely reported in the media, but the real truth about the event was not told. An eye witness described to New Times how activists lured Palestinian families onto a “bike ride” that turned out to be a well choreographed media stunt that put innocent people and especially children at risk of getting hurt.
The witness, Sarah Madsen, who is a programme assistant in an international NGO described how she and her friend were invited along for the bike ride “to see the spectacular scenery that the Jordan Valley has to offer”. The bike ride was arranged by Sharek, one of the biggest youth organisations in the region and the invitation stated, “Bring your friends, family and young ones (we won’t be going too fast!)”. Around 70 people turned up, among them families with young children.
Sarah tells us what happened that Saturday: “About two kilometres into the ride, we were stopped by Israeli soldiers who would not let us pass. Apparently the road we were on is closed to Palestinians. The organisers knew this of course, and were apparently anticipating on us being stopped. They then asked my friend and myself to step in the front together with around 10 very young International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists, to form a shield of internationals between the soldiers and the Palestinians. The situation was already tense and it became clear very quickly that those kids were hell-bent on creating a confrontation. They were well prepared with banners and flags and seemingly out of nowhere, a ton of photographers just happened to show up. Suddenly it was a full-fledged demonstration - which was obviously planned, but without letting most of the attendants know about the real aim of this biking event”.
According to Sarah, the Israeli soldiers did not seem to want a confrontation and were about to open the road block without any more fuss when one of the activists pushed one of the soldiers. “Of course then the whole thing exploded and resulted in the soldiers going berserk, which is of course inexcusable. The photographers got the shots they needed, and it created headlines all over the world apparently - but the whole situation was so staged, and so unnecessary”.
“The demonstrators were trying to prove a point, and I get that, I really do. But there are many ways to fight the good fight. The ISM activists come and spend 6 weeks with the sole purpose of creating and attending demonstrations - for solidarity, they say, but for them getting arrested or beaten up is like a badge of honour. They will go home a couple of weeks later and be heroes in the ISM community, but without having changed anything here at all. But for the Palestinians who were also arrested the consequences are so much more severe - they will lose their jobs, if they had one in the first place, and their detention could potentially be indefinite. No help from the ISM then. Where is the solidarity in that?”
This incident raises several questions. Firstly how long will solidarity groups continue do more harm than good for the causes they espouse? Secondly, how can it be so easy to manipulate and fool the media? And thirdly, but not least, what penalties should there be for those who knowingly put children at risk?
New Times has written to both Sharek and ISM inviting them to comment on the fact that their action put children at risk, that they set up innocent people to join what was in fact to be a well planned demonstration and on whether they justify can their actions because they believe that the ends justify the means. We have had no reply.