art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Rachel, Who Came To Rafah.

rachel/photo © Tom Hurndall/

Today marks thirteen years since American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by the Israeli military in the Palestinian city of Rafah. Today, I remember Corrie through the post I wrote two years ago, introducing her and her letters from Palestine.

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.”

I remember Corrie through thoughts she expressed in one of her letters:

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.”

Read the full article about Corrie and her letters here.

Advertisements
Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

The Book To Read: After Zionism.

onestate folsu

/Bethany village in 1942, photo via 14WeeksWorthOfSocks/

After Zionism: One State For Israel and Palestine is a collection of essays by some of the world’s leading thinkers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Diana Buttu, Ghada Karmi, Ilan Pappe, Philip Weiss, Saree Makdisi, Jeremiah Haber, Jonathan Cook, Joseph dana, Jeff Halper, Sara Roy and John Mearsheimer.

The collection was edited by Ahmed Moor and Anthony Loewenstein, and published in 2013. I was really looking forward to reading this, since I really believe that, due to the situation on the ground, one-state solution is the only solution for Israel and Palestine.

Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different future. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably.

Moor is a Palestinian American who grew up in Palestine and understands the disastrous effects of the Israeli occupation. Loewenstein is a an Australian Jew who was brought up expecting to believe in Zionism and the Israeli state but by his late teens started to question its legitimacy.

They write: “We came together on this book not because we agree on everything – we don’t – but because of a shared belief that Jews and Palestinians are destined to live and work together, whatever our differences in background, ideals and daily life. We are connected by a desire to see peace with justice for our peoples”. They dedicated After Zionism to “Palestinians and Israelis who deserve better”.

after zionism

Authors in this collection of essays write about several important aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, like Nakba in the Israeli Zionist landscape, the bantustanization of Palestinian Territories, Israel’s liberal myths and self-determination through ethical decolonisation.

There’s a lot of good interesting writing (and deep thinking) in this book, however, one thing I found missing is wider and more concrete exploration of possible forms of a one-state solution. The problem is that the title of the book is misleading in that sense – this book is much better at examining the current state of things in Israel and the Occupied Territories than it is at exploring possible scenarios for the future.

I still highly recommend it – it’s a good starting point for thinking about possible solutions and different future for the people of Israel and Palestine.

• • •

Previous The Book To Read:

The French Intifada

The Librarian of Basra

A Hand Full Of Stars

Palestinian Walks: Notes On A Vanishing Landscape

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Fazal Sheikh: Independence | Nakba.

fs3/photo © Fazal Sheikh/

Fazal Sheikh is an artist who uses photographs to document people living in displaced and marginalized communities around the world. His principle medium is the portrait, although his work also encompasses personal narratives, found photographs, archival material, sound, and his own written texts.

Independence | Nakba, is his third project in The Erasure Trilogy. It consists of a series of 65 diptychs – one diptych for each year between 1948 and 2013 – that places together portraits of persons from both sides of the Israeli -Palestinian conflict, and of gradually increasing age.

fs

These double portraits ask us to think not only about the relations that existed between Israelis and Palestinians before the war—each portrait presents someone who either lived in Palestine before the founding of the Israeli State or someone whose ancestors did—but also about the impossible politics of separation that, still today, maintains a distinction between Israeli liberation and Palestinian catastrophe.

fs5

Staging a relation across a line of division, the portraits invite us to register the enduring bonds that tie the past, the present, and the future together: a past that preceded the division between Independence and the Nakba, a present that still remains haunted and defined by this division, and a possible future that, taking its point of departure from these bonds, could enable a different and more forgiving tomorrow.

fs698

The Erasure Trilogy explores the anguish caused by the loss of memory—by forgetting, amnesia or suppression – and the resulting human desire to preserve memory, all seen through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

90

What makes me happy is that The Erasure Trilogy, although it tells a story of physical erasure, also shows that you cannot erase (all) memories, even if you take the places aways from people, even if their reality mainly remains wrapped in silence – somebody will remember, somebody will preserve and somebody will have the desire and power to tell the story.

89fs

There is no complete, all-inclusive and definite erasure. Whether it is for better or worse, we are carrying a whole world within us. That’s what resistant. That’s where resilience comes from. It can be our deepest wound and a source of greatest joy and bravery. Through his work, Sheikh opens the window into these worlds, one person at a time.

fs69d

//all  photos © Fazal Sheikh//

For more, visit Sheikh’s official website.

