The Palestinian people have drawn support from many legendary figures over the years. The universally admired Afro-American civil rights activist, writer and poet Maya Angelou was one of them. She stood in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle when she honoured the late Rachel Corrie, another heroic woman who put her life on the line for the women and children of Gaza, only to be killed by an Israeli soldier for doing so.
I was reminded of both these amazing women when I watched Angelou quoting Corrie’s powerful words. “I think we all have empathy,” the civil rights legend once said. “We may not have the courage to display it.”
Both of these amazing women had the ability to empathise with others, but not everyone has the imagination to step into the shoes of the Palestinians to get a taste of the brutal occupation that they experience on a daily basis.
However, a British campaign group’s hard-hitting short film has come up with an inventive way of helping people to do just that. Using graphics and video technology, Make Apartheid History has wrapped a wall around some of the best known tourist spots that London has to offer. Shown to scale, the virtual wall recreates the Israeli-built monstrosity that snakes around and encloses the occupied West Bank.
The result is breathtaking, because it shows how central London would be affected by such a wall. In making some of the British capital’s most iconic buildings off limits to the general public, viewers are given a small taste of what life is like for Palestinians living behind the world’s most notorious apartheid structure. Wall Animation was funded in part by Trust Greenbelt, which provides grants to a number of initiatives involving theatre companies and performing arts groups.
No one from Make Apartheid History was available for a comment, but it lists many high profile musicians, creative artists and film-makers among its supporters, including the award-winning director Ken Loach and actors Adjoa Andoh, Iman Aoun, Imad Farajin, Kika Markham, Miriam Margolyes, Juliet Stevenson and Paterson Joseph. The group describes itself as an “international project that brings together creative individuals, organisations and networks from around the world through popular events, interviews and film.”
Indeed, it has brought together an impressive list of organisations credited with putting the video together: Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI), Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee (PSCC), Bedouins Without Borders, Tipping Point, North South, Pressure Cooker Arts, Israel Committee Against House Demolitions UK (ICAHD UK), Artists for Palestine UK and, last but not least, Palestine Legal Action Network (PLAN).
The video certainly resonated with British NGO Friends of Al Aqsa. “Thought provoking video showing what life in #London would be like if we had the apartheid wall towering over us,” tweeted FoA. “For us this is a hypothetical scenario, but for Palestinians it is the daunting reality of living under occupation.”
Praising the video, FoA’s head of public affairs Shamiul Joarder explained: “People are so busy with their day-to-day lives that sometimes you have to put something in their path that they can relate to. This video really puts things in to focus and they begin to understand what’s going on.” Education is key, he added, and sometimes the simplest images are the most powerful.”
He pointed out that one of the most powerful displays created by Friends of Al-Aqsa also drew on the imagery of the apartheid wall. “At the PalExpo last year we reproduced a section of the wall with the focus being more on height than length and people were shocked when they saw how big it was.”
FoA highlights human rights abuses suffered by the Palestinians and calls upon the British government to make Israel respect international laws and human rights conventions. Its website is used to introduce campaigns which expose Israel’s apartheid policies.
If empathy is the ability to identify with another person or people and get a sense of what they’re experiencing, then it follows that a lack of empathy enables the oppression of other human beings to continue, normalises warfare and conflict, and promotes inequality. Hopefully the Make Apartheid History video will find its way to every member of the Israeli government and armed forces so that they can empathise with a different perspective of the horrific apartheid wall that they have inflicted on the people of occupied Palestine. Maybe then they will also stop referring to it somewhat dismissively as a “fence”. It is much, much more damaging than that.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.