Avatars protest Israeli occupation in Bil’in

0 Posted by - March 4, 2010 - Blog, Performance, Public art

Protesters against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the West Bank barrier wall take a more theatrical approach in Bil’in. On February 12, 5 Israeli, Palestinian and international demonstrators dressed as James Cameron-style Avatars marched towards the barrier, which has absorbed approximately 60% of this Palestinian village’s farmland, and were, per usual, met with tear gas and sound bombs. Though sporting blue painted bodies, pointy ears and long tails didn’t seem to faze the Israeli Defense Force, the tactics generated more media attention than usual for this weekly action.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared the barrier a violation of international law, and the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that sections of it imposed “undue hardships on Palestinians and should be re-routed.” 3 weeks ago Israel began reconstruction of the wall returning 30% of the land it previously confiscated. Though this sparked celebration, demonstrators and maybe even occasional ‘Avatars’ will continue their weekly action demanding justice and the return of all illegally confiscated West Bank lands as they’ve done for the past 5 years.

The first video I saw documenting this reenactment (edited with music and footage from the Cameron’s Avatar film) seemed to overdramatize and simplify the situation. The occupation and strategic seizure of Palestinian land is dramatic enough without music from a mainstream epic. I eventually found footage sans cinematic soundtrack, which helped me view the theatrics more objectively. While the demonstrators’ analogies may be quite blatant (the Israelis being the imperialist colonizers and the Palestinians the indigenous Na’vi), incorporating global pop culture into their weekly performance boosts morale of participants and generates more coverage for Bil’in.

With no freedom of movement, most people in the West Bank have no way to go to the cinema. Luckily Mohammed Khatib, one of the village organizers, scored a bootleg copy, which was used for costume reference and inspiration to enhance the demonstration. Once again, tear gas canisters, which have injured and even killed other weekly protesters here, were shot directly at the crowd in violation of IDF firing regulations. I don’t think millions of tickets will sell for this real drama. However, if you want front row seats, the villagers of Bil’in welcome you any and every Friday.

Photo from bilin-village.org.

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