Al Masara demonstration on Dec. 17, 2010

The question of what type of images I wanted to shoot and why became most pressing when I went to Al Masara one morning to participate in one of the non-violent demonstrations that happen on a regular basis. There were many video and still cameras wielded by people of all nationalities, and I told myself that I was in the West Bank to make art, not to be a documentary photographer. But as the demonstration unfolded I found myself pulling out the camera anyway, out of excitement and a sense of duty. I also became interested in how staged the event felt: the demonstrators come out again and again every week, knowing they will probably not succeed in simply reaching the other side of the road. The Israeli soldiers looked relaxed, amused even, since it was near Christmas and several demonstrators wore Santa suits. I became interested in how many cameras there actually were, and how conscientiously the demonstrators trained the rest of us on how to recognize the different types of projectiles that would be used against us, and how to avoid their intended effects.

A significant picture I did not take, was of the one young Palestinian youth who held a bottle and a rock in his hands, hidden behind his back, near the end of the procession that approached the road. He seemed young, meek and hesitant. As the yelling and the confrontation with the soldiers began, I lost track of him. I’m glad I didn’t take a picture of him.

The only person who was arrested that day was a young Israeli, one of several who took part. Of course, the demonstrations are not always so uneventful and after I got home, I spent hours looking at footage on youtube of countless others. I watched footage of a demonstrator being killed by a tear gas canister hitting him square in the chest a few years ago, which I came across after reading an article around New Year’s about his sister, who died from tear gas inhalation as she stood up on a ridge watching a demonstration, much as the people in this video are doing.

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