Gary Lineker – Spurs, England and Match of the Day legend – has found himself in the eye of the latest Israel-related social media storm, for sharing a video of Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinian young people, tweeted by prominent pro-Palestinian activist Ben White.
White has a well-documented history of saying repugnant things about Israel. Focusing on him, though, misses the point. He did not make the video, he shared.
B’Tselem, the organisation which actually produced the video and publicised the incident, is one of a small number of Israeli human rights organisations focusing on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and providing accurate, independent information about Israeli conduct on the West Bank. They are not responsible for the people who share their videos on Twitter.
The argument over the tweet has obscured the facts of the case. The IDF has a responsibility to respect the basic rights of Palestinian children. Yet, too often, it fails to do so. In this case, young people – teenagers – were arrested by soldiers in Hebron. They were not given the opportunity to call their parents, nor were their parents informed of their whereabouts. They testified to physical abuse, and blindfolding.
We can write-off the treatment of these children, and argue, as Daniel Sugarman does in the JC, that B’Tselem’s videos are part of “an orchestrated process”, presumably to impugn the IDF’s good name. If that makes us feel better, it is because it allows us to ignore the fundamental moral questions raised by 50 years of Israeli military control over Palestinian civilian life.
As B’Tselem themselves say, “this incident is not unusual”. Spend a few minutes on their extensive video archive, and you are offered an unflinching eye into the occupation.
These videos do not make for pleasant viewing, and if choosing, I’d rather spend my time YouTube-ing compilations of Lineker’s best goals for Spurs than arrests of children in occupied Hebron. But that is exactly why we have to watch them.They should shock, because their contents are genuinely shocking. If they damage Israel, it is because the continued occupation of the West Bank damages Israel.
This is a lesson many of us have taken to heart. In 2015, Yachad’s student activists raised more than £30,000 to help pay the salary of a lawyer dedicated to representing Palestinian young people in military detention. Campaigns like that can help move the needle even a tiny bit towards a true political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If we don’t want to see the Gary Linekers of this world retweeting the Ben Whites of this world, that is what we need to work towards.
Ethan Schwartz is Yachad’s digital campaigner and press officer. He lives in Israel