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

(Interview) Samar Hazboun On Living And Working Under Occupation.

samar1/Before The Wall, image © Samar Hazboun/

Born in Jerusalem and raised in the West Bank, Samar Hazboun, who uses photography as a tool to tell stories, first explored photography while pursuing a degree in International Relations in Prague. I first got to know her through her wonderful project Palestinian Women and after that tried to follow the work she did throughout the years.

Most of her projects have focused on women’s rights, particularly in the Middle East. As she says it herself, her authentic interest in political expression through art and her personal relationship with the Palestinian case has led her to successfully fuse subject matter and medium into a budding practice of photojournalism. Many of us who follow her work are thrilled she managed to do that.

I was lucky enough to catch Samar this month,  establishing a virtual relationship between Zagreb and Jerusalem – we’ve talked about her inspiration, life under the occupation, and joys and sorrows of the work she does. With her honest smile and wise insights, Samar proved to be exactly the kind of person I would imagine behind the work she creates – the work which is always filled with depth, thought and empathy.

hush

How did you start taking photos, what inspired you to take the camera and make it your world?

I was born and raised in Palestine, and then went to study abroad. I wanted to study photography, but my parents weren’t really encouraging for fear of not being able to earn a living with it. So, I didn’t study photography and I am actually happy I didn’t. I still ended up doing photography in my free time. For me, it began as a healing journey. I was very depressed and had a lot of emotions I didn’t know how to deal with it.

Growing up in Palestine, under the occupation and witnessing its violence, had a lot to do with it. I had a lot of stress, tension, and I began isolating myself a lot. Somehow, when I got a digital camera, I started taking self-portraits and photos of different things in the house, it was like a therapy. So that was when and how my relationship with photography was born.

Was there a moment, a photo or a project, that made you feel like what you are doing is important – not just to you, but also to other people? When you felt the power of it?

Because of how it all started, in the beginning I took a lot of self-portraits. I had my first solo exhibition in Jordan and there was a lot of people and media attending. That was one of the moments when it struck me – why are we doing this? Why are these people looking at the photos of me and my emotions? It’s not important. I felt kind of sad, because at the end of the day I am someone who has a good life, when you compare it to other people’s lives.

So I understood the power that photography gave me and I decided to use it in a different way, in a way to allow other people to express themselves and tell their stories. And really, for me storytelling is all I care about now with photography.

What was the first project you did after realizing that?

The first project I did was actually an experiment, I wanted to do something with people and see if I’d be able to actually do it. That’s how Palestinian Women came to life. I wanted to find answers answers to questions people often asked me. They often say to me “you don’t look like a Palestinian” or they ask me “what are Palestinian women like?”. Situations like that made me do that project.

I wanted to show how we are diverse as women, as human beings. You can’t really define a Palestinian woman, the same way you can’t define a Croatian woman. Your experience in life is what shapes you. So I started looking for women in Palestine, that are from all kinds of background and do all kinds of things. I’ve photographed a minister, a doctor, a footballer, a housewife, a circus performer…

pal2

The project dealt with stereotypes about Palestinian women and Arab women in general. Do you think the situation has changed during the last couple of years when it comes to that? Are Palestinian and Arab women in the mainstream western media still presented in one–dimensional manner?

I think it has changed, Palestinian women have done really well lately. They’re present and vocal, they’re breaking taboos and stereotypes, being the teller of your own stories is really what changes the narrative. I really hope that the situation in the region doesn’t take away from that progress, that it won’t remove the focus from the positive things that are happening and exist in the region.

People who have never met Arab women have a certain idea about them, and it’s very tricky to talk about it without falling into stereotypes.  For me and for other artists dealing with such issues, we have to be very careful, because we don’t want to be looked at as something different, exotic, or victims even. We don’t want to be represented as one thing only. Yes, we live in a male dominated society, but I’ve lived in Europe and saw that that is not just an Arab issue, it’s a global problem for women.

One of the most important things for good photography is earning the trust of the people you are taking photos of. How did you manage that, is there a certain process you go through with people when you start a project, or do you find it different every  time?

