Protestors in Bil’in painted themselves blue to resemble aliens from Hollywood film Avatar.

Symbolic Disguise, West Bank

There are no movie theaters in Bil’in. So when Palestinians in the West Bank village wanted to watch the world’s highest-grossing film, Hollywood box-office miracle Avatar, they had to pass around a DVD. And what appeared on their screens was the story of indigenous people on a distant planet being attacked by technologically superior colonizers, their land appropriated by men in army fatigues: a village of fictional blue-skinned Na’vi arming itself with bows and arrows to fight encroaching tanks, helicopters and bulldozers.

In Bil’in, villagers usually link arms to fend off army bulldozers, while others throw rocks or use slingshots against soldiers armed with tear gas, water cannons and artillery. But their olive trees have already been razed. In fact, the village has been split by the “security fence” that the Israeli government has been building around the West Bank since 2002, and two Israeli settlements – Modi’in Ilit and Matityahu East – have been constructed on one side.

Bil’in’s villagers have protested the West Bank barrier every Friday for the past eight years. After seeing Avatar in January 2010, 37-year-old Bil’in resident and activist Ahmed Khatib traveled to Ramallah, capital of the West Bank, to buy cheap paint. On February 12, the people of Bil’in walked chanting towards the barrier, painted blue. “Even the soldiers were shocked,” says Khatib. “They came out from behind their trucks with their mouths open, taking pictures for the first five minutes.” Then, following protocol, tear-gas canisters flew in the direction of Bil’in’s Na’vi people.


From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.