Art of the Arab–Israeli conflict

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Art of the Arab–Israeli conflict refers to paintings, posters, sculptures, photography, videos, installation art and other visual media produced by artists who have been exposed to the conflict and who bring images of terror into their work. These artworks are produced in the geographical region of Israel and Palestine and also includes artists from West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and the United States.

In terms of subject matter, themes that have dominated this art have shifted over the years from images of rootlessness and displacement after 1948 to youthful and robust fighters in the 1960s.[1] Today many artists directly illustrate terrorism and violence on civilians and use images and symbols that depict life under terrorism such as suicide bombers, the Wall, Israeli checkpoints, weapons, stones and tanks, tents and camps.

Since 2000, newspaper and television images of violence, destruction and despair, the very by-products of terrorist acts, have influenced a generation of new work with artists reworking these images into aesthetics objects with terror at its core.

Reactions to these art works are fragmented, controversial and intense. Exhibits in the United States such as Made in Palestine,[2] which opened in San Francisco in 2005 and The Aesthetics of Terror,[3] which was to open at the Chelsea Art Museum in NYC in the September 2008 were shut down early or canceled.

Symbols, imagery and themes[edit]

Symbols, imagery and themes used among these artists in their works influenced by the conflict include: military symbols of war including soldiers, ammunition such as stones and rifles, missiles and army tanks; symbols of occupation and security include roadblocks, barricades, checkpoints, and The Wall; images of terror and death include portraits, photographs and videos of male and female suicide bombers, buses after they have been blown up, the aftermath of suicide bombing sites, body bags, pools of blood and blood stains; and finally, themes of oppression, which include entrapment and victimization include images of strip searches, weeping women holding children, motherless children, tents in refugee camps, and prisons.

Post-1948 art from Israel[edit]

A considerable number of works were painted immediately after the 1948 fighting. Israeli artists responded with a desire to erect an artistic monument, a "Hebrew Guernica" to respond to Israel's birth as a nation and the 1948 Declaration of Independence.[4]

Israeli artists and their paintings emulating Guernica include: Marcel Janco's (1895–1984), Death of a Soldier, 1949, which is a monument to the fallen, is derived directly from Guernica but composed of blues from the Israeli flag rather than Picasso's grays; Zvi Gali's (1921–1962), Sovereignty, 1949, which focuses on the Picassoesque figure of a horse: the steed of a victor, not a victim; and, Aharon Kahana's War and Peace, 1948, painted in postcubist style using colors of gray, black and white in the manner of Guernica and depicting a confrontation between the hosts of anti-Semitic evil (a barbarian warrior, a Christian priest and a Roman soldier trampling on skulls) and the Hebrew legions of virtue (a Jewish soldier with a submachine gun, flanked by a figure with a stone tablet, flowers blooming under his feet).[4]

Several other 1948 artists in Israel worked on images of the battle for Jerusalem and expanded their themes to embrace combat and soldiers as both heroes and victims and include artist Ludwig Blum, who painted Roadblocks of Jaffa Street, 1948. Blum also painted various combat sectors, portraits of the city's soldier-defenders as well as the massive explosion on Ben Yuhdua Street, where he lived at the time; Naphtali Bezem's (1924–) The Battle of Ramat Rachel, 1953 depicted a soldier firing over the carcass of a cow and is part of a motif of paintings about of the battle for Jerusalem which includes a wounded soldier on the city walls and a mother grieving at her son's grave.

Marcel Janco's (1895–1984) Wounded Soldier, of which there are many versions between 1948–1952 are complete with Israeli national symbols such as the seven-branch menorah and the olive branch, which were adopted as emblems of the new state upon its proclamation. Other work that include soldiers include Aharon Avni's Self-Portrait as a Soldier, 1948; Arieh Allweil's Warrior Women, 1948; Yossi Stern's, War, 1948; Moshe Tamir's, Amnon Wounded, 1948; and, Avigdor Ariha's, Sleeping Soldier, 1948.[4]

Post-1948 or post-Nakba art from Palestine[edit]

While 1967 is viewed from an Israeli perspective as the date marking the reunification or birth of Jerusalem, for Palestinians, 1948 became the defining date known as the Nakba (the catastrophe). Prior to 1948 (1885–1955), icon painting was developed as one of the country's earliest tradition of picture making.[5]

