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‘My weekend in Palestine’ changed an Australian man’s life

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It’s been a long weekend in the U.S. so here’s a little inspiration: Rob Martin’s weekend in Palestine.

Martin is an Australian activist and a model for engagement on the issue. He’d never been to Palestine before late 2014, but during the Gaza onslaught that summer, he began reading about the conflict in a serious way.

“What I heard and read in the mainstream seemed to contradict what I was reading elsewhere,” he told me. “I had made a few friends in Gaza through social media and talked to them as bombs were being dropped. I was surprised that every time a Palestinian was mentioned they were always referred to as a ‘terrorist,’ including the children.

“The fact a country can kill so many civilian including children truly shocked me. I felt I needed to see for myself as relying on media and opinions didn’t sit right with me.”

Martin went out to Palestine in December 2014, and was promptly embroiled, during a visit to the West Bank. “It was my first time in Palestine and I had no intentions to be in the middle of it all. I didn’t go looking for trouble, it just seemed to follow me,” he said.

The occupation was far worse than he imagined, and he rose to the occasion. Here is Rob Martin’s distressing report My Weekend in Palestine, shot by the great photographer Hamde Abu Rahme. Many of us have observed conditions like these. The thing that’s particularly moving about the video is Martin’s ready insertion into the conflict, and bold, fresh bearing of witness.

Here are some of Martin’s comments on the video during his confrontation with Israeli soldiers just minutes after he arrives in Bil’in in the occupied West Bank:

 I’ve never had an M16 pointed at me before. After just one hour in Bil’in! Welcome to Palestine. The most beautiful place on earth, but the most hideous.

[Calling out to soldiers] “I’m Australian, why did you point the gun at me. We haven’t done anything!”

This is how they treat people. All the time. To intimidate you.

Everything you read, all the negative stuff, it’s obviously true. I’ve never experienced that in my life!

Some people just want to be free and this is what happens.

“This doesn’t happen in Australia! Take my picture, I don’t care.”

His [the soldier’s] words to me were they are protecting the Israeli army. How were they protecting the Israeli people when they were just taking things from the children’s playground? ….They are just asking people to fight back.

Here’s some of his comments to Israeli soldiers after they confront him outside a Palestinian home:

“I am over here for respecting this family because they had someone die. You know this? Then why the hell are you standing in front of me armed like this insulting their family just after they’ve lost somebody?…  I call it harassment. Any other country in the world, you couldn’t do this. Don’t push me.

“This is harassment again. I’m going to ask you one more time. Leave me alone. Leave them alone.

“Do these people carry guns? Have you ever seen one? Let’s go back to a really simple question. You have guns. They don’t have guns. You can kill someone from how far? Leave them alone.”

[To the camera] I cant believe this, this is my first time here. I’ve read so much about it, but I cannot understand how they can justify what they’re doing. This is total brutality.

Here is Martin’s video of stopping soldiers from taking children’s playground equipment. Here’s his video of a teargas canister. “This is how they intimidate. Wake up world,” he says.

And this is Martin’s direct message on Palestine after he returned to Australia.

The Palestinians are simply people trying to live and have a safe and secure life and have freedom like you and I. I couldn’t believe it would be as bad as what I had read. I was absolutely flabbergasted… [by the] inhumane treatment of people in the name of self-defense.

Martin shows viewers a picture of his own family as a way of explaining his identification with Palestinian families who have been attacked by settlers. I asked him about this, and he said:

I simply put myself in their shoes, I put my family in their shoes. Then I ask everyone to think about your worst experience ever, from losing family to losing mobility. Welcome to the Palestinian world. Day by day they live this. The worst part about it is that they are blamed for what’s going on.

Martin has had enormous frustration with the mainstream media. “The MSM should be ashamed of themselves. I feel sick when I get up and read the news about what’s happening, because I’ve experienced it first hand.”

Being a white non-Muslim, Martin knew that he would have greater credibility than Muslim voices for the mainstream media, but that double standard didn’t help him get his message out:

I tried to have the local TV news and current affair programmes look at [my videos] but to no avail. I sent the videos to our politicians asking if I could discuss my experience as I deemed it very important they hear the truth as they are so pro Israel. I’ve offered to pay for our politicians to travel to Palestine and see the truth but they have all ignored and some have blocked me.

Finally, I asked Martin how he could be so righteous about Palestine when Australia ethnically cleansed indigenous people to make way for his ancestors.

I tell those who say I should clean up my own back yard first that, yes Australia is guilty and I’ve seen the end result in our indigenous people and it makes me sad and angry that we human being can do this to our fellow man. Australia has recognised it’s wrong and is doing things to try and make good: I’ve seen what Israel is trying to do to the Palestinians and it’s the same as Australia and America did to its indigenous people.

And Rob Martin won’t give up. “I will NEVER stop until Israel is held accountable and Palestine is free,” he says.

P.S. I met Martin at a fundraiser we held in Washington; he’s helped us out financially. I’d write about his videos regardless of his support, but it is also the case that we depend on generous readers, as do so many independent outlets in the internet age. We’re about to kick off our June fundraiser. Just saying.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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21 Responses

  1. bintbiba
    May 31, 2016, 1:10 pm

    Many thanks , Phil , for acquainting us with Rob Martin’s comments and his report on his
    depressing trip through the hell that is Palestine !

    Many thanks to Rob Martin for his perseverence and determination to be heard and believed …against all the barriers ,fabrications and distortions just so noone can know the truth about what really is going on …

  2. Annie Robbins
    May 31, 2016, 1:49 pm

    a fantastic video — and that so much was captured in one weekend. i especially appreciate martin’s confrontation w/the soldiers.

    • just
      May 31, 2016, 5:33 pm

      Agreed.

      I have been racking my brain, trying to remember where I’ve seen the main video before and then I remembered it was at Taxi’s place. Unfortunately, I don’t FB so I can’t view the others.

      So grateful that he will get more exposure today!

  3. Kay24
    May 31, 2016, 3:11 pm

    I’ll say this, Rob Martin is a very brave man, and it is obvious he has seen for himself the injustice and suffering that the Palestinians go through, which is largely ignored by the rest of the world.
    This is why Israel keeps doing the same sh+t over and over again, they take the upper hand because the US supports and protects them. This is a great video, which simply shows how brutal the IDF can be, and how much in fear the Palestinians, especially the children must feel daily. I think Rob Martin should be thanked for showing the rest of the world, what the media FAILS to show, deliberately.
    Thanks Phil, for an interesting article.

  4. ritzl
    May 31, 2016, 3:54 pm

    I guess I have to ask if Martin is Jewish. Not that it matters much if he is, except that if he is it would expose the whole “I’d be killed if I did this…” excuse/refrain from Jewish, pro-Israel, fact-avoiding, apologists/accusers for the vacuum-derived drivel that it is.

    As an indication of which way the proverbial “arc of history” bends, I suspect that even the Max Narr’s of the Jewish world would be invited into occupoed Palestinian home(s) to share a meal should they ever deign to ask.

    • tokyobk
      June 1, 2016, 2:15 am

      Gonna say no on that. From a few of his comments and retweets, not guessing Martin is a fan of the tribe.

      And, no that does not take away from this particular work or in anyway mitigate the things he has documented.

      • ritzl
        June 1, 2016, 11:36 am

        Thanks tokyobk. I asked because I do believe that how Jews inform themselves and/or transition on this issue informs/creates space for others who may wish to follow.

      • Mooser
        June 1, 2016, 12:37 pm

        “From a few of his comments and retweets, not guessing Martin is a fan of the tribe.”

        Gee, that’s confusing, “tokyobk”. Just to help a dummy like me out , could you point me to somebody who is “a fan of the tribe”?
        You know, just for comparison.

