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Vying for Egypt’s Media

August 17, 2012

*This article was originally posted on Muftah. You can find it here.

Vying for Egypt’s Media

By Kaylan Geiger

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Egypt’s upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, recently appointed 50 new editors-in-chief for the country’s state-owned newspapers. These selections come despite protests from the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate against the Islamist dominated Shura Council’s move.

The syndicate’s trepidation seems justified. With many new editors holding viewpoints favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian press once again seems to be under government control. As power shifts from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, the appointment of these new editors-in-chief demonstrates the Brotherhood’s tightening grip over the media.

While we have yet to see how these appointees will perform in their new roles, their past actions and viewpoints hint at the unlikelihood of an Egyptian press free from the restraints of ideology. The Shura Council appointed Abdel-Nasser Salama as editor-in-chief for Al-Ahram, Egypt’s oldest daily newspaper. In 2010, Salama wrote a column criticizing Egypt’s Coptic Christians, and in February 2011, he accused protesters in Tahrir Square of receiving foreign funding. The grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Bana, Mohammed Al-Bana, was appointed editor of Al-Akhbar, and Gamal Abdel-Rahim, who has been criticized for his statements against Egypt’s Baha’i religious minority, was appointed editor of Al-Gomhouriya. Soliman El-Qenawi, appointed editor of Akhbar Al-Youm, was previously editor of Al-Azhar’s newspaper, Al-Azhar Voice.

Already, there are worrying signs that criticism of the Morsi administration by the media will not be tolerated. On August 11, security forces confiscated copies of Al-Dostour newspaper from the company’s offices following complaints that the newspaper was “fueling sedition.” Several complaints had been brought against the paper alleging that it insulted Morsi and incited sectarian strife.

Prior to this, Tawfiq Okasha, owner and presenter of Al-Faraeen television station, was ordered off the air for a month following statements against Morsi. Both Okasha and Al-Dostour are known to hold critical views of the Muslim Brotherhood. Charged with making anti-Muslim Brotherhood statements, Okasha will go on trial September 1. Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief for Al-Dostour, faces similar charges and will go on trial August 23.

In another disturbing move, on August 15, Egypt’s second largest state-owned newspaper, Al-Akhbar, canceled one of its opinion pages, which had been open to independent writers. The move has been viewed as an attempt to remove critical views of the Muslim Brotherhood from the newspaper’s pages.

Given the history of government control over the press and after a year of violence and intimidation by the SCAF, reforming Egypt’s national press would undoubtedly be a difficult task. Indeed, throughout the transition from Mubarak to SCAF to Morsi, state newspapers and television stations have been criticized for their biased coverage.

In the aftermath of the 2011 uprising, many had hoped for a liberated press among other institutional and political changes. However, after SCAF assumed leadership of Egypt in February 2011, the press was subject to intimidation and other similar acts of control used by Mubarak’s regime. At least two newspapers, Sawt al-Umma and Al-Masry Al-Youm’s English edition, Egypt Independent, were pulled off newsstands for running stories critical of SCAF and its members.

In October 2011, a peaceful protest gone awry at Maspero, Egypt’s state television building resulted in 20 deaths and hundreds of injured protesters. The Maspero attack reaffirmed that Egypt’s state-owned media remained under the government’s thumb. In its aftermath, state television anchors took to the airwaves to pay tribute to the soldier “martyrs” and denounced Christian protesters by blaming them for the violence.

In November and December 2011, violence and detention of journalists continued as protests intensified in downtown Cairo.

 

While advances in online and social media have helped propel freedom of expression, online media and networks such as Facebook and Twitter only reach a minority of Egyptians. State-owned newspapers and television stations, which continue to be the only news sources for many Egyptians, remain under government control.

With Morsi’s victory as Egypt’s first freely elected president, many fear that a Muslim Brotherhood dominated government will continue to push state media to take a pro-government line and support viewpoints favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood. Given the media’s influence on the Egyptian people, both SCAF and Morsi understand that the ability to control the press will be a key battle in the struggle for political power.

While the Shura Council and the government retain control over the state-owned press, Egypt’s independent media is ostensibly beyond their purview. Nevertheless, independent press outlets are still subject to the same restrictive press laws and face hurdles in obtaining necessary licensing to publish and broadcast news to the public.