I think it really depends on what you want to do, but I know that for me it goes really slowly, because I need the time, I want to take the time, and give the time to people. I don’t want to just come somewhere, take a photo and leave. I don’t know how to do that. When I do that, I’m never happy with the result. So, I really like to spend time with people, and the most time I’ve spent with people is when I did a project about women who were sexually abused…

That was the project Hush, right? Those are such delicate issues, and it is captured so well in your photos. Was it hard to get the women in shelters to open up to you, how was that experience?

I spent two months working on that project, the first month I was just going to the shelter without my camera. I was going there on a daily basis, spending six to seven hours with the women, just playing games, doing workshops, talking about everyday things, having them ask me questions too…

I created a sort of friendship and then, when I came back with my camera, it didn’t feel strange, it didn’t feel like I was taking something from them, it was a mutual relationship. They started telling me their stories without me even asking. So, yes, trust is very important.

And also – you really need to be genuine and interested in what you want to do, and in what people have to say. With Hush, the reason why I wanted to do it is because sexual violence is a big problem that nobody wants to talk about, in our society the honour of the family often depends on the woman and that is why it is such a sensitive issue.

hsh

I was really tired of people not wanting to talk about this subject. The main thing for me was that these women are often blamed for the violence done to them, you know “it’s her fault” kind of a thing.  The project was a real challenge, it took me a year to get a permit to enter the women’s centre and I faced a lot of problems – some of the women who worked in the shelter didn’t want to do their shifts when I was there.

I needed to make sure I didn’t reveal anything about the location of the shelter, the architecture of it, and so on. A lot of challenges, but I managed it somehow.

How do you cope with all the challenges? For some projects, even in regular conditions,  it takes away so much time and energy, and in Palestine, under the occupation, I assume it’s much worse – due to all the restrictions and inability to plan things ahead. How do you manage to stay motivated, to keep on doing the work you do?

I think the main thing that I remind myself of is that it is a project, and not a product. At the end of the day, I know it is a project and it will take me a long time to finish it. And you have to come to terms with that because if you want to work on a project and finish it in a month or a week, I don’t think it is going to work, you might be disappointed. You have to have it in your mind that it is an ongoing thing, a learning experience.

For example, I did a project Beyond Checkpoints, about Palestinian women who were forced to give birth on Israeli checkpoints. With this project it was even more challenging because I was trying to portray a story that was from the past, something that already happened, but there was very little visual evidence left from these crimes. I had to travel long distances around Palestine to find women and manage everything. When I think about that, I don’t know how I manage to continue and motivate myself…

Believe me, sometimes I just sit and cry, but then I get up and continue because I love the challenge. With every project that I’ve done I didn’t feel like I am repeating somebody’s work, I felt like I was doing something new, like I was paving the way. It’s like learning to walk, you need to fall many times to find your balance and do it properly.

Women are often in the focus of your projects. They are also in the focus of the project Before the wall. Could you tell me more about that project and do you think some of these generations will also live to be the in the phase without the wall?

I really hope they can be the people living without the wall, I hope we will witness the fall of the wall in the near future. Before the wall was an answer to this situation where the wall was presented as a sort of indifferent thing – nobody really knows why it is there, nobody understands what it really does to people.

I felt intimidated by the way all of this was presented and I thought to myself – ok, the wall is here and the people who are supposedly the terrorists, which the wall prevents from moving from one side to another – are also here, so I might as well put them in front of the wall and photograph them.

beofre

I wanted to show how it is really sad because this was the last generation of people before the wall was closed off completely, built. I wanted them to be dressed as plain as possible to show the contrast between them and the wall, to show how small and fragile they are against the wall. All the people affected by the wall are regular civilians, going about their daily lives, and the wall prevents them from doing that.

The wall is just one of the horrible aspects of the occupation. The other aspect you’ve dealt with in your work are Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel, shown in your project Detained: Confessions of Palestinian Children. How big of an issue is this in Palestine and how hard it was to talk to children about their experiences?

I was really surprised when I did this project – that there were so many children imprisoned by Israel. I thought it was going to be hard to find them, but there are so many of them! The hardest thing was getting them to open up about their experiences, there were many who couldn’t talk about it, children who were so traumatised by what had happened to them that at the age of ten or twelve they would still wet their beds and would not be able to speak properly. Children who isolated themselves, had nightmares…etc.

