Complicating narratives about Israel and Palestine

quique_06_lCross-posted on Engage.

Two joint Israeli and Palestinian visual documentary projects – Frames of Reality and Gaza/Sderot – complicate the usual narratives about Israel and Palestine.

“Frames of Reality”, a joint initiative of the Peres Center for Peace and “Local Testimony”, aims to cultivate personal and professional dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli photojournalists. The six-month project culiminated with an exhibition at the Amiad Gallery in Jaffa, the photographs from which you can see in the online gallery. Luay Sababa’s work captures the claustrophobic containment of Palestinians at borders and crossing points. Yehuda Raizner photographed the Shvut Ami outpost settlement in the West Bank, populated by ultra-nationalist boys and girls in their early to mid teens. He writes, “In the 10 months of its existence, the outpost was evacuated about 12 times; the last time the police stayed there to prevent settlers from going back. The youth set up a similar outpost on the other side of the road and are waiting for the policemen to leave, before they go back to “their home” as they define it.” Tess Scheflan’s pictures are of the small boys who work in the Machne Yehuda market on the east side of Jerusalem’s Old City. Yesterday while reporting from Hebron Tess Scheflan was punched in the face and beaten by an IDF soldier (who is now under investigation). Muhammed Muhaisen’s work documents the squalor and exhaustion of forced child labour. Veteran conflict photographer Quique Kierszenbaum photographed ‘equals’ – pairs of Jewish and Arab children and teachers at a bilingual school in Jerusalem. And there are many more beautiful, provoking photographs than I can do justice here.

Another must-see is the Gaza/Sderot video documentary project set up by ARTE (French-German cultural TV station), which is currently showing 60 two-minute videos shot in Gaza and Sderot. The videos are organised by day and shown in pairs – Gaza on one side of your screen and Sderot from the same time on the other – so you get a sense of the two populations as contemporaries as well as neighbours. The Gaza and Sderot in these videos are not the Gaza and Sderot of the news nor of the anti-Israel campaign we comment on at Greens Engage. When Israel and Hamas interfere with the supply of power and fuel, Gaza at night is a land of dark homes, naked flames, effort to accomplish simple domestic tasks, and conversations about food – so it was on December 5th. On the other side of the screen a Moroccan-Israeli couple prepare for the wedding of their daughter and reminisce about when they first met. And you can go back, day by day, for two months. On the 4th a Gazan father called Amjad managed to make brief video contact with his friend on the web. “What has happened to your hair?[??]”, his friend asks incredulously. “You go bald quickly in this country” Amjad laughs. On the other side a father and daughter take an evening walk in the hills outside Sderot, talking about the daughter’s draft to the IDF and their sense of embattlement and picking up bits of shrapnel from the ’67 war. On the 3rd two Gazan students shop for clothes talking about their imminent exam and speculating about when and whether the electricity will come back. On the 2nd, a Sderot babysitter takes her charges to the world’s only bomb-sheltered playground – the shelters are giant yellow snakes. On the 1st a disconsolate Gazan market gardener gazes at her strawberries in despair that she will be able to make a living from them. Gaza/Sderot – go and have a look.

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