Under Mubarak and SCAF, press licenses were regularly revoked for coverage deemed too critical of the government. For example, in 2011, the Ministry of Information raided and shut down Al Jazeera Mubasher’s office claiming that the channel did not have the proper broadcasting licenses.

There are signs these practices may continue with the Morsi government. Osama Saleh, the newly appointed Minister of Investment, recently stated that he retains the right to withdraw the licenses of satellite channels that “intentionally” spread rumors that might harm investment opportunities in Egypt.

 

The Constituent Assembly recently drafted several constitutional articles pertaining to press freedom that would make it illegal to imprison journalists for “publishing crimes.” Publishing crimes include spreading false information and attacking the reputations of individuals or the president. While the draft articles prohibit censorship, exceptions persist. Under Egypt’s provisional constitution, the government retains the right to censor the media during a state of emergency or time of war.

The Constituent Assembly has yet to finalize these draft articles, explaining that another three months is needed to debate the matter. However, as long as exceptions to censorship remain and the government retains control over state media through the Shura Council, the possibility of a free press in Egypt appears unlikely in the near future.

 

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Syria: Employing the Reaper

February 23, 2012

We are caught between reluctance and humanity, in a situation that favors neither. Death has no remorse for the humane, and it has no reluctance in its actions.

Day by day, week by week the world glances over headlines filled with death tolls, cries for help, and speculation over intervention. As the conflict in Syria persists, so too does the thinking man’s thought process. There is no blink of an action here, this is not Libya. However, do we want this to be another Iraq? Another Afghanistan? These are the foretold futures on the minds of Western decision-makers as they ponder intervention.

The list of complexities scrolls further: if we intervene, how will it be received abroad? Will Russia and China act against or come to terms?

Will Iran, seeking to aid an ailing friend in his hour of need, come to Bashar al-Asad’s support? Will they retaliate against the United States? Or, will Iran finally fulfill the threats against Israel? The actions would be damaging, regardless of the attack’s shape or form.

What of Hezbollah? How would they perceive intervention? What would become of Lebanon? Hamas? Palestine? Jordan? Turkey? Kurds? The election year? What if….? And the list goes on, as does the torment of Syria.

Of course, it is no surprise that the reaction to a climbing death toll in a far away land is perplexed and muddled. Death tolls climb day by day on a host of different issues, and it would be naïve to think that they all deserve attention. From disease to poverty, from conflict to war, the challenges of intervention in any form are always inventing new ways to include more complications. Syria is just another example.

Knowing that power politics will always create the roadblock to an ethical reaction is one thing; however, to actually consider it is another. From headline to pundit to op-ed, the “what if’s” will always believe that taking the ethical, humanitarian road can outsmart us and leave us in the gutter. This makes basing a decision on either humanity or politics neither right nor wrong. Yet, if we cannot pause to consider the other side, humanity for the sake of humanity, then death will always have the last laugh.

Ben Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi, and Saleh may have all ceased their laughter, but it just takes one dictator, unchecked and unchained, for the reaper to stay out of unemployment. Of course, like death, the decision-maker always has to make his dollar and pay his dues. Money is not always green, but red, and drenched in blood.

According to politics, the human heart is meant to be forever poor.


Image: Reuters/Homs, Syria – February 4, 2012

Silence (is Broken)

February 15, 2012

“Along the city streets

It is still high tide,

Yet the garrulous waves of life

Shrink and divide

With a thousand incidents

Vexed and debated —

This is the hour for which we waited —

This is the ultimate hour

When life is justified.

The seas of experience

That were so broad and deep,

So immediate and steep,

Are suddenly still.

You may say what you will,

At such peace I am terrified.

There is nothing else beside.”

-T.S. Eliot, “Silence”

A Furrowed Brow

August 20, 2011

17 August 2011 – Somewhere over the Atlantic

With every journey there is always a moment that presents itself where reflections of moments past take hold before you let go of the road. For me, I usually find this to be the case in the midst of the final car or bus ride before departure.

En route to the Egyptian border and leaving Israel and Palestine behind me I was driven by a taxi driver who had a simplistic view about life. He was a Moroccan Jew living in Eilat, his children studying in university in Tel Aviv after having completed their army duties. We briefly discussed the protests that were beginning to pick up steam over the housing crisis. But toward the end of our conversation he made a basic plea for human understanding.

“Why do they hate me?” He asked, referring to the Arab world and his Egyptian neighbors. “What have I done or said to make them hate me?” He said he is an Israeli but he is also a human being and there should be no hostility between individuals unless warranted.

