By Julie Holm
For years I have been complaining that the violence and injustice in Palestine is never portrayed in the mainstream media in Denmark and that many people just don’t seem to care. Finally on Saturday, Palestine was mentioned everywhere in the news in my country. It’s just too bad that it only happened because it was a Danish national who was exposed to the Israeli violence that Palestinians face every day.
By now we have all seen the video: the young, Danish International Solidarity Movement activist who was hit in the face by a senior Israeli military officer with an M-16 during what was supposed to be a peaceful bike ride to demonstrate against the limited access to resources in the Jordan Valley. The blow delivered by the Israeli soldier was so hard that it was felt all the way back in Denmark by people who usually do not pay much attention to what is going on anywhere else in the world. The fact that the unprovoked violent action of the Israeli soldier was aimed at a blond, 20-year old Danish man, identifying himself as “Andreas” made it all closer to home.
The video evoked reactions from different sides: The Israeli media, which was the first to show the video, started an excessive debate about whether Israel’s response to international activists is disproportionately heavy-handed and if it would damage their image. Also the fate of the attacking soldier has been a hot topic here; so far he has been suspended from duty. Top political figures in Israel were fast to realize that they should distance themselves from the incident; Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned it on Sunday and the following day President Peres said he was “shocked” by the incident. The Danish Foreign Minister, Villy Søvndal, has asked Israel to clarify the incident, while the Danish activist has decided to seek legal action and file an assault case against Lt. Col. Eisner, the officer who hit him.
Eisner, on his part, has been busy trying to explain his actions. One thing this case does not lack, are excuses, the latest one being that he regrets hitting the activist in front of cameras. Actually, it seems like the only thing he does not regret is the actual hitting, and the only one who is not to blame is the officer himself. Some excuses have been the lack of expertise among the Israeli military based in the Jordan Valley, the other soldiers who urged him to hit ‘Andreas’ and of course the activists standing there being all threatening with their bikes, who are all to blame.
One of the first explanations of the incident was that the video posted on YouTube was heavily edited and that it did not show the full context. According to Eisner, the protesters had been hitting him with sticks and broke his fingers. Interestingly, his fingers seemed to be fine and functioning fully in the video. He is certainly not hurt to the extent that he is still able to grab his M-16 and smack it in the face of someone who holds neither a gun nor a stick of any kind.
What gets me the most, in this case and in any other case of Israeli military violence, is how obvious it is that Israel is the party with all the weapons, and, unfortunately, all the power. As a child I was taught never to hit anyone who was smaller than me. I guess that rule does not apply to occupiers. No matter what the excuses are, the Israeli soldiers are the ones holding the weapons and who will wield them at whim. But how can they even think of using physical violence towards someone who is unarmed?
Luckily, this case shows that sometimes, a camera is a better weapon than an M-16. As the Danish activist pointed out, a blow to the head heals in a couple of days but what the Israelis do to the Palestinians does not disappear that easily. In other words, Andreas has unwittingly contributed to exposing the real face of the occupation in ways the Palestinians never can. Besides, at least for now, there is no lack of news articles on Palestine in Denmark.
Julie Holm is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected]