Israeli photographer Oded Balilty’s photo of the violent clashes in Amona between police and settlers, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for for breaking news photography this year, is “a disgrace to Israel” says Nili, the high school girl pictured in the shot.
In a conversation with Ynet, Nili, a 16-year-old from Jerusalem who studies at an all-girls religious high school, had nothing but criticism for the acclaimed photograph.
Nili with Pulitzer-winning photograph (Photo: Guy Asiag)
“The picture is simply an embarrassment to the nation of Israel. Instead of defending the people and land of Israel, security forces destroy Jewish homes. A picture like this one is a mark of disgrace for the state of Israel and is nothing to be proud of. The picture looks like it represents a work of art, but that isn’t what went on there. What happened in Amona was totally different.”
Nili says that after the photo was taken, police beat her and she absorbed numerous blows. “People who see the picture ask me: What were you thinking? What were you doing, one girl against a wave of policemen in black? Why didn’t you run away?
“The answer is that we came to fight. We didn’t come to give in or run away. We felt and thought that all this injustice and evil must run into the wall of our determination. You have to understand that there is a whole generation of youth that grew up in Israel, that believe in Israel and in the Torah and want and insist on leading the people of Israel in a different direction. And we’re willing to fight for it.”
Balilty’s Pulitzer-winning photograph (Photo: AP)
Nili’s mother, Devorah, described what happened after the snapshot was taken. “What happened afterwards was completely different, and there are pictures documenting that too. The police pulled Nili by the hair and beat her with clubs. It was simply horrifying.
“You see that the photo presents a problematic situation. It shows a civil war, with the government going against the people. The people of Israel are for the land of Israel, and only the prime minister and the Knesset go against it,” she said.
The picture was taken during violent clashes that erupted when police evacuated illegal homes in the West Bank settlement of Amona, west of Ramallah, in February 2006. Security forces were operating in conjunction with a court ruling which authorized the razing of nine houses on the settlement.
Some 200 people were wounded when hundreds of settlers and their supporters forcefully resisted the evacuation.
The Associated Press photographer Balilty said that he and a number of other photographers were covering the events, and at a certain point they decided to split up to capture different views.
“The violence and cruelty at Amona didn’t break us, but strengthened us,” said Nili, who says she would willingly
stand up to the police and the army again. “Policemen in black don’t scare us. They can break our skulls but they can’t break our spirits. What I did in Amona – I’m willing to do again and again if need be. I’ve been in Hebron and I told the Jewish families living in the ‘Shalom House’ that if forces come to expel them – I’ll be there. And I believe that likewise the thousands of youths that were in Amona.
“You see me in the photograph, one against many, but that is only an illusion – behind the many stands one man – (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert, but behind me stand the lord and the people of Israel.”