After a summer filled with warring ideologies, hatred, compassion, fearlessness, and despair, I found his words so true but at the same time I was not moved by them. He was the innocent civilian caught between ideological differences that overpower reason and cast indifference aside. Before this summer I would have exited the taxi thinking, “See, there is hope if someone still thinks this way.” However, my reaction was opposite. I grabbed my things and ran toward the Egyptian border, running away from the world that taught me innocence is ignorance and that tears of fury and words of defiance drown out the voices of reason.

My posts this summer have largely dealt with particular events and what I have witnessed in the past three months. I have written more than what you see here, but those words are of a private matter and here I have sought to present the things I have seen through an objective viewpoint. When I felt that I could not contribute more to a story than has already been said or that I could not write justly about a topic I abstained from contributing it to this blog.

But these are my closing words, ones that I hesitate to write because I have not yet let go of the road pushing me back toward my former life.

In the West Bank I watched Palestinians throw stones and Israeli soldiers unleash tear gas. I’ve seen a man get shot to the ground and I’ve seen children running amidst a violent scene of rubber bullets and bitter fighting. I walked through a settlement where rubber hoses spread like veins providing water to every home and swimming pool and then I’ve returned back to a village where water is a luxury and not a right. I’ve seen graffiti wars and demolished homes, refugee camps and a wall of separation. I have seen all of this and more, but the one thing I have not seen is a way out. An open door.

I left that taxicab running for a hole in the fence, into a world rejuvenated by triumph and full of hope, or so I thought.

I returned to Egypt thinking I would find the same Egypt I had left behind in May. Before the revolution that is the way it always was, but January 25 is slowly changing Cairo in ways that it was not allowed to change before.

I am not sure if you could notice it unless you were absent for a short period of time like I was, but in less than two months Cairo was already different once again. People still had their heads cast high but their eyes were darting from neighbor to neighbor, suspicion in the air. I was still greeted with smiles but those I talked to on the streets held misgivings about my presence. It was as if the concept of stranger had been introduced while I was gone, whereas before it was only ‘friend.’ But, this was not the Cairo from before.

I saw a woman smash a water bottle into the side of another woman’s head in front of a mosque on a Friday morning. I saw two men hold another man back as he screamed in fury at another man holding a wrench with a look of ill intention in his eye. I saw street fights and heard arguments that you would not have found in Cairo a few months ago.

Why? I’ve asked many this question and they all come up with different answers. Some say that Egypt is frustrated or becoming impatient and others say that Egypt is not used to its newfound freedom. Whatever the case, it’s a marked changed on a society struggling to redefine itself.

The “Friday of Islamic Identity” was most shocking of all. I had to remind myself that the protest was a rarity in comparison to the dozens of past protests proclaiming a message of unity, but it was shocking none-the-less. I stood in the crowd, my hair uncovered and a clear foreigner, and looked around at the faces of men who wanted an Islamic Egypt and nothing less. Two months previous all I heard was “Masriya, Masriya” and now I was hearing “Islamiya, Islamiya.” This was more than different it was peculiar and unnatural. Of course, Egypt should never discard its Islamic identity, but it should not rid itself of any of its identities. It was an unnerving day, but it was a moment in the midst of a revolution that has shown many faces over time.

On August 1 the army moved into Midan al-Tahrir and the scenario changed once again. After that day marking the start of Ramadan, night after night I stood at the barriers surrounding the square and watched and waited. However, it was not the soldiers that I was interested in. It was the people, the young and old men that gathered every night in the square. They stood and stared at the barrier of security forces, like a cat ready to pounce. In several instances there were squabbles and fighting, but everyone was still waiting.

Several people have told me that Tahrir is no longer the focal point of the revolution.  I agree, there are other grounds that deserve more attention. But in the end, all corners will meet again in Tahrir. This I am sure of.

I left the West Bank thinking I had lost all hope and become cynical like many others. However, having (reluctantly) boarded the plane back to the west I realize now that I am no cynic, but that my brow has been permanently furrowed. It’s not that hope has been lost, in either the West Bank or Egypt, it’s that there is still so much thinking to do and it is a daunting task. Israel and Palestine have been thinking for decades, Egypt for a few months. It’s easy to stop thinking and to stop wondering, but it’s also the most difficult thing to do in a situation that pleads for action and change.

