Jonathan Freedland promotes the myth of ‘non-violent’ Palestinian protests in Bil’in

Jonathan Freedland’s latest essay at ‘Comment is Free’, about President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel, is boilerplate Guardian: It promotes the idea that a US President needs to coax truculent Israelis who have lost their soul to ‘the occupation’ into pursuing peace, while failing to acknowledge Israeli concerns and ignoring Palestinian responsibility for the conflict.

Indeed, while much of what Freedland writes, in ‘You’re not a tourist, Obama, go to Israel with a message, March 15, is quite consistent with the ideological left’s tendency to view Palestinians as a mere abstraction, the following passage in the essay is worth examining. 

It’s too late to change Obama’s itinerary, but perhaps not too late to influence the in-flight entertainment on Air Force One. It’s a long journey, so the president should have time to see two films, both Oscar nominees. The first is not Les Miz or Argo, but 5 Broken Cameras. Shot by an amateur Palestinian film-maker in the West Bank village of Bil’in, it is a powerful eyewitness account of the everyday reality of the occupation, from unarmed villagers clashing with Israeli soldiers to Bil’in’s cherished olive trees set aflame by nearby settlers.

The depiction of Palestinian protests in the film which Freedland is referring to, however, is egregiously skewed.

The documentary, ‘5 Broken Cameras’, focuses on the Palestinian village of Bi’lin, where the local population, in conjunction with international (largely European) supporters, has been demonstrating on a weekly basis to protest the Israeli security fence a few kilometers east of Modi’in.

European and Palestinian protesters, Bil’in, Aug 2012

The protests, which commenced eight years ago, have continued each week despite the relocation of the fence as the result of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling which enlarged Palestinian territory, making the village more suitable for Palestinian agricultural.

Map outlining the new security fence route bordering the Palestinian village of Bil’in 

The film never mentions that the security fence which is the object of protest was erected as a result of the Palestinian terror war in 2000-2005, in which waves of suicide bombers attacked Jewish civilians indiscriminately – constructed for the sole purpose of preventing terrorists from walking into Israeli cities and blowing themselves up.

A photojournalist covering Bil’in security fence protest, Aug 2012.

More importantly, the narrative, advanced in the film and evidently accepted by Freedland, that protests are staged by “villagers” who are “unarmed”, represents a gross distortion.  

Indeed, the film reportedly edited out scenes of the Palestinian ‘protagonists’ engaging in violence against Israeli soldiers.  And, while they may not possess firearms as such, they certainly engage in violent rioting each week, typically throwing rocks and metal objects, as well as firebombs, at Israeli security forces.


Over the past several years more than 200 Israeli security personnel have been injured by Palestinian rioters in Bil’in.

Like so many symbols of the Palestinian “resistance”, the weekly protests at the security fence near Bil’in are not spontaneous, grassroots acts of civil disobedience but, rather, choreographed, media-friendly acts of violence.

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