Walking the Line (www.walkingtheline.it) is a self-funded project which has been originated from below for the purpose of telling the lives of occupants and occupied. The protagonist is the Green Line, the border that was established at the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1948-49 and vanished in the following war, the so-called Six-Day War (June 1967), when the Israeli army routed the Arab armies and invaded the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.
Walking The Line project: the story of a separation
Capethicalism was at a meeting with the journalist Christian Elia, one of the promoters of the project (the others being Cecilia Dalla Negra, deputy director of Osservatorio Iraq, and Gianluca Cecere, photographer), which took place on 21st April 2018 in the Bari’s bookshop Prinz Zaum. Elia, Q Code co-director, who has been in war zones for several years working for various news organizations such as PeaceReporter, was interviewed by the Arabist and translator Silvia Moresi. The promoters have set a deadline to complete the project. After next June, Walking The Line ought to become a book.
Map by Stefano Rea
Memories and stories in response to the ruling power
What’s the point of telling stories? The conflict between Palestine and Israel is the point of contact of different narrative levels. There are historical facts: 1967 marks the beginning of Arab World’s frustration. Because of ethnic balance needs, the Muslim population living in the conquered territories wasn’t incorporated into Israel, but “encouraged” to leave their houses and agricultural lands. The result is an “unsolvable” geography, due to the separation and the distancing of Arab villages from one another. In the face of the impetuousness of colonization, the “Two-state solution” has progressively lost strength.
There’s the broken thread of international law, which allocates those lands to Palestinian people in accordance with the 1949 armistice. Finally, against all that, there’s the Israeli narrative, coinciding with the will to fake evidence and the premises from which Zionism originated. In psychoanalytic terms, this attitude is called repression, and it’s an issue that “doesn’t affect Palestinian people only”, Elia underlines. This is the tumbling stone on which Walking The Line intends to act, using very powerful leverages: stories, memories, evidence, words.
The interviews reveal forgotten history
Words and pictures are dredging up the stories of the occupation. This operation stands against the official narrative. The journalists involved aim at revealing the human and material geography of the settlements near the Green Line before the 1967 Naska (or “Setback”), in order to frame the deep changes along a timeline that – in the intent of Walking The Line – should be a part of the collective memory of both the parties involved. The journalists move like detectives looking for clues. Sometimes, to restore segments of truth, it is sufficient to find a trace in the vegetation, such as a row of prickly pears or a particular kind of trees.
What happened down there, where an Israeli family is living now? How have nature and the streets changed? How has the settlement changed? The survey is made up of interviews to Arab and Israeli people of those territories and brings to light personal and family memories, which are touching and painful. The only Israelis who are willing to cooperate are often anti-Zionist dissidents, for instance the Marxist intellectual Michel Warshawsky: people who are in complete opposition to the political view prevailing in Israel today.
Painful and hard-to-heal break-ups
As Elia said “occupation harms also occupants’ health”. Israel is losing its soul under ultra-orthodox factions’ pressure. “In Israeli schools kid are no longer studying Arabic and in Arabic ones they are no longer studying Hebrew”. The separation is a deep one because two parties that forget the other’s language are destined to not talk to each other, literally. Official textbooks, in line with the centre-right governments’ politics, present to students the average Palestinian as a “problem” or, in daily life, as mere workforce at the service of the occupier. Ignorance of the facts moulds Israeli public opinion and fuels racism.
Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, critic journalists, grown up in the left wing and well know in Italy too, realized how much the knowledge and consciousness gap has widen between the two people in the last sixty years. “Peace accords destroyed Palestinian people rights”. Breaking the Silence (www.breakingthesilence.org.il), a veterans association committed to peace, is a rare example of counter-narrative. A minority mindful of how peaceful coexistence was before 1948, when “Jewish people native of Palestine used to live side-by-side with Arabs, peacefully”.
Israel and Palestine: two sick societies
Symbols are the very essence of communities, and the Palestinian nostalgic memory is based on “the regret for something that you have never seen”. In Jaffa, ancient city on the coast, no sign of its Arabic past is left. Many Israeli families just ignore that, before the Nakba (“the Catastrophe”) in 1948, those roads was crowded with Palestinians. If Israel is infected with hatred, on the other hand also Palestinian citizens do not enjoy good health. Elia highlighted the fact that since 2001 onwards “the internal security issue has turned into an international terrorism fight”. In response to it, in the Gaza Strip, “an experimental place where individual rights are completely wiped out”, rose a Muslim-inspired party: Hamas.
The unitary mass movements, Arab-Spring alike, failed because of Hamas and Fatah repression. The new generations, after the devastating civil war in Palestine, feel abandoned and betrayed first and foremost by their leading politicians. After the Oslo I Accord, the PLO forgot the causes of the Palestinian diaspora. The solidarity of the other Arabic countries has gradually failed. Finally, the international public opinion has focused on the Syrian war. Paradoxically, the subject “Palestine” has reappeared thanks to… Trump! “Palestinians think that the decisions of Donald Trump, for example the one of moving the US Embassy in Jerusalem, are less deceiving than the ambiguous conduct of other Presidents”.
Cecilia Dalla Negra, Christian Elia y Gianluca Cecere
Alliance between intellectuals, bridge for peace
Western citizens and consumers, as Elia recalled during the debate, still have the weapon of the economic retaliation against Israeli products, promoted by the BDS campaign – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (https://bdsmovement.net). Will it be useful to the cause? Opinions are contrasting. The purpose of Walking the Line is to work for peace, for a fair memory, for an aware reconciliation. A bridge between the Israeli and Palestinians intellectuals would be a step change for the dialogue between the parts, but, as Elia said, it will be a challenge, because European media do not help and seem to have already lost their interest.
Media always try to catch the conflict, not the agreements between the factions. “A picture of violence pays off more than the one of an handshake”. The power of Walking the Line is to be a self-narrative investigative journalism. Every day the occupation changes the morality. Testimonies gathered, that would otherwise get lost in the oblivion of History, are an answer to the Power and a necessary compensation, after decades of memory removal.
These photos can published by courtesy of the Walking The Line project. ©2017 Gianluca Cecere. All rights reserved. Sito web: www.walkingtheline.it
ALEXEIN, JUPE & TRICK
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