By Ruba Abu-Ammo, al-Akhbar – Beirut, 28 Sept 2009
Translated by Assaf Kfoury
Some Palestinians remember the number 15451. This is the number of days that they have had to endure what the Israeli Occupation of their lands has meant to them through consecutive generations. To remember the Occupation and keep a record of its history may someday be the prelude to its dissolution, once its ugliness has sufficiently aroused the awareness of the world and its conscience.
To collect documents on the Occupation, and its history through the present day, is the task that a new website, called the Israeli Occupation Archive, has set to itself. The website banner is a drawing, similar to those in animated films for children, showing a quiet landscape of small houses in color interspersed by mosques recognizable by their domed roofs. It is not a romantic image that the banner projects, as it rather evokes the idea of the earthly possessions, the house and the tree, which have been forcibly taken away from the Palestinians.
At the upper right corner of the website, right under its banner, there is a phrase in red, “15451 days under Israeli Occupation.” Right below, there is a button with the inscription “Donate” for readers who wish to financially contribute to coverage of the Occupation. There is no indication of any group that is responsible for the website or sponsoring it. However, further down the right column, under the heading “The IOA Advisory Board” there is a list of members suggesting their responsibility for overseeing the website’s contents.
These Board members reassure the reader’s confidence and trust in the website. They include Arabs, Israelis and others, who are united in defending the Palestinians’ usurped rights. The most prominent among them is the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, Mustafa Barghouthi, and the linguist, philosopher and writer Noam Chomsky. The rest of the Board members are academics who are active in Middle East politics and the defense of social rights.
On one of its pages, the website explains that the aim behind its launching is to promote the public debate on the Occupation and make the relevant documents more readily accessible. Its importance today is all the more compelling because of the risk that major newspapers covering the Occupation are facing extinction or a change of management. Among the latter is the Israeli daily Haaretz, which has been one of the few to provide critical coverage of the Occupation. Against this paucity of printed information, or the risk of its becoming scarcer by the disappearance of such newspapers, the website gives a valuable list of online media outlets that are more sympathetic to Palestinian rights. Nonetheless, sixty-one years after the Nakba, Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009, “the most violent in the history of the Occupation,” in the words of the website’s founders, has awakened their resolve to launch an online site entirely dedicated to documenting the Occupation.
The website notes that only Israelis in their late fifties or older can remember Israel before the Occupation. For the younger Israeli generations, the Occupation has become part of their daily routine and has inured them to its reality, to the point that Israeli Jews avoid using the word “occupation” to refer to it.
Reading through the website’s pages, it becomes clear that its founders have shunned the revolutionary or emotional language adopted by many Palestinian resistance groups. The stress is instead on political analysis, on informed opinion related to American and Israeli policies, and on a factual accounting of settlement activities.
After the war on Gaza, it has become more imperative than ever to develop an objective approach to informing public opinion about the realities of the Occupation. The website is cognizant that an impassioned defense of the Palestinians is often inadequate, as it does not go beyond a temporary or transient expression of anger and does not promote well-informed future activism. Significantly, the Israeli Occupation Archive has chosen to address its readers in English, indicating that it aims to reach Western and Israeli audiences before others, and is counting on the support of well-known people such as Noam Chomsky in pursuit of its goal.