FIRST-PERSON NARRATIVES OF ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT
Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
TOLD THROUGH UNIQUE, MULTI-MEDIA PHOTO EXHIBIT:
This Land To Me: Some Call It Palestine, Others Israel
--Prominent Israeli and Palestinian to Speak at Sept. 15 Opening--
FLUSHING, NY, September 1, 2005 — Few issues fuel global tensions and violence like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet what do we really know about it beyond the bloody images filtered through the nightly news? In This Land To Me: Some Call It Palestine, Others Israel, photojournalist Barbara Grover provides the opportunity to explore multiple personal perspectives through her deeply moving and challenging depiction of the struggle.
The Michael Harrington Center and the Godwin-Ternbach Museum of Queens College, in association with the Taft Institute, are sponsoring this innovative exhibition, on view from Thursday, September 15 through Thursday, December 15, with an opening reception on September 15 from 6 to 8 pm. Grover will be present to comment on her work. Also at the reception will be Yossi Alpher, former intelligence officer in the Israeli Defense Forces and analyst with Mossad (Israel’s Intelligence Service), and Dr. Ahmad Khalidi, a scholar and senior advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team, who will both speak about “The Elusive Search for Peace.” The public is invited.
This Land To Me explores one of the world’s most critical issues through life-size photographs and first-person narratives of a cross section of Israelis and Palestinians. The exhibition, shown only once before (in Los Angeles last year), will travel throughout the United States and abroad after leaving Queens College. It is being presented as part of a public education project, “The Middle East and America: Clash of Civilizations or Meeting of the Minds,” organized and taught by Mark Rosenblum, Queens College Professor of History and Director of the college’s Michael Harrington Center. The project has received national media attention.
“This exhibition challenges viewers to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through competing prisms of pain,” says Rosenblum. “Yet these dueling national narratives also project a vision of potential reconciliation—of hope without delusion.
“We have initiated this program at an historical moment, in the midst of the tumultuous
Israeli evacuation of Gaza and the northern part of the West Bank. In order to help shed light on this time of promise and peril, our opening reception includes a dialogue with these two prominent Israeli and Palestinian security experts who have been intimately involved in the elusive quest for peace.”
Hanging free-form, the 12 large black-and-white photo-portraits are paired with 12 panels bearing first-person narratives by the individuals portrayed. With this approach, Grover offers a unique opportunity for a life-like encounter with six Israelis and six Palestinians on a very human level. Viewers are surrounded by images, words and voices (an audio with excerpts from the actual interviews) as they make their way through the installation. Each image shows the subject looking directly into the camera, as if looking into the viewer’s eyes; each narrative candidly answers the question of what the land means to the subject.
“This installation provides a total experience,” comments Amy Winter, Director of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum. “In themselves, the photographs are powerful—life-size presences that could stand on their own as fine photographic portraiture. But the narratives belie the beauty of the images, because when read and heard, they reveal the pain and struggle seething below the surface. In doing this, Grover appropriates and transforms the usual logic of photojournalism’s presentation of image and caption, to create a new genre that is not as easily perused or dismissed as magazines, newspapers, or customary museum presentations.”
“I was determined to find a way to let the public have the same kind of enlightening, face-to-face encounters I had,” says Grover, who began the project in 2000 while on assignment for a non-profit agency in the Middle East. There, she became closely involved with Israelis and Palestinians from all walks of life—individuals who revealed their common bonds, as well as the complexities that make Middle East peace so elusive. She was struck by the “disconnect” between what she as a journalist was witnessing and what the average person abroad understands about the conflict.
During the summer of 2002, Grover traveled from the refugee camps and villages of Gaza and the West Bank, through the cities of Israel, to the kibbutzes on the Lebanese border, where she photographed and conducted interviews.
“I felt that a new approach to photojournalism was needed to combat the visual fatigue that has set in around this issue,” Grover continues. “My hope is that with this installation, I have provided an opportunity to see beyond the stereotypes and into the humanity, and that viewers might leave with deeper understanding.”
Comments Rosenblum: “The 12 individuals featured in this installation are not the only ones who need to be seen and heard. They represent an invitation to a conversation that will be expanded and enriched by including the highly diverse students of Queens College and the broader Queens community.”
In conjunction with the goals of the public education project to stimulate broader dialogue and tolerance, a series of related public programs will be held in the Godwin-Ternbach Museum.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 7 PM – DOCUMENTARY FILM
Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in Israel
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 12:30 PM – EXHIBITION WALK-THROUGH
Amy Winter, Director and Curator, Godwin-Ternbach Museum
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 7 PM – DOCUMENTARY FILM
Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land: U.S. Media and the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 3:30 PM – FEATURE-LENGTH FILM
Paradise Now, with director and screenwriter Hany Abu-Assad
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 7 PM – DOCUMENTARY FILM
Behind Enemy Lines, by Israeli Filmmaker Dov Gil-Har
Screenings of films with discussion will be facilitated by Professor Rosenblum and students in his class “Lens on Israel and Palestine: Visions of Conflict and Resolution.”
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 5:30 PM – OPEN FORUM
“The Word on the Street: Trends in Israeli and Palestinian Public Opinion”
A dialogue between Dr. Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research, and Dr. Asher Arian, Director of the National Security Policy and Public Opinion Project of Tel Aviv University.
For further information about the exhibition and programs, contact the Michael Harrington Center (718) 997-3070 or the Godwin-Ternbach Museum (718) 997-4747 or visit www.qc.cuny.edu/godwin_ternbach.
This Land To Me: Some Call It Palestine, Others Israel, on exhibition from September 15 through December 15, can be viewed from Monday through Thursday, 11 am – 7 pm, and on Saturday from 11 am – 5 pm. Admission is free. For directions to Queens College, please visit: http://www.qc.edu/about/directions.php.
This project is presented at Queens College by the Michael Harrington Center, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, the Taft Institute, and the Friends of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum.