Without the video, all Andreas Ias would have to show for his weekend bicycle ride in the Jordan valley would be two stitches and a slightly swollen lower lip – plus a hardening anger about the treatment by Israeli soldiers of Palestinians.
But a few seconds of footage uploaded to YouTube catapulted the 20-year-old Danish activist into the media spotlight, drew statements from the Israeli prime minister, president and chief of staff, led to the disciplining of an Israeli army officer, and prompted debate over the use of video cameras as a weapon of modern warfare.
Nevertheless, Ias – not his real name – is dismayed that in the aftermath of him being struck in the face with a soldier's rifle, so little attention has focused on what he describes as the routine aggression, harassment and displacement suffered by Palestinian villagers in the area.
"It has been framed in the media as the 'Danish incident', as though this is not how the IDF normally act," he said, swathed in a red keffiyeh in a Ramallah cafe. "But what happened to me is nothing compared to the systematic violence carried out on Palestinians. This is not a single incident, it's what we see every day. But it's very difficult to move the focus from me to the issues of the Palestinian struggle in the West Bank."
While volunteering for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the West Bank over the past six weeks, Ias says he has witnessed "a process of ethnic cleansing that has been going on since the start of the occupation".
"I've seen people whose homes have been demolished in the middle of the night by dozens of soldiers, people who are left with nothing. I've seen Bedouin villages without running water or electricity next to Israeli settlements with total control over water resources. I've seen people denied their basic human rights and any hope for the future. You can't experience that without it changing you." more