“The Invisible Walls of Occupation”
A Different Side Of Palestinian Life
In the Palestinian village of Burqah, 86% of men are employed, but 60% work unstable, part time jobs. Three-fourth of families here have five at or more members, and half of such families live beneath the poverty line of $530 per month. More than half the of residents express concerns about the Israeli military entering the village.
Is “The Invisible Walls of Occupation,” an interactive documentary produced by B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories in collaboration with Montreal-based digital design firm Folklore. The documentary opens with an introductory text that states, “If you get to know Burqah and its residents, you’ll get a picture of what life is like in a village hemmed in by physical and developmental obstacles” and then we get just facts set against an ambient music score and field recordings.
As an interactive documentary it takes a multimedia approach, blending interviews with photo collages, text, maps, and more. We go on a tour of the town, with stops at the homes of a village elder and a farmer ,a girl’s high school, and the clinic.
We experience the day-to-day life that we do not see on media coverage. Many of the interviewees talk about how checkpoints and road closures impact their lives, and the influence of instability and a discriminatory legal system is felt everywhere. We meet a young boy who uses his camera to record the settlers who harass his family. His footage consists of a series of clips showing gangs of masked men throwing rocks at his home with rocks and we learn. That this kind of harassment takes place all year long.
We see that the occupation makes life worse through daily anxieties, lowered expectations, and a shared degradation. The documentary also represents a modest step towards an eventual escape from invisibility itself.
Residents think many times before they build, go on vacation, study, work, trade, or grow crops and not because of laziness, or inability. It’s because they are concern about the obstacles, the harassment and attacks by the Israeli military or by settlers. It’s as if they live in a big prison with invisible walls. Burqah, us an unremarkable village since it has never taken fought against the occupation, and has not been subjected to extreme punitive measures. Because of this Burqah was chosen as a precisely because it is unexceptional, as a case in point about life under the occupation is like for residents of Palestinian villages. It is a small, picturesque village, surrounded by fields. Like many other villages, it has severe travel restrictions which isolate it from its surroundings and is also subject to massive land-grabs and stifling planning. These have turned it into a derelict, crowded and backward village with half its population living at or below the poverty line.
The economic situation is grim and both men and women supplement their income by farming, shepherding, cheese making, working from home with sewing and embroidery. Travel issues also have a detrimental effect on education and health services are very limited. As a case in point, the village’s situation demonstrates the effects of the occupation, showing how the settlements and their interests play a central role in Israel’s policy planning in the West Bank even at the cost of grave harm to the Palestinian residents, and how a legal-administrative web harms life and development.