Saturday, March 2, 2013

A carnival parade, a funeral and the revolving door of media interest.

This Sunday there were huge crowds of people in the street near my home in the city of Holon. Many times more than on any other day of the year. Thousands and tens of thousands poured in from all neighborhoods in the city and from far and wide, to see the famous Holon Adloyada . There were very many cheerful children in colorful costumes, holding the hands of their parents or riding on shoulders or running around playfully. And also grown ups took  care to have a costume – at least to the extent of having on their head a plastic Viking helmet or a pointed Chinese hat. The crowd was terribly dense when everybody scrambled to get places from which the carnival parade could be seen, the giant puppets of  Pinocchio and Geppetto and the elephants and dinosaurs and the hundreds of dancing school girls who had trained over months for this day. Newspaper headlines told of the rising tensions on the West Bank and the army’s high alert. But who  reads papers during the Adloyada?

This Monday there were huge crowds of people in the streets of Sa’ir village near Hebron.  Many times more than on any other day of the year. Thousands and tens of thousands poured in from all over the West Bank to the funeral of Arafat Jaradat, the gas station attendant who was suspected of stone-throwing  and who died in questionable circumstances after five days in Israeli detention. Very many angry young people in the checkered national kafiya headdress, who had already undergone short or long terms in detention centers and prisons of the Israeli occupation. They knew it could just as well have been any one of them. With them were older Palestinians who remembered the First Intifada and some of the elderly, who still carry the traumatic memories of the 1948 Nakba. They marched behind the coffin and chanted loudly and debated with each other if the time has already come to launch a full-scale Intifada and whether to go immediately to confront the Israeli soldiers stationed at the entrance to the village.

For a few days the Israeli media discovered the Palestinians. The Palestinian prisoners whose hunger strike had already gone on for many months without the citizens of Israel knowing or caring suddenly caught the top headlines. Also the protest vigil at the gates of Tel Aviv University got media attention which its organizers had given up expecting. Reporters fanned out across the West Bank to provide real-time coverage from the confrontations developing at all the hot spots. Experts discussed and debated endlessly on whether the Third Intifada had indeed arrived.

"The Goal: Quiet' announced a banner headline on the front page of the mass- circulation Yediot large, and various commentators gave their opinions and evaluations on how such quiet is to be achieved – some counseling dialogue with the Palestinians while others called  for overwhelming use of brute force. And after three days, headlines reported "security experts" as stating their opinion  that "the riots are fading out" and that evidently it was not yet the Third Intifada. And with an audible sigh of relief, the media rushed to push the Palestinians back to the godforsaken back pages and return their attention  to the usual Israeli routine of corruption scandals and political party intrigues and juicy judicial cases.

Today Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is mainly concerned with the desperate attempts to form a new governing coalition. He remains faced with the solid political alliance between Naftali Bennett, former head of the settlers’ Judea and Samaria Council and Yair Lapid who declares his strong desire to talk peace with the Palestinians - but who are united in relegating this to the background and giving complete precedence to the issue  of taking Haredi Ultra-Orthodox youths into the army, or at least throwing their representatives out of the government. And, the papers are filled to the brim with wild speculations of commentators how Netanyahu should square the circle.

Also today, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad left his office to join the young demonstrators in Bil'in, whose  weekly protest this week reached Hollywood ( “5 broken cameras”).  The Palestinian PM shared in the most common experience for young Palestinians nowadays, inhaling tear gas. Most citizens of Israel did not get to hear this piece of news. The editors just did not regard it as  important or worthy of publication. For the time being, there is no Third Intifada, so who cares what Palestinians are doing?