Last night I was lucky enough to watch Balls, Barriers and Bulldozers. A documentary highlighting the issues between Palestine, Israel and women’s football. Filmed and produced by the Easton Cowgirls, the documentary was emotive, shocking but most importantly educational.
The Hebron International Resources Network (HIRN) plays a key role in supporting Palestinians who are most effected by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Whilst watching the documentary it was hard to understand why internationally more isn’t being done to support the Palestinians who are suffering in their own homes, or as the documentary shows, in their demolished homes. With 67 Palestinian’s shot dead by Israeli forces in the last year alone it is hard not to support the Palestinians call for peace, however there are still some Palestinian political groups in Hebron who are causing social unrest and conflict, these are the people who need to be targeted first if positive change is to occur (Baker 2015).
Hebron is split into two zones, H1 and H2. It is estimated that around 140,000 Palestinians live in H1, under Palestinian control, where as 30,000 Palestinians live in H2 with around 400 Israeli settlers. H2 is controlled by the Israeli Military. Economically zone H2 in Palestine has suffered, the main market street in the city is now abandoned, with 1829 shops being forced to close due to the Israeli Military stopping transportation of goods across the border. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, 77% of Palestinians in H2 now live below the poverty line, a statistic which in today’s world we shouldn’t be seeing anywhere.
Whilst Palestinians are trying to develop and make a better future for the younger generations the Israeli’s are doing everything they can to delay this progress. The documentary shows the Cowgirls visiting a kindergarten, which has recently been built, with colorful walls and smiley happy children, you almost forget about the conflict which is raging outside the walls. But you soon learn that the Kindergarten faced problems of its own. People who were found to be helping build the Kindergarten were arrested by Israeli forces, simply for trying to develop a torn city. Whilst visiting the Kindergarten however the Cowgirls were alerted to a bigger issue, by HIRN, which was going on outside of the city.
A Palestinian settlement on the border of Israel was being destroyed by Israeli forces. Approaching the settlement the Cowgirls were told that they were too late to try and stop the demolition, Israeli bulldozers had driven across the settlement destroying everything in their path, with no prior warning residents were forced to grab as much as they could before their homes were destroyed. As a viewer this was devastating to watch, but it only got worse when residents told the Cowgirls that this had happened before, in fact it had happened four times before. Each time the Israeli’s had destroyed their homes and then driven off, leaving the residents to pick up the pieces (literally) and rebuild their lives. To make matters worse on the other side of the border, which is visible from the settlement, Palestinians could see and hear Israeli’s clapping from their luxury homes as Palestinians lives were once again destroyed. To try and rebuild your life when everything around you has been destroyed is hard enough, but only 24 hours after the Palestinian settlement tried to rebuild their community the Israeli bulldozers once again turned up and destroyed the work they had done. With no consideration for the Palestinian’s it is clear to see why there is still conflict between Palestine and Israel. This conflict is not something that can be fixed overnight, but with most of the world having little knowledge of what is going on (me included before I watched this documentary) it is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. This conflict should be highlighted around the world as the Palestinian’s wish to seek further international support.
During the trip the Cowgirls had the opportunity to play against local female teams and the National Women’s football team. Unfortunately the Cowgirls lost all of their games but watching the footage showed how women’s football in Palestine is a different world compared to women’s football in the UK. Whilst playing the National Team the Cowgirls were told that many members of the squad were missing and couldn’t attend training and games due to Israeli Border Controls preventing them from crossing the border, and it seemed that the Israeli forces never gave a reason as to why they couldn’t cross the border. From my point of view it seemed that the border controllers did what they wanted, letting some people past and stopping others, no reasons were ever given as to why people couldn’t cross and no one seemed to question the Israeli border forces. Whilst playing the National Team filming was allowed, although this wasn’t the case for other teams that the Cowgirls played. When the Cowgirls arrived at Hebron University to play the University women’s team they were told that no cameras were allowed and the event would happen behind closed doors. There were reasons for having a closed door policy, the main one being for security, however several of the women also highlighted that women’s sport still wasn’t fully accepted in Palestine. Women were expected to carry children, clean the house and do anything their husband asked them to do. This was the general thoughts of many men in Palestine, thoughts which have been socially constructed over time as women have always been seen as the weaker, less able sex. The women of Hebron however were changing this conception by regularly playing football and trying to break the cultural, social and inequality barriers, which they faced on a day to day basis.
The city of Hebron has a rich history with many stories to tale, however the Israeli forces are only interested in the land that they claim to be theirs. Digging deep into the land, claiming that they are doing archaeological digs, the Israeli forces are ultimately trying to prove that they own the land by digging up and disregarding Palestine’s history. The Israeli forces are looking for evidence that the land belongs to them and they don’t care what gets destroyed in the process. This selfish act by the Israeli’s is destroying the history of Palestine and wiping out historic cultures and settlements, which have been kept safe for many years.
Overall I feel that this documentary really highlights the problems that Palestinian’s face on a day to day basis. However through sport the women’s football teams based in Palestine believe that change can occur, but people need to be educated on the power of sport and how it can be used as a mechanism to bring about social change.
- TIPH, Temporary International Presence in Hebron., 2015. Hebron Today [Online]. Jerusalem: TIPH. Available from: http://www.tiph.org/en/About_Hebron/Hebron_today/ [Accessed 24 February 2016].
- Baker, L., 2015. Hebron becomes focus on conflict as Israel backs Jewish settlers [Online]. America: Forward. Available from: http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/323885/hebron-becomes-focus-of-conflict-as-israel-backs-jewish-settlers/ [Accessed 24 February 2016].