Many of the children I met weren’t included in the project. They simply couldn’t talk about what had happened to them. You can’t force somebody into telling their story if they are not comfortable or confident about it, or if you feel like it might traumatise them even more. So I didn’t push, I let it go. Although many of these stories were not in the project in the end, they were still an important part of my experience.

deatined

In connection to that, could you tell me what are the worst things occupation brings to your everyday life, emotional states it evokes? How would you summarize it, what would you share as a message to people – about occupation and the state Palestinian people live in?

To be honest, I feel sorry for the occupier. They will wake up one day, when it is already too late, and realize that what they’ve done is beyond destroy other people’s lives. I can’t imagine myself being a soldier or a person who’s occupying another person, or someone who took somebody else’s house, or kicked the family out of their land, or burned somebody’s trees.

At one point Israel and its people will wake up to question their actions and it will be an ugly feeling. Palestinian people will live and they will survive, we’ve been through a lot. In the end we are the ones who suffer the injustice, and not the ones doing the injustice – and I think that is something that with time will be even more clear to the outside world.

Is there any sort of a cooperation that you did with Israeli artists and photographers, is there a dialogue on that level?

I don’t think these things are as beneficial as they might seem, at least at this point. It’s hard to work on projects when we are not equals. Some things need to change before that happens.

I am always fascinated by the Israeli society – nowadays, when you have internet, when it is easy to be informed and get more sources of information, you would expect them, and that would be my dream, to just take the hammers and tanks and destroy the wall. You would expect them to say – enough with this bullshit, we don’t want this anymore.

hjazb

Could you tell me something about your inspiration – when it comes to Palestinian artists, authors, musicians, filmmakers? Is there anybody you really love and get your inspiration from?

That’s interesting. I love a lot of filmmakers and authors, and we have a great art scene growing constantly. But my inspiration always comes from the people I meet doing my projects, people with everyday struggles, people who barely survive but still keep on doing it.

People I met while working on my projects are really my biggest inspiration because they went through so much. I now started working on a project with the Syrian refugees and that has been so important to me, life-changing and inspirational. I was in houses of people that have no water, no furniture, nothing to offer me to drink, yet their generosity is beyond descriptiom.

These are the moments that change you and make you look at your life in a different way. And that is essential – the way your work reflects on you, and how it makes you more emphatic.

I actually wanted to ask you what you are working on at the moment, so tell me more about that project, it sounds really intimate and important to you, but it could also be important to many people, especially with all of what Syrian and other refugees face today.

I’ve received a grant from the Prince Claus Foundation, the grant is called Culture in defiance. My project is called Past preserved. I’m meeting with Syrian refugees who fled the war and we’re trying to recreate  the photos they’ve lost and preserve the memories they have from their past.

All of them left Syria without any photographs and the main idea is to find an object that holds a memory very dear to the person and also to photograph them the way they would like to be photographed, not as refugees.

At one point they were like you and me, and yes – at this moment they are refugees, but they are also much more than that, and they deserve to be seen as who they are, not as who the war has made them.

//all photos © Samar Hazboun//

For more on Samar’s work, visit her official website.

• • •

P.S. Happy New Year! ♡

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Jungjin Lee: Unnamed Road.

jua

Unnamed Road is a book by Korean photographer Jungjin Lee, in which she approaches the territories of Israel and the West Bank by turning to the landscape. After reading Raja Shehadeh’s Palestinian Walks , Unnamed Road was a book that allowed me to continue the journey – this time by looking, not reading.

Lee turns to the landscape in a similar way Shehadeh does. She explores spaces more than people. Her black-and-white images are self-contained worlds of stillness and wonder, as she searches for something constant in the life of the landscape.

Unnamed Road

Her approach is not documentary (atleast not primarily), it’s more like meditation – a search for the spiritual potential with(in) the landscape. In a way, that approach is a luxury international photographers (or people visiting the West Bank) can afford to have, because of their fresh relationship with the landscape.

For the locals, that relationship involves so much more, it is a burden in so many ways (Shehadeh writes about it very well). It becomes hard to enjoy it or just be present in the moment.

Unnamed Road

That being said, I still really like going through images in the Unnamed Road. Not just because they are a great work of art. I like it because it makes me think of a scenario in which some fundamental truths do not alter – even in the West Bank and the Occupied Territories. I like to picture it as true, as possible.

