Iraq, movie/tv propaganda

Mapping the “Other”: A one-way street of the West.

“The British Army adopted the same cynical colonial attitude in its cartography of Belfast. I still possess their sectarian maps of the 1970s in which Protestant areas were coloured red (of course) and Catholic districts green (of course) while the mixed, middle-class area around Malone Road appeared as a dull brown, the colour of a fine dry sherry. But we do not draw these maps of our own British cities. I could draw a map of Bradford’s ethnic districts – but we would never print it. Thus we divide the ‘other’, while assiduously denying the ‘other’ in ourself. This is what the French did in Lebanon, what the British did in Northern Ireland and the Americans are now doing in Iraq. In this way we maintain our homogenous power. Pierre Gemayel grew up in Bikfaya, firmly in that wedge of territory north of Beirut. Many Lebanese now fear a conflict between those who support the ‘democracy’ to which Gemayel belonged and the Shias, the people – in every sense of the word – at the ‘bottom’. And the French are going to ensure that the country in which all these people are trapped remains ‘independent’. Quite so. And by the way, when did we ever see an ethnic map of Paris and its banlieus?”

This is a quote from one of Robert Fisk’s articles for The Independent (article published in November 2006, found in his book The Age of the Warrior: Selected Writings). After I read it, I marked the page and went on a search for maps that showcase ethnic and religious diversity of the Middle East countries. There are many, many maps like that on Google Images. Here are some of them.

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Now, when you google USA and search for its ethnic and religious diversity maps (and we know that USA really is a land of diversity), there are only couple of images, one of them being this map of New York (published by The New York Times).

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It is even worse when trying to find something about France, a country where the “other” was always a problem. There are no maps presenting the suburbs of French cities or France as a country the way Iraq, for example, is presented. No maps to point out our “weak spots”. No maps to note the existence of suburbs like Clichy-sous-Bois, located only 15 kilometres from central Paris, but not served by any motorway or major road and no railway (not served by any station of the Paris Métro, RER, or suburban rail network), and therefore one of the most isolated of the inner suburbs of Paris. Clichy-sous-Bois has a high unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country, more than 40% of the young population, and of course – the vast majority of its population is made up of African heritage, and it is where the riots in 2005 started (after the death of two young boys who had been escaping a police control).

No maps. All I have to answer the question Robert Fisk asked  (“And by the way, when did we ever see an ethnic map of Paris and its banlieus?”), is to go back to 1995 when movie La Haine was made. It is a story of three friends – Vinz, a Jew, Saïd, an Arab, and Hubert, a black boxer, raised in French suburbs – and one day in their lives filled with boredom, unemployment, tension, hatred and violence. It’s about a society on its way down. And as it falls,it keeps telling itself: “So far so good… So far so good… So far so good.” But… It’s not how you fall that matters. It’s how you land.

“La haine attire la haine!” or  “hatred breeds hatred!” These are our maps.

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la hine2La Haine /photos via IMDb/

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Afghanistan, art of resistance

Afghanistan, A Daily Distress.

Massimo Berruti’s black and white photographs always manage to take me places. I do not mean that in terms of geography, I am talking about something like an internal bleeding, chaos emerging from within.

From his Pakistan series (Hidden Wounds, Drones Victims, The IDPs Drama /the Swat Valley/, just to name a few), to his Afghanistan series I am focusing on today, Berruti ‘produces’ great photographic work – one that really makes the viewer involved and almost argus-eyed.

Afghanistan, a daily distress is Berruti’s project from 2008. Published by Agence VU, the project is not only about the contemporary conflict, it excavates the wounds of the past, presenting the exhausting state of a never-ending story.

In the words of Agence VU: “Massimo Berruti is not an «Embedded» photographer. His work in Afghanistan is not just about a war. It’s a story about Afghan people’s life, destroyed in their flesh and in their soul by a conflict, which has been gnawing them for a long time. Drugs, car bombs, minds that fall into madness slowly but surely. All this is present in Massimo’s pictures…but above all in the situation they document.”

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//all images © Massimo Berruti/Agence VU//

For more on this project, go to Agence VU. For more on Massimo Berruti and his work, visit his Agence VU profile and his official website.