Veteran journalist Ben Wedeman once said “We are all independent beneath our chains.” Egyptians, Israelis, and Palestinians alike may be bound by reality, but their minds are not. And I hope they never forget that, even in the most trying of times.

Power is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

August 12, 2011

10 August 2011 – Cairo

A few years ago some friends and I questioned a few young Egyptian men about their aspirations for the future. As I recall, one of them said they wanted to study law and another said computer science. But it was the words of the third man that have stuck with me, because he said he wanted to become a police officer. A bit shocked, one of my friends asked him why he chose that profession. His answer: It is the only job where the ordinary Egyptian can have power.

Power is an interesting thing. Like money or love, it is easy to become obsessed with and for reasons that are not always tangible to us. Here in Egypt it seems the idea of power is always teasing and for the first time in a long time it has become available to the ordinary Egyptian in ways it never was before.

The revolution was about change and many things, but it was also about shifting an inner balance of power. Taking power out of the hands of Mubarak and his officials and putting it back into the hands of the people. Of course, this is the watered down version, but behind every chant and banner hung in Tahrir over the past few months I find it hard to argue against the idea that what Egyptians are seeking is power in the hands of the ordinary.

I believe such an idea makes it difficult to identify the current relationship between the army and the people. The military council aside, most Egyptians will tell you it’s not the army that is the problem. Of course, the upper echelon headed by Mohamed Tantawi has been the target of many complaints and demands, but the ordinary soldier does not receive that same backlash.

However, given recent events following August 1 and the takeover of Midan al-Tahrir one might be tempted to observe a change in the relationship between the people and the army. It has always been a symbol of power but now they are threatening to absorb absolute power and force the revolution into a regressive state.

It’s far too early to tell if anything will really change, but there are too many differences between now and a few weeks ago to say that things are the same as before. When I was last in Cairo I watched as young children ran up to soldiers to shake their hand. Now, I have watched young children run back and forth between the sidewalk and the black uniformed security forces guarding Tahrir, taunting them, daring them to use their batons or step from the heavily prized platform at the square’s center.

The Military Council has long been the subject of Tahrir chants and criticism but when the army as a whole comes under that same criticism I would argue that a different element than before is at play. Perhaps there exists graffiti elsewhere in Cairo of a similar nature, but I saw for the first time black spray painted criticism of the army, without excluding a soldier from its wrath. The anonymous author asked if the Army remembered the true meaning of Ramadan and the Mosque, no doubt in reference to the events of August 1.There is a new friction, which could perhaps dissipate depending on future actions and the attention of those Egyptians that pushed the revolution forward.

Former New York Times war journalist Chris Hedges published a book titled “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” in which he explains war is object of seduction for society but it is not what we make it out to be. Power is not entirely comparable, but I don’t think one can be too far off in putting it on a similar level. It seduces people, drives them to the edge. However, its only when we can move past the fascination with power that productivity can take hold.

As onlookers along the rim of Midan al-Tahrir fixate their gaze on the tanks, officers, and security forces that surround Cairo’s power center the revolution becomes a stalemate in a war over authority and control. Power cannot be the force that keeps this revolution afloat.

Walls Within

July 28, 2011

25 July, 2011 – Jerusalem

In Israel and the West Bank, walls are everywhere, standing in the way of open space and an incessant skyline. At every turn new ideas and thoughts run smack into concrete and invisible barriers that have been erected so as not to let brainstorming get too far.

It’s a pessimistic understanding of a world that likes to think it thrives on hope but really just rests in falsehood. People here wear masks, and no one is quite their true self.

Everyone’s ideas for how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be solved and saved from eternal repetition seem to be themselves repetitive in their creativity. One state, two states, no state, one state, two states, no state. It’s all the same, no change.

Perched like a devil on your shoulder is the thought that, “Maybe, one day…” But then that thought goes to waste when you come to terms with reality.

For me, I met that reality at Qalandiya when I saw a family of two parents and their three young children get turned away from entering Jerusalem. One of the young children began to cry in front of the metal barrier separating him from the Israeli border guards. When they turned their backs on Israel to walk from where they came, the mother grabbed the hands of her children and lowered her face, smiling in a manner of defeat.

I saw that same reality in Hebron, in its vacated streets and in the welded shut Arab souq located in the H2 Israeli controlled district of the city.