        And if you’re “a fan of the tribe” out there, I’d love some fan mail. With my legitimacy problem, I need all the reassurance I can get.

      • ritzl
        June 1, 2016, 1:07 pm

        Dear Mooser,

        [insert lengthy, profuse, legitimizing, and glowing praise here]

        Signed,

        A Fan

        —–

        Feel better? :))

      • Mooser
        June 1, 2016, 2:12 pm

        “Feel better? :))”

        Sorta, thank you, and you will receive by way of postage-due return mail an autographed, 8″x10″ glossy photograph of me which I cut out of a National Geographic. Suitable for farming, once it’s composted. Allow 8-10 weeks for delivery. More, if you have a long memory.

        But I spent some time Googling the prerequisites for Temple worship, and “tokyobk” is right, they wouldn’t let me near the place.
        I ain’t legitimate enough.

      • rosross
        June 2, 2016, 3:22 am

        Jews are not a tribe. He is clearly not a fan of Zionist Israeli aggression but that no more reflects on Jews than do the actions of fundamentalist Moslems reflect on Islam or the actions of fanatical Christians reflects on Christianity.

    • Doubtom
      June 1, 2016, 5:33 pm

      If it doesn’t matter,ritzl, why are you asking?

      • ritzl
        June 2, 2016, 6:10 pm

        Doubtom, I explained why above. The reason in the original comment and my response to tokyobk are related as excuse to avoid enlightenment and pursuing enlightenment, respectively.

  5. JLewisDickerson
    June 1, 2016, 4:14 am

    RE: “The Palestinians are simply people trying to live and have a safe and secure life and have freedom like you and I.” ~ Martin’s direct message on Palestine

    MY RETORT: But . . . , but . . . , but . . . Hillary’s hubby blames the imprisoned people of Gaza for being “sneaky and violent”!
    Doesn’t Father Know Best?

    Father Knows Best, “Season 1 Original Opening” [VIDEO, 00:50] –

    P.S. Dig the Micronite® filters on those Kents. They’re bad. Way bad! ! !

  6. Doubtom
    June 1, 2016, 5:00 pm

    It takes a brave Aussie to spell it out for the world! Want a hero! Here’s one who fits the description! My hat is off to this Aussie.

  7. rosross
    June 2, 2016, 1:22 am

    I find the introduction of the claim that the English ethnically cleansed Aborigines to be out of context, beyond the fact that it is simply wrong.

    The English ruled Australia from 1788 to 1901 and then an Australian Government was formed when the country became independent.

    There is not a shred of evidence for any genocide or ethnic cleansing as part of either Government’s policy and in fact the records quite clearly demonstrate the opposite.

    To point to claims of actions taken by the English Government in the past, in terms of the nationality of the writer, is irrelevant in light of the Palestinians.

  8. John Salisbury
    June 2, 2016, 6:17 am

    Wonderful to see Robert on Mondoweiss.

    He is part of the Melbourne activist community in strong support of Palestinian human rights.

    I have met him a couple of times and he impresesses immediately with his positive mercurial approach.He has a large following on social media.

  9. Talkback
    June 2, 2016, 8:52 am

    Quick Bibi, plant a knife.

  10. Marnie
    June 2, 2016, 9:14 am

    Great video and great guy.

  11. xanadou
    June 4, 2016, 3:19 am

    The power of Rob’s video is in the distress clearly audible in his voice and incredulity at what he is seeing. When put next to the Israeli elaborate PR stunts, the video manages to pierce the gasbag of Israeli delusions of grandeur, revealing the petty parochial world-class (sic) pariahs.

    I expect that most of the commenters in this thread are long term witnesses to the savagery that is contemporary Israel. I have been a passive witness to this obscenity for so long that my reaction to the the soldiers’ behaviour in the kids’ park would have been just another unsurprising par for the course, which made Rob’s distress all the more moving. It reminds one just how far we have come.

    Well done, Robbie!

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