For thousands of young people, life in the occupied Palestinian territory is a daily struggle.
The occupation restricts not only their movement, but also their freedom to choose and control their future. Many are unable to pursue careers or even choose where they live, leaving them disempowered and frustrated.
B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organisation and a long-standing Christian Aid partner is trying to challenge the disempowerment that young Palestinians feel and counteract some of the frustration. They have equipped hundreds of young people across the West Bank and Gaza with video cameras to record their daily lives and tell the world their stories.
Bringing perpetrators to justice
The filming not only provides a means of active non-violent resistance to the occupation, it’s also a method of gathering evidence, which B’Tselem’s team of lawyers can use in the courts to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice.
Along with receiving the video camera, volunteers get trained in how to use them, and receive on-going support to help them improve their skills. Many have branched out, and now have their own volunteer media groups, YouTube channels, and are even making short films!
The real face of occupation
18-year-old Arafat Kanaan’s life has changed since he received a camera from B’Tselem. He films weekly demonstrations at the separation barrier in his town of Nil’in, in the West Bank. Nil’in is inside the occupied Palestinian territory, yet still Israel’s separation barrier cuts it off from neighbouring towns and villages. 'This is me shooting back, in my own way'
The protests – against this illegal land-grab and isolation of Nil’in - are attended by hundreds of local Palestinians and also international organisations campaigning against the occupation. Arafat says: ‘I didn’t go to the demonstrations until I was 16… the soldiers don’t like this kind of confrontation, so they react badly.
Often they’ll use rubber bullets, tear gas, and even live ammunition. Sometimes they spray chemically-treated water at us.
I go to the demonstrations and film the soldiers, mostly when they arrest people or throw gas canisters at us. At first I just filmed, and then B’Tselem taught me how to edit and make the film as well. Filming makes me happy, because it shows the world the real face of occupation.
I take my weapon (my camera) and I go to film. This is me shooting back, in my own way.’
Suffering daily abuse
For best friends Sunduz Alazza, 17, and Shatha Alhaddad, 21, life in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, was almost unbearable before B’Tselem came along. Faced with verbal, physical and emotional abuse from a group of settlers living right opposite their homes, neither of the girls left home unaccompanied, and rarely for any reason other than attending school. 'Children would throw stones at us with a catapult'
Sunduz says: ‘When we first moved here seven years ago, it was very difficult. The settlers would throw anything you can imagine at us – stones, eggs, vegetables. There are two ways to my house from the settlement, which we have to avoid.
The route we use, which is on our land is still difficult… the children would throw stones at us with a catapult.’
B’Tselem has provided several Palestinian families in Tel Rumeida with video cameras, as well as surveillance cameras for those under threat from the settlers breaking into their homes. Shatha describes the difference it makes;
‘The camera makes life better for us, it stops the settlers. For example, if I film them, they are more careful, or they run away (especially the children). Sometimes they cover their faces if they are saying things to me and I’m filming.’
Throughout the West Bank and Gaza, hundreds of stories like these are being recorded, shared and revealed to the rest of the world.
Watch this video from 18-year-old Ahmad.
Watch real footage from the Abu-Aisha family
View this photo gallery and find out more about the project.