In this piece linked below, Activestills photographer Ryan Rodrick Beiler expresses a key idea and purpose of this blog and my research. There are images of peace and images of peace. He criticizes a “PR” image of peace, an image of peace that is and will remain an unfulfilled wish, forever deferred, because, sadly, there will (from the Israeli-Jewish perspective) never be enough people of good will on the other (Palestinian) side. The image of the boys that the article talks about is an image that Netanyahu could endorse, an image of coexistence in which nothing needs to change except “perception” or “attitudes”. If only “they” didn’t hate us it would all be fine, and we would live in “peace” and they wouldn’t mind that we dispossessed them and occupied them. But as it is, “there is no partner for peace,” so instead we will continue to like these images of coexistence and say it’s a shame that they don’t like them.
The recent talk about the photograph in the Jewish Daily Forward, following Rihanna’s tweeting it, characterizes the photo as a fake, because it is staged photo of two Jewish Israeli boys. However, as the photographer Ricki Rosen said “t was a symbolic illustration,… It was never supposed to be a documentary photo.” She’s right that it isn’t a “fake” and in that sense it’s no more fake than another similar photo by Debbi Cooper that’s touted as being a “real” one in a follow-up piece. That photo does picture a Palestinian and Jewish Israeli boy, but it’s also staged in that the boys were not already friends. As the photographer reportedly said “it was always aspirational, rather than a reflection of the situation between Israelis and Palestinians on the ground” at the time of the first intifada.
In his piece Beiler also calls Rosen’s picture a fake. But he seems to mean something different to the discussion in Forward when he says that the photo was a “more-perfect-than-intended allegory” of the Oslo process and its more recent iterations. His point is less that th ephot is fake than that peace process is itself a fake. As he says, ” images like this endure and proliferate — because people in the West cling to the idea that if we all just came together as human beings, we could solve this thing. The problem with that fantasy is that it ignores the structures of Israeli oppression, in which one side holds virtually all of the power.” Instead, Beiler produces and advocates for other images of peace, images of just peace, in which occupation is overcome in Jewish-Arab partnership. This peace is hard work, sometimes dangerous work, work that puts activists at odds with people from their own communities, but it is peace.