We figured they’d cheat; they were Israelis, after all. But none of us – a team of four Arab journalists – thought we’d be threatened by nuclear weapons when we initiated this ‘friendly’ paintball match.
The battle takes place in a field that used to be a Palestinian village, ethnically cleansed to pave way for progress, democracy, and a Jewish state. Being threatened by a nuclear weapon when you merely have a paintball gun to defend yourself sure is stressful.
As I struggled with this conundrum hiding behind a barrel on the cusp of wetting myself, I could hear two IDF soldiers bearing down on me. I shot wildly, not daring to hit them lest they unleashed radioactive hell on my teammates and I.
I expected them to conform towards the accepted norms of international law, or at the very least follow the rules of paintball. Instead, they shot the referee.
As he crumped over, they proceeded to unload their steel-coated paintball bullets. The blue paint and red blood mixed together made an interesting violet color. I must admit, I grimly thought that such a shade was alluringly trendy. The referee’s muted yelps snapped me back from fantasizing and I began to fire wildly again.
Admittedly at the time, I was confused and slightly in shock. I wasn’t expecting them to go all out, but they mumbled something about not giving an inch to anyone or it’ll be ‘the Samson option’.
Yes, I reminded myself, this is really happening: Four Arab journalists, plus one former Iranian IRCG -turned- resistance expert, are playing paintball with members of the Israeli military army frequently described by the Israelis themselves as “The most moral army in the world.”
It took nearly half a century to pull together this game, and all along I’d been convinced that things would fall apart at the last minute. Not actually killing someone is hard for the Israeli top brass to accept, so to arrange this match I’d relied on a man we’ll call David, one of my lower-level contacts within the IDF.