Post-Nabka art was promoted by the Palestinian establishment and included themes of torment and trauma of exile. One of the first artists to emerge in this period was Ismail Shammout. His best known painting is Whereto?, 1953, which presents a life-size image of an elderly man, dressed in rags, unkempt with grey hair, virile face overwhelmed by grief. He holds a walking stick (the symbol of a wanderer) and on his shoulder he carries a sleeping child. A weeping child holds his right hand and looks up to him in a mournful gaze. In the background a distant Arab town or large village can be seen. A withered tree on a desolate terrain separates the man from the distant homeland left behind.[5]

In addition to paintings of displaced refugees, themes of paradise lost were brought to the fore by artist Ibrahim Ghannam (1930–1984), who painted scenes of pre-1948 Palestinian village life. Ghannam's colorful narrative of life in Yajur depicts golden fields of harvest, thriving orange groves, and jubilant peasants at work. Through his paintings, Ghannam preserved for a generation born in the camps the legends of one of the villages demolished after the Palestinian exodus.[6]

As a result of the uprootedness of Palestinian society, Palestinian art entered another phase (1955–65) where pioneers, mainly raised above the refugee population, gave birth to a new art movement that emphasized a secular national Palestinian identity and addressed its nation building imperatives. Works created by artists targeted both Palestinian and international audiences with images of human suffering that might elicit sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people and to help rally political support for their cause.[5]

With the foundation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1960s, images of young men and women, which were absent in earlier paintings of refugees and exiled life, appeared in Palestinian paintings. Figures of helpless refugees were replaced with youthful and robust fighters. This genre of art was directly based on militant poems and displayed muscular warriors in an armed-struggle.[5]

However, what began as a desire to overcome a sense of weakness and victimization had been criticized by Palestinian intellectual and scholar, Edward Said, who in his 1986 book, After the Last Sky, wrote of his concerned of the detrimental effects the warrior images may have on Palestinian culture and society, stating these images could be instrumental in transforming Palestinians into stereotypical "terrorists" in the eyes of the West.

Israeli and Palestinian art during 1970–1980[edit]

Books, exhibitions and art projects[edit]

In 1984, an illustrated volume by Palestinian artists Isam Bader and Nabil Anani, titled, Palestinian Art Under Occupation was published in Arabic in Ramallah. Bader and Anani along with fellow artists Rahab Nammari and Ibrahim Saba registered their group as the West Bank and Gaza branch of the League of Palestinian Artists.

The League of Palestinian Artists began to operate and organize exhibitions and cultural activities from 1975 including three exhibits set up by the league in 1975, 1977, and 1978, three thematic group shows including The Palestinian Child in 1979, Prisoner's Day, in 1980) and The Palestinian Village in 1981. Their book also includes a compilation of newspaper clippings documenting the closing of Gallery 79 in Ramallah by the Israeli military authorities in 1979 and the first joint Israeli–Palestinian exhibition organized in 1982, which was organized as a protest against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967.[5]

In 1980, Israel banned art exhibitions and paintings of "political significance." The grouping of the four colors of the Palestinian flags in any one painting was also forbidden.[7] Most young Israel Artist opted for voluntary withdrawal from their surroundings – political, social and environmental.[4]

Principal features of Israeli political art works were the environment, dual location, and the unifying of opposites: Arab–Jew, Occupied–Unoccupied, the political left versus the political right.[4]

The casualty toll in the 1969–70 War of Attrition along the Suez Canal and the 1973 Yom Kippur War brought protests from both the Left and Right and inspired artists with the need to tackle social issues and political reality. This yearning for social and political reform prompted and inspired a broader artistic context that showed a significant attachment to time and place by a preoccupation with the soil, which was political in origin. Creating art in the occupied territories would be a way to heal the landscape wound.[4]

In 1980 the Israel Museum mounted an exhibit entitled Borders, which emphasized the impact of geographic and political boundaries that permeated Israeli art. A highlight of the exhibition was the Metzer-Misser project, which documented the work of a group of ten or so artists in the summer of 1972 at the boundary between the Israeli Kibbutz Metzer and the Arab village of Misser, near the “Green Line,” also known as the 1967 Border.[4]

For this project, the Israeli artists were to work with environmental materials to creatively and effectively unite two opposing peoples and cultures. In one project, Soil Exchange, artist Micha Ullman (born in Tel Aviv, 1939) built two large earthen shelter-like structures and recruited young Jews and Arabs from the kibbutz and the village to meet for discussions, dig identical pits and to exchange soil.

