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47 years of occupation: Every photo tells a story

Marking 47 years of the Israeli occupation since 1967, we asked Activestills photographers to choose one photograph from their archive and write about it. 

Oren Ziv

Going every week to the protests in West Bank village of Bil’in, I knew most of the people who were attending the demonstrations. One of them was Bassem Abu Rahme, also known as “Fill.” At every protest he would go to the front and try to talk to the soldiers in Hebrew. On the day I took his photo, some of the protesters managed to cross the first gate of the separation barrier and  march between the sections of the fence. Fill was running with a kite that was given to him by an Israel activist, a friend of mine, Yuval. He was running with it as the Israeli soldiers watched him from the other side of the wall.

About a year later, on Aprile 17, 2009, an Israeli solider shot a tear gas canister directly at Fill. He was badly injured and later died on the way to the hospital. After coming back from the morgue in Ramallah, I was looking for archive photos of him and I found this one. I gave this portrait to his family.

Oren Ziv/

Oren Ziv/

Basel Yazouri

The power plant of Ashdod appears clearly, seen from the ‘buffer zone’ (also known as the ‘no-go zone’) on the Palestinian side of the border in northern Gaza. The Israeli forces located in these watchtowers are known for shooting toward Palestinians who enter the “no-go zone,” whether children, women or men. Many have been killed or injured over the years by bullets shot from these towers. Two young men led me to the barbed-wire fence; I was encouraged to go even closer. Seconds later a military jeep started to fire warning shots, then tear gas was fired and the Israeli soldier shouted at us to clear the area.

Basel yazouri/

Basel yazouri/

Shiraz Grinbaum

This photo was taken in the south Hebron hills near the village of Gwawis in September 2012. It was an early morning and I had joined Ta’ayush activists to accompany Palestinian shepherds and their flock. As happens all too often, it wasn’t long before Israeli settlers came to harass and attack the Palestinian shepherds. This settler was coming down from the mountain, shooting in the air with his M16 rifle issued to him by the Israeli army as part of his paid job as a security coordinator of the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Yair. The law states that he is not allowed to take any actions outside the settlement and its immediate surroundings, but he did. The quiet flock was scattered in all directions and the shepherds, the flock and the activists were forced to evacuate the area for their own safety.

‪For me, the violence captured in this frame refers to a whole range of violence inflicted every minute for so many years on the Palestinian people, nature and land. Not fighting or stopping the violent actions of the so-called “extreme settlers,” is just one example of the Israeli terrorizing control over the Palestinian people. ‬

Shiraz Grinbaum/

Shiraz Grinbaum/

Keren Manor

A Palestinian farmer looks toward the horizon of a beautiful landscape in the Jordan Valley. His farm and house were demolished twice by the Israeli authorities, as was the rest of his village. He decided to stay, to fight against the continuing attempts to uproot him. He fights using his very existence as a tool. This is the story of Burhan Basharat from Khirbet Makhoul in the Jordan Valley. This is also the story of many others.

Keren Manor/

Keren Manor/

Mareike Lauken

Evening falls on Road 60. A father and his son are on the way to their relatives to bring them two of their sheep, maybe for a celebration the next day. While crossing the main road that splits the village into two, where the army placed large roadblocks on both sides, they are stopped by soldiers at a “flying checkpoint” and held for 20 minutes.

I don’t know if the story its true. If its true that they are father and son, the purpose of their walk with the sheep, or if they are going to be late no, after being stopped for an ID check. But it is true that there is suddenly a checkpoint, one that was not been there a minute before, and one that will not be there a half an hour later.

Mareike Lauken/

Mareike Lauken/

Yotam Ronen

I choose a photo that shows Qalandiya checkpoint on a snowy day. This frame would look quiet ordinary on any other day — a “standard” view at a checkpoint. I have passed through Qalandiya many time before and I never bothered to stop and take a picture of this structure — not unless there were riots going on. This frame symbolizes for me how banal the occupation has become, at least from my point of view as a photographer. It has become so normal that I need a “gimmick” — like a snowy day — in order to make such a terrible place like the Qalandiya checkpoint to something that is worth a picture.

Yotam Ronen/

Yotam Ronen/

Ahmad Al-Bazz

The Dome of the Rock as it appears from the Western part of Jerusalem’s Old City, May 30, 2011. On June 5, 1967, the second round of Israeli occupation began. This time in West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Sinai. Israel continued the Nakba by creating settlements and expelling Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem. Israel calls it the “reunification of Jerusalem,” not occupation. But wait, who divided it in 1948?

Nowadays, millions of Muslims around the world cannot visit the third-most important religious place for Islam. Palestinians in West Bank need to wait until they are 45 years of age to get a special permit to pray there. Palestinians in Gaza cannot reach Jerusalem at all. The Israeli process of changing the identity of the city is continuing, and the world is still silent. According to the international law, East Jerusalem is an occupied area. But it seems like the world has not and will not be able to stop Israel. Palestinians need to organize themselves again and resist. This is what Palestinians should conclude after 66 years under a colonial system.