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Under The Gun: A Palestinian Journey.

Fourteen years ago, Ahdaf Soueif, famous Egyptian novelist (In The Eye of The Sun, The Map of Love), visited Israel and Palestine for the first time. Under The Gun: a Palestinian Journey (published by Guardian) is an essay she wrote about the journey.

ahdaf soueifAhdaf Soueif /photo via Russell Tribunal on Palestine/

The following paragraphs are the excerpts from it.

I have never, to my knowledge, seen an Israeli except on television. I have never spoken to one. I cannot say I have wanted to. My life, like the life of every Egyptian of my generation, has been overcast by the shadow of Israel. I have longed to go to Palestine, but have not wished to go to Israel. And now I am going there.

I have not felt such anticipation or such fear since I was a child. For the past two months I have been following the news of the intifada. I have compared the images on the BBC and CNN with those on al-Jazira and other Arab channels. I have unspun stories, fumed at the American newspapers and been grateful for some of the reporting in some of the British press. I have started and ended my days reading appeals for help on the internet. And over and again I have asked myself: ‘What is it that I can do?’ Now at last I can do something; I can go see for myself, and write. But going means going there.

We are sitting in a smallish, brightly lit room with vividly blue armchairs. Serious attempts at decor have been made: a cactus growing out of a half coconut shell tilts on an Arab-style carved wooden table, rubber plants and plastic flowers droop from dusty glass shelves, an empty drinks dispenser glows coldly in the corner. On the walls are three reproductions: two are Kandinsky-like, but the third is a large close-up of the two forefingers of God and Adam just failing to meet.

A polite young Israeli comes in and asks me in broken Arabic to fill out some forms. Then he comes back to escort us to the passport window. I say: ‘I don’t want my passport stamped.’ He says: ‘I know.’

I head out of the hotel and start walking. Every car I pass I imagine exploding into flames. How far away does one have to be not to be killed by an exploding car? But the sun is shining as I head down Salah el-Din Street – and I am at home. The street is lined with bakeries, haberdasheries, shoeshops, small grocers, hairdressers. Girls in school uniform and headscarves walk in groups, chatting, laughing. Boys loiter and watch them. The names on the shops and the doctors’ signs are the familiar mix of Muslim and Christian Arab, French and Armenian. The French cultural centre has wide-open doors and an inviting garden; there is a smell of roasting coffee. It’s like a smaller, cleaner, uncrowded Cairo. But two buildings look different from the others: they are modern, precise, their angles are sharp, they fly the Israeli flag, and they are the only ones with closed gates that are made of steel bars.

She talks of tear gas pumped into houses, of rubber bullets which the Palestinian children peel to extract the steel marble within, which they then aim back at the soldiers with their slingshots. She talks of the threat to her mosque, of an ambulance bringing a 78-year-old neighbour back from hospital, how soldiers searched it and stripped it down to the cooling unit: ‘they’ve grown afraid of the air itself.’ I feel dizzy with the detail piling up in my head and leave before I can be made to stay and eat.

The city is beautiful. Like old Jerusalem it is made of pink stone. The narrow streets wind up and down like the streets of an Etruscan town. The houses lean against each other, one house’s roof forming the other’s patio. Ornate stone balconies look out on to the empty street. The sun shines, the air is clean and fresh, the light is so perfect we could be on a film set. A dark green patrol car passes and does not stop us. The microphone blares out in accented Arabic: ‘O people of al-Khalil. Beware breaking the curfew.’ Round the next bend a yellow taxi is at a stop in the middle of the road, leaning to one side. A group of children has gathered round it watching, hushed and still. We pull in by a wall and park. A woman leans against the taxi with a baby in her arms. ‘I know it’s a curfew,’ the driver says, ‘but she has just come out of hospital, and she had the baby, so I drove her. Look what they’ve done.’ A soldier had taken out a knife and slashed the two tyres on the driver’s side. Naturally he only has one spare tyre. With the curfew how is he going to get another one? Two boys are helping him change one wheel. The other children look on in silence. The woman starts walking off slowly.

