June 18, 2007
AN ISRAELI IN RAMALLAH, listening to Fatah:
Wearing Ralph Lauren polo shirts and speaking fluent Hebrew, they told hair-raising stories of teenage boys presumed loyal to Fatah being flung from the fourteenth floor of office buildings, their hands shackled and their mouths taped shut. One man said that the Hamas fighters had behaved worse than the Nazis. All this should be taken with a grain of salt, of course: Nazi comparisons are flung around with abandon in the Middle East, and we have not heard from the Hamas fighters what the Fatah guys may or may not have done to them. The unspoken message, though, is interesting: suddenly Fatah represents the reasonable, civilized Palestinians. They speak Hebrew, they look like us and they sound like us, and Islamist militants threaten them just as they threaten Israel.
Uh huh. Read the whole thing. There's video, too. But I can't resist excerpting this:
A few dozen Fatah-aligned fighters had shown up in the square, most traveling on the back of pick up trucks. They wore combat-style uniforms, although some wore street shoes instead of army boots. Their faces were covered in ski masks and they brandished weapons in what the Times called a “a show of force by Fatah.” That sounds very dramatic, of course, but the reality was not very impressive: again, I felt as though I were watching a parody of machismo that seemed a bit silly, if not comic.
Other than stare into the camera and pose, the fighters didn’t do anything at all. It was all pure theatre: I listened and watched as the various foreign television reporters positioned themselves in front of the masked gunmen and spoke seriously to the cameras about the rising tension in Ramallah, trying their best to make it sound as if they were in the middle of a war zone. But if their cameramen had panned out for a wider shot they would have shown crowds of mostly young men hanging around, eating snacks, buying cold drinks from vendors, and taking photos with their mobile phones. There was no sense of fear or menace at all. I even saw one photojournalist, who works for an American newspaper, giggling a bit as she aimed her camera at a masked fighter who was posing as if he were having his portrait painted, his eyes stonily focused on the horizon.
An awful lot of middle eastern photo-ops fit this description. Plus, Yoga in Ramallah.