Lebanon’s ‘Never Before Campaign’ - redefining Palestinian victimization

The Never Before campaign was launched in Beirut, Lebanon, during the December/January war on Gaza. The seven different short 2 to 4 minute videos that have been created since then have been circulating on the web, each with a different theme, attempting to present the Palestinian issue in another light, contrary to what the Never Before Team calls, “one of victimization.”
Never before campaign
From the Never Before Campaign's YouTube channel - culture jamming at its best. © Never Before Campaign

BEIRUT, July 31, 2009 (MENASSAT) − “The last thing we want is for people to feel sorry for Palestinians; it’s time to change the way we look at the issue,” the Never Before Team (NBT) told MENASSAT.

The creators of the initiative choose to remain anonymous, so as “not to personalize the campaign,” and host their clips on a YouTube channel where people can comment and share related videos.

The NBT explains their efforts are to battle the stereotypes propagated by most media outlets, in which Palestinians have two faces represented in the relentless footage of death and suffering in the Palestinian Territories – either that of “the terrorist” or “the victim.”

How to do this? By presenting facts with images that challenge these overriding media fixations, while contextualizing what is happening in the Territories. “The real problem is the media – local, international, those seen as pro-Palestinian, anti-Palestinian or neutral, all present it as a war between 2 peoples fighting over a land,” the Team told MENASSAT.

MENASSAT met with those involved in the Never Before Campaign to discuss how the initiative was founded, how the videos have been received, and their attempt to change the way people see Palestinians.

Palestine: I Resist (Never Before Campaign) © never before campaign


MENASSAT: Talk about the genesis of the project?

Never Before Campaign:
"Before the December-January Gaza war, we started talking about how we should do something of this sort. The war put things in high speed and we did our first two clips during the war.”

“Actually the concept started when we were discussing how we want to communicate the Palestinian cause, which method would be most suitable. We thought about making comparisons with South Africa, WWII, struggles in Latin America and then realized Palestine is unique in terms of the combination of elements it encompasses – the duration of the injustice, the type of crimes being committed, the massacres, the world sitting and watching and supporting Israel. It is unique.”

“The resistance, the resilience, and the patience – all these elements produce a combination that was never before – hence the name.”

MENASSAT: And what are you hoping to achieve?

“After the first clip we realized the messages of the campaign will be different than those targeting Western audiences, where people compete with Israelis over who is the victim. By competing for 'victimhood,' guilt, pity, no actual change can come about.”

“The last thing we want is for people to feel sorry for Palestinians; it’s time to change the way we look at the issue."
"Our target audience is not only the West, Palestinians and Arabs; it’s activists from any nationality. When we talk about issues we want to focus on the core of the problem, which is the nature of the Israeli regime.But it is being overshadowed by occupation, displacement, humanitarian issues. If you deal with the core these will solve themselves. We’re dealing with a racist regime."

"It calls for a new approach to support Palestine and its people – their cause and their resistance movements."

MENASSAT: Is this a response to the mainstream media’s approach in dealing with Palestine?

"Yes. The real problem is the media – local, international, those seen as pro-Palestinian, anti-Palestinian or neutral, all present it as a war between 2 peoples fighting over a land."

"The local media simply presents news, the viewpoint of the people in the region."

Palestine: Make the lie big © never before campaign "Make it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it" - the Israeli version guess who the original quote came from!

MENASSAT: How does the team work?

: "We produce a video every month, a group of 4-5 core people and supporting members. We discuss them internally, edit, and have screenings."

MENASSAT: Can you discuss one of the videos?

"In the most recent video, ‘I resist,’ one of the strategic objectives was to talk about the resistance in a way that people identify with. The resistance is always associated with a negative image. Pro-Israeli media has turned the image of the resistance to a negative one conveyed and transpired in the Arab world as a problem to its own surroundings and to the international community. A masked gunmen is the current image of Palestinian resistance, whether we like it or not."

"All Palestinian people have been resisting, and not just by bearing arms. This is what resistance means to us. Not just a bunch of guys shooting randomly. The goal is to show why, what and how we are resisting."

"In 'I resist' there is only one clip of an armed man."

MENASSAT: How have people responded to the campaign?

"We have received emails from all over the world from people wanting to get involved. And Israelis even emailed us assuming there is a huge budget behind the campaign, when in fact it is purely volunteer. "
MENASSAT: How does Never Before challenge the typical image of Palestinians in the media?

: "We don’t see one person as representative of Palestine or the Palestinian cause. It’s important to speak about music, dancing, culture when speaking about resistance, so that every single Palestinian see themselves as part of the struggle. There is an alienation of Palestinians in images (in the mainstream media)."

"Even pictures of Palestinian deaths are something we try to steer away from; they have enough coverage from other outlets, Al Jazeera and so on. We look for photos that correspond to the messages we are trying to convey, to the themes of the clips."

MENASSAT: How do you choose the images, the themes and facts for each video?

"We draw from the feedback people give us, from what we want to say and from what is going on in Palestine. During the war, “Today we stand” was fit. It was pro-violent resistance, and in the midst of the war it was fit. It’s a legitimate way to fight injustice and occupation, and we should not be ashamed of it."

"(When making the video) we stopped at certain images and asked ourselves, ‘Do they look too violent?” but then we thought, why should we make them look softer and more appealing? It is the truth and we have to deal with it – embrace it. "