The world continues to ignore their plight so youth in Gaza are trying to find creative, new ways to fight Israel’s siege. Now we can only hope that Israel doesn’t declare dancing a form of terrorism.
Since the above video was published online last Friday, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head: a young Palestinian girl and a handful of boys dancing the traditional dabke along the Gaza-Israel border against a backdrop of plumes of smoke. Perhaps it is because the video manages to encapsulate so much of the story of the occupation and the siege in two-and-a-half minutes: the power dynamics between the occupier and the oppressed, the clenched fist of the former and the determination of the latter.
The video was filmed last Friday during the most recent of the Great Return March protests, which have been taking for three months now. In an interview with Rami Younis a few days before the protests kicked off, organizer Hasan al-Kurd emphasized how the plan was explicitly nonviolent — organizers said they objected to throwing stones and burning tires — and meant to communicate to the world the situation of Gazans living under siege. The organizers also said they wanted to send a message of peace to Israelis.
Indeed, even though Israeli did all it could at the time to paint the protests as violent, terror protests orchestrated by Hamas, and despite the disturbingly high number of protesters the IDF killed and wounded, the demonstrations, with few exceptions, remained nonviolent. As Meron Rapoport wrote last week, in May the Israeli government admitted in court that only 25 out of more than 100,000 protesters had tried to cross or damage Israel’s border fence at the time. No Israeli soldier was wounded during the protests. On the Palestinian side, more than 100 were killed.
And thus Israel proved to the Palestinians yet again that it is deadlier to protest along the border than it is to fire rockets over it. Soon enough, the language of violence once again reclaimed its place as the primary form of communication between Israel and Hamas. Thus, with a lower profile and fewer participants, the weekly demonstrations continue. Gazans are still heading to the border every Friday, risking Israeli sniper fire to remind the world that they are still living under siege in the world’s largest open-air prison.
What other language is there for these youngsters to try and speak to a world that refuses time and again to be moved by their ongoing, worsening tragedy? Perhaps a language that doesn’t rely on words — dance. The spectacular thing about the dabke along the fence is the gap between the circumstances in which it took place and its symbolic power — a dance of defiance, in which Palestinian existence itself cries out with every step.
Look at these youngsters dancing in front of Israeli snipers along the border. Not at the “culture of death” that Israel wants us to see when we look at them, but rather at their determination to live. In a reality in which Palestinians existence has become provocative, these youngsters insist on existing. Only a fool could believe that it is possible to subjugate an entire nation determined to hang on to life, the right to freedom, and independence. All we can do now is hope that the IDF doesn’t rush to declare the dabke “terror dancing” and start sniping at them from the other side of the fence. In the name of security, of course.