Maybe there are cafes in West Jerusalem or Tel Aviv where intellectuals, artists, people, sit around and debate the condition of the country and the ‘Palestinian problem’. Maybe they debate the ethics of an army of occupation holding a population hostage, or the civil rights of an Arab population in a zionist state, but these places – the places that are lit up at night – how do I find them? In the entertainment guide I look at the listings: films, recitals, cabarets. I consider taking a taxi and simply buying a ticket. But even the thought makes me uneasy.

Sedition! Snorts Mrs Jibril. ‘We were trying to help the mothers give their children a ‘normal’ childhood. You know what the children sing? They sing: Papa bought me a trifle/ A machine gun and a rifle. We were struggling to to get them to sing normal children’s songs. But normal children’s songs have nothing to do with the reality of their lives.’

‘You know what’s the worst of it’, they say, ‘is that they keep you guessing. You never know if a road is going to be open or closed. When they are going to shut off your water or turn off your electricity. Whether they are going to permit a burial. Whether they are going to give you a permit to travel. You can never ever plan. They create conditions to keep you spinning…’

I have seen women pushing their sons behind them, shoving them to run away, screaming at the soldiers: ‘Get out of our faces. Stop baiting the kids.’

I have heard a man say: ‘I have four sons and no work. I cannot feed them. Let them go out and die if it will help our country; if it will end this state of things.’

I have seen children calmly watch yet another shooting, another funeral. And when I have wept they’ve said: ‘She’s new to this.’“

For more – see the original essay on Guardian and read Soueif’s collection of essays Mezzaterra : Fragments from the Common Ground.

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art of resistance, Syria

Letters of Young Somali Refugees to Syrian Refugee Children.

Young Somali refugees living in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya (the world’s largest refugee camp, home to nearly 400,000 refugees) have sent letters of encouragement to Syrian refugee children who have also had to flee their homeland.

In their letters, they write to to their „brothers and sisters“ with great kindness, encouraging them in their hours, days, months of darkness, emphasizing the importance of education and studying.

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Hibo Mahamed Dubow wrote:

„I am really encouraging you not to lose hope, you will get peace and stability. I am encouraging you, I personally , to go to school and learn, in future you can rebuild your country, you will get peace and no longer be a refugee…

 

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Dahir Mohamed wrote:

„Our beloved brothers and sisters, go and work hard in schools, be the stars and the new presidents of Syria.“

 

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Abshir Hussein wrote:

Don’t become hopeless, have less worry about the matter. Try to start a new life which is much better than before. I wish peace for Syria. Always peace is the best.“

 

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Zahra Dahir Ali wrote:

„How are you my dear brothers and sisters? How is the situation over there?

I am encouraging you to be educated in your country and go on with your learning, with your education… So, don’t be hopeless, we are with you, and if there’s war in your country tolerance is necessary.  My friends, I am telling you education is the key to sucess in your life, so be confident and be patient, so I am advising you to go back to your country and rebuild your nation so that it may be good and well.  And the more you get tolerant, the more you get goodness.”

 

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/all images via BBC/

For more, see the article on BBC News.

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art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Remembering Rachel Corrie: Letters from Palestine.

Rachel Corrie was an American peace activist and a member of the International Solidarity Movement. She was killed in 2003 (at the age of 23), by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) armored bulldozer in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, during the height of the second Palestinian intifada.

After her death, Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner edited and directed the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, based on Corrie’s diaries and e-mails home. The play was censored (put off stage) several times by some theaters. “Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard,” Rickman said then.

In his article for The Independent Robert Fisk wrote:

“An American heroine, Rachel earned no brownie points from the Bush administration which bangs on about courage and freedom from oppression every few minutes. Rachel’s was the wrong sort of courage and she was defending the freedom of the wrong people.”

RCcropRachel Corrie in her childhood days /photo via Rachel Corrie Foundation/

Remembering Corrie, her activism, her acts of kindness and dedication to helping others, I decided to post some of her letters and e-mails from Palestine.