Other art in the Misser-Metzer project included Dov Orner's Garbage Burial, 1972, and Avital Gena's Regional Library, 1972.[4]

Artist Phinas Cohen Gan (born in Morocco in 1942 and immigrated to Israel in 1949) planted metal ingots at various points along Israel's borders (the locations where he was stopped by security patrols) and invited Arab artists to plant similar ingots on their side of the line, thereby creating an artistic border, in contrast with the military or governmental border. Later, Cohen Gan, a self-proclaimed refugee, would set up his own tent in a Jericho refugee camp, A Tent in Jericho Refugee Camp, 1974, where he addressed a handful of listeners on the essence of being a refugee.[4]

Three years after Misser-Metzer project another political-artist event was launched in the Golan Heights. To illustrate the issues of the relationship between home territory and occupied territory and a personal identity of being torn between cultures, artist Gerry Marx (born in New York, 1941) scattered photographs he had recently taken in both Jewish West Jerusalem and Arab East Jerusalem over the tilled soil in the settlement of Ramat Magshimim and took a loaded rifle and open fire at the photos, Jerusalem Shots, 1975.[4] The resulting photos looked like debris-covered frames of war-torn towns strewn with wreckage and destroyed by gunfire.

Other works to come out of this event included Joshua Neustein's Territory, 1975, which are photos of a German Shepherd urinating every few paces to delineate territory. Neustein placed that read "Vital Territory" wherever the animal relieved itself and on territory marked by the governments.[4] Shortly after, Neustein (born in Poland, 1940) began a series of works called Territorial Imperative that demarcated points of violent international boundary dispute. After visiting the Golan Heights, Israeli/Syrian border (1976), he went on to Belfast, Northern Ireland (1977), Kassel, East/West border (1977), and Krusa, German/Danish border (1978) with a male dog that urinated on the land at each site.[8]

Performance art[edit]

The work of many artists in the eighties was influenced by performance art.[4] Artist Mona Hatoum performed most of her work in London. Hatoum was born in Beirut in 1952, the youngest daughter of Palestinian exiles from Haifa. Her family left Haifa, along with 70,000 other Arab inhabitants on April 21 and 22, 1948 when Jewish forces began to bombard the city’s Arab districts.[5]

Hatoum’s art, Under Siege was performed London 1982. By placing her naked body within a small claustrophobic plastic cell, Hatoum both attempted to relate to her identification with the Palestinian experience and to make a statement about Palestinians’ struggle to survive in a continuous state of siege.[5]

In reaction to the massacres of September 1982, when Lebanese Christian Phalange forces (Israel’s Lebanese allies) invaded the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, Hatoum performed The Negotiating Table in 1983. In this performance, Hatoum lies atop a table, her body covered with entrails bulging from her abdomen, which is wrapped in bandages and blood inside a plastic body bag that covers her from head to toe. Chairs were placed around the table where she lay and sound tapes of speeches of Western leaders talking about peace played throughout the performance.[5]

1990 – Present, terror imagery in art[edit]

Media images of terror[edit]

Images of terror and conflict have been amplified by the global media, making it into something that is no longer only occurring in distant regions, where it has been ignored, unseen and unheard, but also in the forefront or our collective consciousness.[9]

Today terrorist acts are image-producing events. For many artists, reworking or reframing media images in ways that are different from their normal viewing enables viewer to see images to which they have become immune or desensitized in a new light. However, critics feel reworking press images can mute their political meaning or radicalize them.[10]

Members of the art movement Futurism supported the idea that violence and terror are legitimate tools, which must be used if artists are to gain influence. There is the dilemma that choosing terror as a topic as this type of art may be reduced to a political trope. However, there is the concern that art with no reference to context my become irrelevant.[11]

Art created in the during the advent of multimedia, the Internet and global 24-hour news cycles can fit a spectrum that has direct media art on one end and abstract political art on the other.[11]

