Twenty-four years have passed since George Baramki Azar’s book Palestine: A Photographic Journey was published. It is not a groundbreaking book, but there’s something special about it. Azar’s photos of the First Intifada have a particular warmth and capture sadness, dignity and resistance the way not many photos (and photographers) do.
Poems by Mahmoud Darwish and other Palestinian and Arab poets are interwoven with the photos and commentaries in a simple, heart sinking way. While we have come to visually associate the terms Intifada and Palestinian solely with images of young men wrapped in kafiyyehs hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers or waving the flags of Palestine, photos gathered in this book are different.
In it, there are other Palestinians, Palestinians not so often portrayed in the popular media (even today, twenty-four years later) – there is the beauty of the land, life of the sheepherders, poets, joy of the children, the quiet defiance of the elders, and dignity they all salvage.
I think this was one of the first books of photography that gave Palestinians a human face. It is truly sad that there was a need for doing that, but that was the reality. It still is, in a way. I already wrote about the issue of humanizing, and it is sad we’re still stuck on it, it is sad there’s still a need for showing humans as humans. Of course they’re humans.
Writing about the First Intifada, we must remember couple of things. Palestinians started an uprising consisting of general strikes, boycotts of Israeli Civil Administration institutions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, an economic boycott consisting of refusal to work inIsraeli settlements on Israeli products, and widespread throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails at the IDF and its infrastructure within the Palestinian territories.
IDF killed many Palestinians at the beginning of the Intifada, the majority killed during demonstrations and riots. Israel used mass arrests of Palestinians, engaged in collective punishments like closing down West Bank universities for most years of the uprising, and West Bank schools for a total of 12 months. Round-the-clock curfews were imposed over 1600 times in just the first year, and communities were cut off from supplies of water, electricity and fuel.
During the six-year intifada, the Israeli army killed from 1,162 to 1,204 Palestinians – 241 being children – and arrested more than 120,000. B’Tselem calculated 179 Israelis were killed in the same period.
The First Intifada ended. Almost three decades later (with one more Intifada down the road) the occupation is still there. But, like in Azar’s book, Palestinians are not giving up.
And they searched his chest
But could only find his heart
And they searched his heart
But could only find his people
Mahmoud Darwish, Earth Poem
/all photos © George Baramki Azar, Palestine: A Photographic Journey/