Leaving Olympia

January 2003

„We are all born and someday we’ll all die. Most likely to some degree alone.What if our aloneness isn’t a tragedy? What if our aloneness is what allows us to speak the truth without being afraid? What if our aloneness is what allows us to adventure – to experience the world as a dynamic presence – as a changeable, interactive thing?

If I lived in Bosnia or Rwanda or who knows where else, needless death wouldn’t be a distant symbol to me, it wouldn’t be a metaphor, it would be a reality.

And I have no right to this metaphor. But I use it to console myself. To give a fraction of meaning to something enormous and needless.

This realization. This realization that I will live my life in this world where I have privileges.

I can’t cool boiling waters in Russia. I can’t be Picasso. I can’t be Jesus. I can’t save the planet single-handedly.

I can wash dishes.“

Rafah

February 7 2003

Hi friends and family, and others,

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me – Ali – or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me, “Kaif Sharon?” “Kaif Bush?” and they laugh when I say, “Bush Majnoon”, “Sharon Majnoon” back in my limited arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn’t quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: “Bush mish Majnoon” … Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say, “Bush is a tool,” but I don’t think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago.

Nevertheless, no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I’m done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.”

Rafah

February 20, 2003

“Mama,

Now the Israeli army has actually dug up the road to Gaza, and both of the major checkpoints are closed. This means that Palestinians who want to go and register for their next quarter at university can’t. People can’t get to their jobs and those who are trapped on the other side can’t get home; and internationals, who have a meeting tomorrow in the West Bank, won’t make it. We could probably make it through if we made serious use of our international white person privilege, but that would also mean some risk of arrest and deportation, even though none of us has done anything illegal.

The Gaza Strip is divided in thirds now. There is some talk about the “reoccupation of Gaza”, but I seriously doubt this will happen, because I think it would be a geopolitically stupid move for Israel right now. I think the more likely thing is an increase in smaller below-the-international-outcry-radar incursions and possibly the oft-hinted “population transfer”.

I am staying put in Rafah for now, no plans to head north. I still feel like I’m relatively safe and think that my most likely risk in case of a larger-scale incursion is arrest. A move to reoccupy Gaza would generate a much larger outcry than Sharon’s assassination-during-peace-negotiations/land grab strategy, which is working very well now to create settlements all over, slowly but surely eliminating any meaningful possibility for Palestinian self-determination. Know that I have a lot of very nice Palestinians looking after me. I have a small flu bug, and got some very nice lemony drinks to cure me. Also, the woman who keeps the key for the well where we still sleep keeps asking me about you. She doesn’t speak a bit of English, but she asks about my mom pretty frequently – wants to make sure I’m calling you.

Love to you and Dad and Sarah and Chris and everybody.

Rachel”

Rafah

February 27

(to her mother)

…I thought a lot about what you said on the phone about Palestinian violence not helping the situation. Sixty thousand workers from Rafah worked in Israel two years ago. Now only 600 can go to Israel for jobs. Of these 600, many have moved, because the three checkpoints between here and Ashkelon (the closest city in Israel) make what used to be a 40-minute drive, now a 12-hour or impassible journey. In addition, what Rafah identified in 1999 as sources of economic growth are all completely destroyed – the Gaza international airport (runways demolished, totally closed); the border for trade with Egypt (now with a giant Israeli sniper tower in the middle of the crossing); access to the ocean (completely cut off in the last two years by a checkpoint and the Gush Katif settlement). The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around 600, by and large people with no connection to the resistance but who happen to live along the border. I think it is maybe official now that Rafah is the poorest place in the world. There used to be a middle class here – recently. We also get reports that in the past, Gazan flower shipments to Europe were delayed for two weeks at the Erez crossing for security inspections. You can imagine the value of two-week-old cut flowers in the European market, so that market dried up. And then the bulldozers come and take out people’s vegetable farms and gardens. What is left for people? Tell me if you can think of anything. I can’t.

If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment and destroy all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held captive with 149 other people for several hours – do you think we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect whatever fragments remained? I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and fruit trees destroyed – just years of care and cultivation. I think about you and how long it takes to make things grow and what a labour of love it is. I really think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best they could. I think Uncle Craig would. I think probably Grandma would. I think I would.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I’m really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: “This is the wide world and I’m coming to it.” I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside.