I like to imagine people (those who live there and those who come to visit) looking at the landscape, walking, breathing – just being present and nothing more. No burdens, no thinking, no fear. Just people and the land – pure, authentic, everlasting relationship.

Unnamed Road

Unnamed Road

Unnamed Road

jung

//all photos © Jungjin Lee//

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

The Book To Read: Palestinian Walks, Notes On A Vanishing Landscape.

DSC08257/Wadi Rum, photo © Ivana Perić, MER/

“Take a walk” is pretty much my answer to everything life throws in front of me. Walking can heal you, change your perspective, give space to new ideas, put your mind to rest, it can connect you with nature, landscapes, buildings, other people, yourself.

It is no wonder I really liked the idea of Raja Shehadeh’s book Palestinian Walks: Notes On a Vanishing Landscape (first edition published as Palestinian Walks: Forays Into A Vanishing Landscape). I’ve had it on my to-read list for couple of years and I finally managed to get it and start reading it just this last week. I actually bought it in a bookstore at the American University of Beirut campus, where Shehadeh studied forty years ago.

Shehadeh is a Palestinian lawyer and author, and a passionate hill walker. He is also a founder of the human rights organization Al-Haq, an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists. He has written several books on international law, human rights and the Middle East. Some of his books include Strangers In The House, Occupation Diaries and A Rift in Time: Travels With My Ottoman Uncle.

In Palestinian Walks, he captures the changes his beloved landscape endures under Israeli occupation. He started hill walking in 1970s, not aware of the fact that he was travelling through a vanishing landscape. Shehadeh writes: “As I grew up in Ramallah, the land from my city to the northern city of Nablus might, with a small stretch of the imagination, have seemed familiar to a contemporary of Christ. Those hills were, I believe, one of the natural treasures of the world.”

9781416569664_hr

But the landscape he traverses decades later is the site of a tense standoff between his fellow Palestinians and settlers newly arrived from Israel. Seven walks captured in this book span a period of twenty-seven years, in the hills around Ramallah, in the Jerusalem wilderness and through ravines by the Dead Sea. Each walk takes place at a different stage of Palestinian history.

On the changing idea of Palestine, Shehadeh writes: “Palestine has been one of the countries most visited by pilgrims and travellers over the ages. The accounts I have read do not describe a land familiar to me but rather a land of these travellers’ imaginations. Palestine has been constantly re-invented , with devastating consequences to its original inhabitants. Whether it was the cartographers preparing maps of travellers  describing the landscape in the extensive travel literature, what mattered was not the land and its inhabitants as they actually were but the confirmation of the viewer’s or reader’s religious or political beliefs.”

As decades pass, it becomes harder and harder for Shehadeh to enjoy his walks. He is often harassed by Israeli border patrols, during one walk he is horrified when his young nephew picks up an unexploded missile and on one other occasion, when accompanied by his wife, they come under prolonged gunfire.

He also describes intense legal battles he fights for Palestinian landowners, and the way it also became harder with time. It so happens that even when the client’s ownership of land is proved, it gets taken by some overarching new directive. Legal battles have worn him out, and that’s when his writing saved him from total desperation.

He feels the need to capture his experiences, to describe the land the way it used to be and how it changed, to show the effect it had on people, for there is a fear it will totally disappear and nobody will ever know, nobody will ever remember – no justice, just long and empty silence. The loss of such a simple pleasure as walking around freely is much more important than it might seem, for it exists within a much greater loss – deprivations of an entire people estranged from their land.

Take this walk with Shehadeh, it’s one of the rare chances to still walk around Palestine, to travel back in time and witness the changes of the land and its people.

• • •

Previous The Book To Read:

Night Draws Near

The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine

Anti-Arab Racism in the USA

A Tale of Love and Darkness

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

The Shadow of the West by Edward Said.

This month (25th of September) marked twelve years since Edward Said died. Middle East Revised will continue publishing excerpts from Said’s books, interviews and films about Said and his work, as a way of paying tribute to him.

After publishing an excerpt from the book Culture and Resistance, Conversations with Edward Said, (Interviews by David Barsamian)here is a link to The Shadow of the West, written by Said, and directed by Geoff Dunlop.

Standard