Ahmad Al-Bazz/

Ahmad Al-Bazz/

Mustafa Bader

After the Six-Day War, the eyes of some Israeli groups turned on the old city of Al-Khalil (Arabic for Hebron). The Jewish settlement there quickly started to eat away the city and the areas around it, like a worm — day in and day out. Just like in Jerusalem, the city of Hebron has been divided into two different worlds: the few Jewish settlers are above, and beneath them… us. I call it the other world underneath.

Mustafa Bader/

Mustafa Bader/

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Children run though the streets of Aida Refugee Camp past a faded mural of historic Palestine, West Bank, June 2, 2014.
Since the collapse of U.S.-sponsored negotiations, there is a more and more obvious answer to the perennial hand-wringing headlines asking: “Is the two-state solution dead?” and “Is Israel an apartheid state?” Of course, the children in this photo knew the answers to these questions better than the U.S. interlocutors, if their anonymous comments are to be believed. With each passing year, each settlement unit, each Palestinian home demolition, 1967 becomes less relevant, and 1948 takes center stage.

Of course, for the refugees in Aida Refugee Camp and elsewhere, it was always about ‘48. The maps spray-painted on the walls in Aida Camp match those printed by the Israeli tourism ministry in that there is no Green Line. The wall that towers over Aida Camp was not built on any internationally recognized border. The Israeli forces that invade in the middle of the night to arrest their brothers and fathers do not respect the autonomy of “Area A” — or rather, their coordination with the Palestinian Authority renders it a toothless proxy force. Meanwhile, demolition and displacement of Palestinian communities inside the ’48 borders reveal that Israeli apartheid is not limited to the occupied territories. The Palestinian freedom struggle isn’t just about the occupation of ‘67. It’s about Zionism as practiced by the State of Israel since 1948.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

Shachaf Polakow

This photograph was taken in Nilin 2009, during the construction of the separation wall. When you stand at the top of the hills of Nil’in you can see its old lands: the land that was stolen in 1948 near Lydda, the land that was stolen during the construction of separation wall, and the land on which the Jewish settlement of Hashmonaim was built during the early Oslo years. The occupation for me, and as can be seen through this specific landscape, is about the displacement of the Palestinian people and the ongoing attempts by Israel to push them out from consciousness of the Israeli/Jewish people that live here. This movements/acts of separation never stop, and almost every day a Palestinian family lose its home. This is the occupation as I see it.

Shachaf Polakow/

Shachaf Polakow/

Anne Paq

I took this picture only a few months after I arrived in Palestine, in 2003. It is still for me one of my strongest and I always go back to it. I think it is because this “David versus Goliath” photo for me embodies the essence of the occupation and lays down in a very striking and visual manner the disparity of powers in place.

That day at the Qalandiya checkpoint, which at that time was much smaller than it is now, was totally closed. Many Palestinians were upset because they could not go back to their homes in Jerusalem. The tension was palpable. The Israeli soldiers were shouting at everyone. I noticed a Palestinian kid who was trying his luck to bypass the soldiers, until he faced a huge soldier who raised his hand and eyes toward him as he was about to hit him. It was that moment I caught on camera. For me this frame says everything about the system of domination, the humiliation, the environment in which the Palestinian children grow up, the control of every aspects of life, and the violence inherent to the system of the occupation.

Anne Paq/

Anne Paq/

Omar Sammer

This photo was taken after the Mosque in Umm al-Fahm was burned by a group of Israelis who also sprayed hate-graffiti over the building. It was a very difficult day for the residents of the city. Many people came to prayers following the event, and there was not enough space for all the men’s shoes inside, so they were put near the wall outside, just underneath the graffiti that called for my people’s — any my own — expulsion from their own homes. There is, of course, a direct link between price tags attacks inside Israel and in the West Bank. They all reflect a strong wish of some Israeli Jews for the disappearance of the Palestinian people from this land. But we are here. I was born in Umm al-Fahm, and I want peace.

Omar Sameer/

Omar Sameer/

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    1. Rab

      Anne Paq’s photo does not show a soldier about to hit a child. It shows a photo of a soldier speaking to a child. It even looks as if he’s explaining something to him.

      Reply to Comment
      • Victor

        Yes you are right , looks like this is a very “friendly” Guy. You can’t be serious !!! This will have an impact , especiallly foryoun childern

        Reply to Comment
        • Rab

          He doesn’t look friendly?

          He’s wearing a uniform. His gun is down, he’s talking to the kid and his hand is motioned as if he’s explaining something. The two kids in the back of the photo aren’t running away.

