Israel posted a video on Facebook of a Chicago native who “fell in love” with serving in the occupation forces.
By Muhammad Shehada | Forward | Aug 28, 2019
I thought about my late father, who died before my eyes in the blockaded Gaza Strip after COGAT prevented him from traveling to the West Bank for life-saving medical treatment. Gaza’s own hospitals and supplies were crippled by Israel’s blockade, and my family and I couldn’t find any medications but painkillers to give him. Even when my uncle in the United Arab Emirates managed to obtain some life-saving medicines for my father and tried to send them, it was no use. With rare exceptions, COGAT allows only paper mail into Gaza.
You may not know that in addition to living under occupation and blockade, Palestinians must endure trolling on social media by the same forces that oppress us. It’s certainly not comparable to the daily, systematic humiliations, traumas, and abuse involved in living without civil rights. But there’s something downright dehumanizing about having to watch these abuses repackaged on social media as services for which we should be grateful.
That happened this week, when Israel’s occupation forces in charge of administering civil issues in the West Bank — the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories or COGAT unit — posted a propaganda video on social media. Their latest message is a promo video starring a young soldier from Chicago named Alyse, who says that she “fell in love” with the Israeli unit that runs the occupied territories.
There is so much wrong with this. For starters, COGAT embodies everything that’s problematic about the occupation of the West Bank. It is a military unit in charge of civilian affairs, a perfect encapsulation of the problem with military rule over a civilian population without the right to vote.
But the video, which is not unique but emblematic of the kind of propaganda the Israeli military routinely produces, is deeply problematic in and of itself. It portrays Alyse as helping Palestinians, when she is in fact the face of their oppression. Her cheerful narration of her daily duties portrays COGAT’s work as assisting Palestinians entering and exiting the occupied West Bank, when what it does even more frequently is keep them in and keep their family members out, sometimes even endangering their lives.
It was these kinds of experiences that my family and I have been through that came to mind as I watched the video with my hands shaking and my heart pounding.