7 April 2010

Throughout the MyWar exhibition, FACT will be publishing guest blog posts from looking at war and politics in the media. Matthew Taylor is a "twentysomething lawyer with interests in arts, music, philosophy, politics, and sci/tech..."
The western media rarely covers rocket attacks on Israel. This may in part be a function of their regularity - last month alone several dozen were fired from the Gaza Strip at targets in southern Israel - or a reflection of the fact that injuries are relatively rare.

Two weeks ago, Manee Singmueangphon had the misfortune to be that rare exception.

A Thai guest worker at Netiv Ha'asara, a moshav (agricultural co-operative) close to the northern edge of the Gaza Strip, the 34 year old husband and father was killed on 18 March by shrapnel from a Qassam rocket that hit the greenhouse he was standing outside.

Singmueangphon was the first casualty killed by Palestinian rocket attacks since Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip in January 2009, but the rocket that killed him was far from the first: regular rocket and mortar attacks had resumed within days of the Israeli withdrawal.

Civilians paid a high price for that failed attempt to stop the attacks. Although the precise figures are disputed, all sides accept that at least a thousand Palestinians died in the 22 days of fighting, and Israel itself acknowledged that several hundred of these were civilians (by contrast, there were just 13 Israeli deaths - including four IDF soldiers killed in "friendly fire" incidents). To some extent, this may not be surprising - attacks are often launched from within civilian areas in Gaza.

Having failed to solve the problem militarily, Israel may yet alleviate it technologically. Since 2007, towns and cities around the Gaza Strip have Tzeva Adom ("Red Color"), a radar controlled public broadcast system that warns of incoming rockets. Although the warning is short - just 15 seconds in the town of Sderot - it provides time for people to seek shelter. Later this year, Israel will deploy "Iron Dome", a defensive missile system meant to intercept the rockets themselves.

Tonight, FACT is presenting "Emergency Routine", a series of short films about the impact of the 1991 Gulf War in Israel, as the country came under Scud missile attack. Many of the steps taken by civilians at the time remain all too familiar to those living near the Gaza Strip.

Their experience of the conflict may not be as violent and brutal as that of many Palestinian civilians, but people in southern Israel spend their lives under constant threat of rocket launches - and with frequent actual attacks.

The impact of this constant threat was explored in a short film by Yoav Shoam, named for the warning system, "Red Color", which looks at the way one Israeli primary school uses music and dance to help its children cope.

Music also plays a large part in filmmaker Laura Bialis' ongoing project "Sderot: Rock in the Red Zone", a look at life in the most targeted town in Israel through the eyes of some of its many rock musicians. You can see the trailer here.