AL QUDS: A Jewish settler fires at the feet of Palestinian farmers. Soldiers at a roadblock, wary of suicide bombers, order Palestinians to bare their bellies. Palestinian children face checkpoint scrutiny on the way to school.
These are some of the scenes Israeli artists are depicting in work which illustrates what they see as the daily humiliation and suffering of Palestinians. The artists hope to jar an Israeli public numbed by daily bloodshed for the past three years.
"If we succeed, people feel bad," said Aviad Albert, a sound artist who helped create "Yanoon Yanoon," a sound/visual improvization that shows Jewish settlers bullying rural Palestinian villagers, who eventually flee their homes.
The video work superimposes electronic sound over soldiers repeatedly checking Palestinians at roadblocks on their way to their poverty-stricken villages.
The beeps, screeches and whines transpose into machine gun fire as an armed Jewish settler threatens a Palestinian farmer tilling stony ground with the village's only tractor.
"Yanoon Yanoon", named after a West Bank Palestinian village, was inspired by Israel's ban on the public showing of "Jenin Jenin," by the prominent Arab Israeli director Mohammed Bakri.
Bakri's film portrays Israel's military push into the West Bank city of Jenin and the adjacent refugee camp in 2002, an incursion that killed more than 50 Palestinians and 20 Israeli soldiers.
"'Jenin Jenin' was not objective...but it is important for Israelis to see Palestinians in despair. It is something they should see and have chosen not to," said video artist and peace activist Niv Hachlili.
Tel Aviv's Tmuna theatre, which screened "Yanoon Yanoon", encourages artists "to deal with issues that may prove to be provocative as ways to move the culture forward and initiate dialogue in Israel", said official Shai Rahman.
ART EVOKES PASSION: In Sweden last week, an exhibition that included a portrait of a suicide bomber in what appeared to be a tub of blood aroused such passion in Israel's ambassador Zvi Mazel that he sabotaged the display.
Sweden protested but Mazel's actions were endorsed by Israel's government. Locally, works like "Yanoon Yanoon" seek to promote Israeli empathy for the other side and are increasingly moving into Israel's mainstream art scene, spurred by the intransigence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Every process of change in national consciousness is not immediate and art has a role to play," said Ruth Tzadka, director of the Jerusalem Artists House exhibition centre. "When dialogue becomes paralysed, artists always mobilise.
"Art does not revolutionize, but it is there to change the world for the better, to show the face of the society and to put a focus on a problem."
"Set Table," a piece shown at Artists House that plays on the rules of Jewish law and Jewish holiday tradition, using photography, papier-mache and ceramics, attempts to do just that.
The interactive work invites spectators to drink wine from ceramic goblets marked with the Nazi swastika, sit on skeleton-shaped papier-mache chairs of newspaper clippings and use napkins showing photographs of the concrete and wire barrier Israel is building in the West Bank.
"The idea is drawn from the Jewish tradition of the holidays, the gathering around the table for food and the reciting of old blessings, we rethink where we are today," said artist Magdalena Hefetz.
The napkin photographs, taken in the Jerusalem area where Israel is building a section of the barrier it says is necessary to keep out suicide bombers, show Palestinian women and children waiting to cross to get to school or work.
"How can a mother worry if her child has a sandwich to eat, or is wearing a coat - ordinary concerns like that - when she is not even sure he'll make it to school?" asked Hefetz.
Palestinians say the barrier is a bid to set de facto borders that will deprive them of land for an independent state. Hefetz notes the human instinct to belittle the suffering of others by focusing on one's own, such as Israel's real fear of suicide bombers who have killed scores of people in bars, malls and discos since September 2000.
"We want to create an awareness of the reality so that it is not accepted, and to raise questions...to get people to go to the checkpoints and see what is happening and understand the pain (of others) and how we are destroying ourselves," said Hefetz.-Reuters