          As the photographer explains, she was newly in Israel. It’s possible she doesn’t understand what she saw.

          Reply to Comment
          • Mary Hughes Thompson

            Anna was not in Israel. This picture was taken in occupied Palestine. The child is home. The soldier is an intruder.

            Reply to Comment
          • Rab

            There is no such thing as “occupied Palestine.” There is an occupied territory east of the Green Line and west of the Jordan River. This territory, known historically as Judea and Samaria, was reserved by the international community as the Jewish people’s national home. You seem very confused.

            Reply to Comment
          • JG

            No babe, the international community tell you since decades to go the fuck out of this occupied Palestine territory

            Reply to Comment
          • Rab

            Actually, the international community is perfectly fine with Israel being in there. That’s why they signed off on UNSCR 242. By the way, since the PLO also signed off on 242 in the Oslo Accords, apparently they’re fine with Israel’s presence there as well.

            To remind you, 242 requires Israel to leave some of the territories but only after the countries surrounding it have agreed to live in peace with it within recognized borders. A very strong claim can be made that by leaving Gaza entirely, Israel has already fulfilled the part of 242 which relates to leaving territory.

            Reply to Comment
          • gabi

            “There is no such thing as “occupied Palestine.” There is an occupied territory east of the Green Line and west of the Jordan River. This territory, known historically as Judea and Samaria, was reserved by the international community as the Jewish people’s national home. You seem very confused.” Actually, I think you are confused. Judea and Samaria were NOT part of the land allocated to the Jews in the UN Partition Plan. Have a look at a map. And that is why the West Bank is”occupied” by the presence of the settlers, and the IOF.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            No, you are confused. The Partition Plan, which was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs, was never implemented and, being a UNGA resolution, therefore has no standing in international law.

            However, San Remo, the Mandate and Article 80 of the UN Charter do hold sway and they specify that the land from the ocean to the Jordan River is to be a national home for the Jews.

            Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        It’s her own photo, she explains what is happening. You only see an instant of the action in that photo, neither what happened before nor after.

        I’ve seen Bassem Abu Rahmeh nickname transcribed in many ways: Phil, Pheel not never “Fill” before…
        فيل (elephant) is pronounced ‘fiil.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Baladi Akka 1948

      PS. I fogot to mention: to the Palestinians, the occupation has been going on for 66 (not 47) years.

      Reply to Comment
    3. anne paq

      Rab; I was there, I took the pic, and I know what happened…the Israeli soldier was not “speaking” but shouting.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rab

        What was he shouting?

        Do you speak Hebrew? Arabic?

        Is it possible that he was warning the child to stay away from a danger zone? How would you know?

        Did the child throw rocks at him before you arrived? Is that why the soldier was shouting? How would you know?

        Really, I’m astounded by the automatic negative inference here. It’s very possible the soldier was saving the child from future harm. Why don’t you ask one of the writers here, Noam Sheizaf, whether he would shout at kids sometimes while he was serving in the IDF in order to ensure they would stay out of trouble, or whether he just brutalized them? Go ahead, there are a number of writers from 972 who must have served in Judea and Samaria.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Eric Matez

      Israel is fighting back because they were not given a place to live by the Palestinians and had been persecuted throughout history. Now the tables have turned and they are the big man on campus. Until we as a species can figure out to share this place amicably, we are at risk of ending our brief stay here. It will be a crying shame, especially when we are all one big family and the Palestinians and the Jews, closer than most.

      Reply to Comment
    5. David

      Prophetic comments by 3 eminent Jews:

      Asked to sign a petition supporting settlement of Jews in Palestine, Sigmund Freud declined: “I cannot…I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state….It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land….I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.” (Letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler Keren HaYassod, Vienna: 2/26/30)

      Albert Einstein, 1939: “There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people…. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs.”

      Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, 1944: “The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to launch a singular innovation in world affairs which might well have incalculable consequences.”

      Reply to Comment
    6. gabi

      remind you, 242 requires Israel to leave some of the territories but
      only after the countries surrounding it have agreed to live in peace
      with it within recognized borders. A very strong claim can be made that
      by leaving Gaza entirely, Israel has already fulfilled the part of 242
      which relates to leaving territory.”

      No, Res. 242 of 22 November 1967 reads:

      “The Security Council,
      Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,
      Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,
      Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

      1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

      (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

      (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

      2. Affirms further the necessity

      (a) For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

      (b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

      (c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

      3. Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

      4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.
      Adopted unanimously at the 1382nd meeting.”

      No reference to withdrawing from “some territories”. And have a look at the second paragraph, above. Then have a look at Article 2. Then, maybe, you can make further comment . . . . .

      Reply to Comment
      • Bar

        I don’t have the patience to educate all of you on a daily basis.

        Why don’t you do a google search for Rostow and 242 and learn something.

        Reply to Comment
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