I heard it in the words of Sherine, a young Palestinian activist who lives on the outskirts of Bethlehem in a town facing demolition. When asked if Palestinians would treat Israelis with peace if any form of statehood were achieved she answered, “You cannot dehumanize people all their lives and ask them to [behave] at the end of the day…it doesn’t work like that.”

And I saw it once more in actions promoting a mirage of understanding and compromise. The young children of Al-Aqaba, a Palestinian village close to the city of Tubas, were invited by an Israeli school to experience the joy of the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in their lives, and quite possibly the only time. The village of 300 is slated for demolition and is under constant threat by the surrounding IDF training camps and bulldozers ready to tear away people’s existence.

All of the children were invited, but only some received permits by the Israeli government. For reasons unknown, the mayor of Al-Aqaba decided that only the boys who had received permits would join the trip, while the girls stayed at home.

Covered in sand and with their clothes still clinging to them because of the salty sea, the boys of the village hopped back onto the bus after a day filled with pleasure. Surrounded by smiling faces and joyful songs, it was the picture of happiness, all brought to them by this Israeli school that extended a hand of friendship.

As the bus began its journey from Jaffa to Al-Aqaba, I looked up into the distance where infrastructure as high as the heavens provided the barrier to my hopes and mirages of peace. I saw the buildings of Tel Aviv and I thought to myself that while this Israeli school was trying to spread a message of hope they were doing more harm than good. Because the children of Al-Aqaba will return home, to a world that is not supposed to exist in the eyes of too many.

And as the children began to clap their hands to a warlike rhythm, I felt the imminence of a never-ending story cast itself upon the place. I saw an invisible barrier hanging before us in the air. It was not the fictitious border, it was not demarcated by any wall. It was not a soldier or a tank and nor was it a politician. It was an ideology, unpourous and tethered to the memory of these children for the rest of their lives, because they were given a taste of something that is not meant to be theirs from the hands of those who won’t ever let go.

Walls can be torn down, a soldier’s life can be taken, politicians can be dismantled, but an ideology is the living dead. It needs neither air nor blood to pump existence into the thoughts that separate “them” from “you.”

And that is the barrier to peace: ideology. It prevents coexistence, understanding, and communication.

It’s easy to stand at the Qalandiya Checkpoint or in Bethlehem and look up at the colorfully, politically decorated wall and think to yourself, “What a messed up world.” But it’s harder to see past that wall and realize that the conflict is not founded in that concrete barrier, but is invisible and all around.

That wall that separates the West Bank from Israel is not the real wall. It garners so much attention and focus, but it’s not what prevents peace. The real walls are invisible, barriers all around that prevent freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of knowledge, freedom of life. You can’t see them, but they are there.

It’s stubborn ideology, that’s the true barrier. Its attached itself to the hearts of Israelis and Palestinians alike. It can hear the thoughts of resistance from miles away, and is constantly preparing to fight back.

The human being has to be powerful enough to overcome it, to fight the battle within before the battle throughout this land can ever be overcome.

Graffiti Wars in Hebron

July 9, 2011

8 July 2011 – Hebron, West Bank

In Hebron, the conflict comes full circle.

The title “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” is loose fitting in most scenarios as opinions vary beyond aligning to one side or the other. Supporters and advocates for human rights and equality intertwine the conflict’s two sides. However, there is no grey area in Hebron for the line is clearly drawn.

As the West Bank’s largest city, home to 170,000 people, Hebron is divided into two sections: H1 and H2. Since 1997 H1 has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority whereas H2 remains under Israeli military control and is home to over 500 settlers residing in four settlements in the downtown area.

To the naked eye the two areas do not blend together in any fashion. Even despite H2’s Palestinian population and the Hebrew that can be found along the walls of the old Arab souq, the battle line is clearly delineated between this fragmented holy ground. Palestinians must adhere to checkpoints into and throughout the Israeli controlled section of the city and you will not find settlers walking freely amongst their Palestinian neighbors.

Walking through the city streets on a Friday morning the picture is bleak. The streets are bare of the living as most are adhering to the Islamic holy day of the week. Families can be seen walking to and from the mosque, some stores are open but mostly for cleaning, and cars and taxis are few and far between. It’s an eerie picture, perhaps not fully representative of the city’s normal hours during the week. Then again, the idea of anything in Hebron being normal appears farfetched.

