What We Are Is Only What We Do

Huwaida Araf is a young American of Palestinian descent and a founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Here is a video of what it means to have the courage of your convictions

In 2003 I was in Rafah, Gaza on the day Rachel Corrie, another brave woman, another member of the ISM, was crushed under an Israeli bulldozer while trying to stop it from destroying the house of a Palestinian doctor along the Rafah/Egypt border.

She, and her ISM colleagues, showed me then too what it means to have the courage of your convictions. I had known her briefly – we would often run in to each other in Rafah, and even shared a lunch one afternoon as we discussed how control of water sources in the West Bank may be determining where settlements and Israeli presence is focused.

Then, as today, the Palestinian protesters were engaged in non-violent resistance to a brutal, maiming, dehumanizing and murderous occupation force.

Members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) block Israeli tanks accompanying armoured bulldozers used for destroying Palestinians homes along the Gaza-Egypt border - September 2003
Members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) block Israeli tanks accompanying armoured bulldozers used for destroying Palestinians homes along the Gaza-Egypt border – September 2003 Photo By Asim Rafiqui

I had never met a young woman like her – passionate, committed, sharply intelligent and determined.  She was only 24 years old.

At 24 I was still trying to figure out how to date women!

And they were all young and from many different countries around the world.  And some paid with their lives while fighting for something they believed in, something that gave them a reason to live before it killed them.

Rachel Corrie died that year, and so did Tom Hurndall just a few months later.  Shot by an Israeli sniper he too was 24, young, and committed.  His killer was a Bedouin in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who was singled out for prosecution despite his statement that there was a policy of shooting at unarmed civilians in effect.

I suspect that there still is.

It is conventionally believed, and the truly ignorant and arrogant will lecture the Palestinians on this, that the Palestinians have not engaged in non-violent resistance to the occupation.

The facts are that that is all that they mostly day.  Every day and all the time.

The construction of the separation Wall has been resisted peacefully each and every day of its existence and these peaceful protests have been met with live bullets, tear gas and beatings.  I know, I have been there.  And yet they continue, despite the threats to their lives.  The Palestinians even went to the highest court that would hear them – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and presented their case.

The ICJ found that the construction of the wall and its associated regime were in breach of international human rights and humanitarian law.  It also said that Israel was under an obligation to cease construction of the wall, dismantle the structure and make reparation for all damage caused by that project.

That was back in the summer of 2004.

Many deaths ago.

Many disppossessed acres go.

Many lost olive groves ago.

Many lost school days ago.

Many humiliations ago.

Many summary arrests go.

Many settlements go.

Many beatings ago.

Many imprisonments ago.

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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

The project is now complete. Although, we may never really complete the telling of this remarkable story. You can see the project by clicking on this link here, or on the image below.


Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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