When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I’ve ever done. So when I sound crazy, or if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible.

I love you and Dad. Sorry for the diatribe. OK, some strange men next to me just gave me some peas, so I need to eat and thank them.

Rachel

For more on Rachel Corrie and the rest of her e-mails and letters, visit Rachel Corrie Foundation.

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art of resistance, Sudan, travel

Sudan: The Sun & The People.

The work of Denis Dailleux keeps on inspiring me. From his great Egyptian photo series Mother and Son and Martyrs of Revolutionto his beautiful stories from Ghana and On the footsteps of Rimabaud (Ethiopia & Yemen). What makes it so enchanting and so real at the same time, is his way of capturing people – no matter how beautiful the scenery is, with Dailleux it’s always about the people.

Ten years ago, in his photo series from Sudan (Agence VU), Dailleux presents “a country marked by the sun and the languidness. As usual, the photographer achieves his photograph with people. And then, they accept to show their lives without any fireworks.”

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//all images © Denis Dailleux/ Agence VU//

For more on this project, go to Agence VU, and for more on Dailleux and his photography – viist his Agence VU profile, and his official website.

And now – go through the photos again and listen to this great tune by the musical legends of the Sahara desert – Tinariwen.

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art of resistance, Palestine

Disarming Design From Palestine.

Disarming Design from Palestine is an inclusive design label that presents functional products from Palestine, that provide an alternative narrative from what you might usually find in the high street. The collection includes objects such as hourglasses that use cement from the separation wall, a dress made out of one keffiyeh, embroidered car decorations, scarfs depicting landscapes, olive leaves as earrings and an impossible chess game with water tanks and watch towers. The growing collection of products is presented on-line and through a traveling exhibition. As a collection it aims to represent Palestinian culture in its current reality and reflect upon the function of art in situations of conflict.

The goods are developed, designed and produced by contemporary designers, artists and students in collaboration with local artisans and producers. During several ‘create-shops’ they engage in an enriching design dialogue with small emerging businesses and international colleagues. The project aims to catalyze the development of design as a discourse in Palestine.

The overall objective of the project is to contribute to sustainable cultural and economic development in Palestine, through stimulating working relationships between artists, designers and manufacturers. The label also investigates in the position contemporary designers can take in relation to conflictual situations. It makes use of art and design as powerful tools that allow us to have serious discussions within a community about our political, social and cultural realities.

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Electricity wire cover, designer: Wafa Meri, manufacturers: Women from the Ramallah area. Inspired by the traditional Palestinian stitch sabaleh.

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Distance to Jerusalem cups, designer: Mamon Ashreteh, manufacturers: Hebron Glass & Ceramics Factory. Inspired by  Khaled Hourani‘s project The road to Jerusalem.

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Falafel Coin Maker, designer: Tommi Vasko, manufacturers: Ushama Boulos, Bethlehem. Falafel mold with Palestinian pound, sandblasted.

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Subjective Atlas of Palestine, designer: Annelys de Vet. In cooperation with Khaled Hourani and other Palestinian artists, photographers and designers, de Vet made the atlas which maps the country through their eyes. The result is unconventional, very personal and heartwarming.

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Desingaged Observer Outfit, designer: Tommi Vasko & Tessel Bruhl, manufacturer: Tessel Bruhl. Made out of traditional Bedouin fabric, frequently used in tents for festivals and political meetings which makes it perfect as a camouflage for those occasions.

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Bird Plates, designer: Maher Shaheen, manufacturers: Hebron Glass & Ceramics Factory. Plate with which the leftovers of the food can be given to the birds, with additional water in the middle part (one third of the food produced for human consumption ends up in trash).

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Everywhere Palestine scarf, designer: Tariq Salsa, manufacturers: Print Unlimited. Panoramic photos of Palestinian cities printed on silk scarfs.

/all images © Disarming Design from Palestine/

For more information on these and other products by Disarming Design, visit their official website, and if you can (in any way you can) – support the wonderful work by Palestinian designers and manufacturers and their talented international friends.

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