The sentiment in the streets is more than tension, it’s an uneasiness and a feeling of despair. Walking down the stone streets of the souq underneath a metal fence ceiling littered with rocks and garbage you know that actions rooted in anger are repeated on a daily basis. Children’s toys, concrete, plastic and glass bottles are thrown onto the porous barrier by settlers hoping to send a clear message that the Palestinians walking below are not wanted in ‘their’ land.

A friend and I were invited into a man’s home, a 500 year-old stone house that sits alongside the border that divides the H1 and H2 areas. The owner was an interesting man, young and proud, with his family of young children running freely about. On his wall was mounted a large portrait of Saddam Hussein. “He is our hero,” he explained to us.

We were offered tea and a short run down of his family’s history in the home. I asked him how things have changed over time and he answered that things have only gotten worse as the years go by. He told stories of Israeli soldiers coming to his home and hinted toward violence perpetrated by the settler community; however, through his broken English it was unclear what degree of violence had taken place. We were shown a video of Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinians and foreign activists in the streets, but the context was again unclear. He handed us a small metal object, a black cylinder marked with white Hebrew letters, which he said was a sound bomb thrown into his house.

Following our wandering throughout the souq, we crossed through the Israeli threshold into H2, entering an entirely different world from the previous. Prior to our crossover, a Palestinian man heralded us to come closer to him. He asked, “What do you think Obama will do?” It was obvious he has already made up his mind about the subject matter. “I don’t think he will do anything.” From Clinton to Bush, Reagan to Bush Sr., nothing has changed, he said. Although, for some reason, the Kennedy family met his approval.

Past the checkpoint, you would think you were entering a ghost town. The streets of H2 were also void of a soul, with the exception of the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers. Despite this similarity with the Palestinian sector, the view was quite different. A synagogue, newer construction, and colorful artwork proclaiming the Jewish history of Hebron adorned the sides of buildings. You couldn’t walk five meters without a blue spray painted exclamation that advocated a “Free Israel.”

We walked toward the part of the Arab souq in the Israeli zone, its stores welded shut by green metal doors and stars of David painted in white over the remnants of Arabic words. When the noon call to prayer sounded overhead as we walked through the ghostly, shutdown streets, the world felt unnatural. It was like your soul had been sucked out of you and any feeling of hope for peace evaporated into the summer heat. The streets were not only absent of people, they were absent of any signs of progress between the two warring sides.

Unable to enter the Ibrahim Mosque due to Friday prayers, we admired it from afar, watching Israeli soldiers diligently check the young men wishing to enter for prayer. Since we were clearly tourists and put on smiles so as to avoid trouble, we were never bothered by the soldiers. We were stopped and asked questions, but it was clear that we posed little difficulty in comparison to the larger issues at hand.

The graffiti and paintings that lined the settlement streets were nothing short of propaganda, no matter whose side you take in this quarrel. They were meant to send a clear message. As one sign stated, “This Land Was Stolen By Arabs….We Demand Justice!” Blue tourist placards could be found throughout the area describing the Jewish heritage of the city, most of it real, some of it questionable because of its exaggeration.

Walking further into the settlement, the graffiti and street art changed as the area’s Palestinian inhabitants made their message clear adjacent to the Hebrew spray-paint. One of the blue-painted ‘Free Israel’ labels had been transformed to say ‘Free Palestine From Israel.’ Al-horriya (freedom) was scrolled across buildings and the peace dove flying above ‘Palestine’ was painted on the outside wall of what appeared to be a school.

We walked toward the settlement of Tel Rumeida and were permitted entrance after being cleared by another Israeli checkpoint. Up the hill towards the ancient tombs of the Biblical characters Jesse and Ruth was the home of a Palestinian man who refused to leave his home despite the apprehension that surrounded him. A metal cage, covering broken windows shattered by stones and other objects thrown by settlers over time, had sealed off every open portal into the house. In a crude way, the metal fence complemented the barbed wire and concrete walls that surrounded the area.

Despite being unnerving, the day was relatively peaceful, since we only saw hostility once when a young settler boy refused to give us water. However, what we witnessed was only a glimpse of reality, a snapshot of life in constant war. Even the art, a sign of expression and emotion, was at war, with Arabic and Hebrew battling it out for control of the flat surfaces along building walls.

Dismissing this conflict as a constant that is overblown by the media might be the case in some circumstances, when the political bickering becomes futile. But in Hebron, these are real people, battling out their viewpoints with more than words.