Across the wall: The role of Palestinian stories in Hebrew
For a Palestinian who lived most of his life under Israeli siege and hasn’t ever participated in any elections, it is somewhat surreal to see that Israeli citizens will have their fifth election in three years. A country that promotes itself as the only democracy in the Middle East is again unable to secure a stable government despite ruthless efforts, parliamentary frays, and coalitions between political parties.
Perhaps one of the main destabilising factors of the Israeli political scene is what most Israelis refuse to admit: the government’s policies of apartheid towards Palestinians.
The Israeli parliamentary developments brought me back to the 2019 elections during which Benjamin Netanyahu once again secured his position in power. It was then that I received a call from Yuval Abraham, a young Israeli journalist working for +972 Magazine. At that time, I was the project manager of We Are Not Numbers (WANN), a youth-led storytelling project that amplifies Palestinian voices. He was interested in learning about the Palestinian youth perspective on the Israeli elections.
''Motivated by our shared enthusiasm to change the current course of things on the territory, Abraham and I created a platform known as Across the Wall, for young Palestinians to write their personal stories that are translated into Hebrew. The intention being to confront Israeli mainstream narratives, challenge the pattern of demonising Palestinians, unveiling the occupation’s crimes, and debunking false positive perceptions of the Israeli army.''
It goes without saying that Israeli elections and their consequences play a pivotal role not only in shaping Palestinian politics, but also in our destiny and everyday lives—it even impacts whether we can have elections at all.
So my conversation with Abraham extended for almost two hours. As we navigated through the politics of Israel and Palestine, we were both surprised that we agreed on nearly every aspect of our discussion. The call was intended to be between an interview, but it transformed into something else—a shared vision and a first-of-its-kind collaboration: a new media outlet that tells human stories from Gaza, in Hebrew.
I have been interviewed extensively by journalists and politicians over the course of my career. I am used to asking the interviewer about themselves and their political views before choosing whether to proceed with any discussion. It was somewhat surprising to me then, that following my usual line of questioning, I proceeded to speak with Abraham.
He is an Israeli Jew, born and raised on the narratives churned out by Israeli mainstream media that inherently, systematically, and purposely distorts the truth and demonises Palestinians. However, Abraham’s perspectives encompass everything that the Israeli Right, and media oppose. He is a journalist who is dedicated to dismantling myths on and within Israel and to challenging Israel’s hypocrisies.
Witnessing the realities of Israeli apartheid led Abraham to become an outspoken activist against the oppression of Palestinians.
During our discussion, I couldn’t help but ask about the image that the Israeli mainstream media projected about the Palestinians in Gaza. He said that, “the Israeli media portray the Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, as a collective of terrorists sworn to destroy Israel.” As wrong as this assumption is, he added: “The Israeli media never tells the true story of the impact of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and the humanitarian crisis it had incurred on the population.”
Interestingly, Abraham then elaborated on why his political views were so vastly different to those held by the overwhelming majority of Israelis: “I learned Arabic.”
Learning Arabic helped this young Israeli journalist see the grotesque portrayal of the Palestinians in Israeli mainstream media reporting. Once he mastered the language, he managed to easily travel to the West Bank and talk to Palestinians. He experienced the horrors inflicted on the Palestinians first-hand and spent the following years reporting on Israel’s crimes to Israelis. His job, of course, wasn’t easy.
It has always been my belief that coming to a lasting, peaceful and just solution for the Palestinian question requires a real shift in Israeli mainstream politics and media. Whilst this seems impossible for the moment, given the worrying and unprecedented rise of the right in Israel, Abraham, makes me feel there is still hope.
For both of us, the key to ending Israeli media’s fuelling of hatred, extremism, and promotion of war-mongering political figures, is the countering of disinformation and misreporting.
Motivated by our shared enthusiasm to change the current course of things on the territory, Abraham and I created a platform known as Across the Wall, for young Palestinians to write their personal stories that are translated into Hebrew. The intention being to confront Israeli mainstream narratives, challenge the pattern of demonising Palestinians, unveiling the occupation’s crimes, and debunking false positive perceptions of the Israeli army. This would happen through first-hand accounts of Palestinians who would share lived experiences.
Abraham utilised social media platforms to search for volunteers in Israel to translate Palestinian stories from English or Arabic to Hebrew. Following his first announcement, in which he declared the project’s vision, more than 150 people volunteered to translate stories from the WANN website!
Our initial idea was only to translate and republish stories already written in English, but soon after realising the huge reach and influence the project had, we decided to write content that specifically targets Israeli audiences. We linked writers from Gaza to Hebrew speaking journalists who would translate their words, and more importantly, provide an insight into the views held by Israelis.
Across the Wall was launched officially in late 2019. We have published extensively about the blockade in Gaza and the crimes committed by Israel, including the attacks on Palestinians in May 2021. We delivered a new perspective to the Israeli people, a window into a truthful reality that is intentionally erased by the Israeli government and mainstream media.
Despite our limited resources we have managed to shine a light on the conditions of the Palestinian people living in Gaza.
We have also unapologetically put forward the case for a one-state solution – unanimously supported by all our staff – as the project’s central political vision.
A lasting solution to the 74-year-old suffering and trauma of the Palestinian people must come from bottom-up, from the oppressed, with the support of allies- including from the ranks of the oppressor. With a gloomy and shady horizon, new untraditional methods must be considered, so that the future generations don’t say we spared a single effort.
Ahmed Alnaouq is the founder of We Are Not Numbers. He has a Master’s degree in international journalism from Leeds University. He is also cofounder of Across the Wall, a media project that tells stories from Gaza in Hebrew, and serves as advocacy and outreach officer for the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
Follow him on Twitter: @AlnaouqA
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