Abstract political art describes work that mixes aesthetics and politics by using direct images and themes that are political in context but created with an effort to leave the images as abstract and as universal as possible. These works do not clearly indicate and exact location or time of a specific event or occurrence so while one may recognize a concrete political context, there is always another layer of meaning.[11]

In direct media art, the artist blurs, narrows, and almost eliminates the gap between art and media. The artists directly "quote" or "plant" media images in their art with very little interpretation, manipulation or processing in terms of technique of themes.[11]

Direct media art[edit]

Dganit Berest's (born in Israel, 1949) The Wall, 2004 is a poster-like piece that includes the direct image of a suicide bomber, Ramez Obeyed, looking the viewer directly in the eye. Large writing appears beneath his photo. The bomber (also an art student) blew himself up in a Tel Aviv shopping mall killing 13 people on the eve of Purim, March 4, 1996. The intent of this work is to remind the viewer there is no monster behind the "dry" terminology the Israeli media uses and attempts to elicit empathy in the fact that the bomber was so young and also an art student.[11]

David Tartakover, a graphic designer and politically engaged artist. Images in his work are taken directly from the media (with the photographer's approval) and is slightly manipulated. Tartakover's series titled, I'm Here is based on press photographs depicting acts of terror, such as images taken at the scene in the aftermath of a suicide bombing. Ziv Koren took the original image, but Tartakover always adds an image of himself to the original photo. In the photo, Tartakover is wearing a yellow vest and carrying a wounded victim as though he took part in the rescue. The word "Artist" is printed on his vest, instead of "doctor," "paramedic," or "police."[11]

Abstract political art[edit]

David Reeb (born in Tel Aviv, 1952) paints from photographs (particularly the work of Miki Kratsman, photojournalist covering Palestine for Haaretz since 1986 )[12] or from images taken from the television news covering the Arab–Israeli conflict. His paintings deal with painting under the conditions of the Occupation. The photographs are remade by Reeb are for the so-called "aesthetic" eye, those that will see his work in museums and galleries.[13]

Reeb's Let's Have Another War #5 (2005), is part of a series of 15 paintings and is based on two photographs by Kratsman, who works for the newspaper Haaretz. The photos were taken in the Occupied Territories in September 1996. The photograph of the event marked the beginning of a war in which over two hundred people were killed and which was partly provoked by the Israeli's decision to start an archeological dig beneath the Dome of the Rock in Old Jerusalem. These events were called by the Israelis "the last war," meaning the most recent war rather than the final war.[14]

In Let's Have Another War #5 the painting is dissected horizontally into two images by the painting's slogan, two competing senses of occupation and security, power and liberation, and oppression and freedom, all being enacted in the juxtaposed images. To most familiar with the images of the conflict, the assumption is the two figures firing in the upper images are Israel soldiers and the figures emerging from the cinema below are Palestinians in fear of being shot. However, the figures shooting are Palestinian policeman firing at Israeli soldiers. It was during this period that a Palestinian policeman shot an Israeli soldier for the first time. However, it is unclear whether the Kratsman photo used by Reeb for this painting was actually taken during this exact event. On the bottom half of the painting, we see Palestinians emerging from the cinema either as innocent targets or merely to see what is going on.[14]

In Reeb's Jerusalem Picture #2, (1997) the upper sections of the canvas depicts army tanks rolling through the streets of Jerusalem while the lower section shows Hasidic Jews praying at the Temple Wall. The painting is dissected by the line of the front tank wheel, symbolically pitting military power and might against religious law. The border of divisions in the canvas referred to in the series refers to the physical geopolitical borders between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.[13]

Artist David Wackstein (born in Israel, 1954) uses images taken from the media, but makes an effort to disguise their origins. His work is based on caricatures that have recently appeared in Arab newspapers and depict Israelis as oppressors (in most cases they are shown as Nazis). For example, in Swastika, 2001 Wackstein creates a mosaic depicting the former Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, as a walking Swastika, his fists raised as if ready for battle. However, the Prime Minister in the mosaic is wearing a yellow stripe as a symbol of Jewish history, as if pleading, "I am miserable."[11] (Hitler forced Jews to wear a yellow Star of David as a "badge of shame."[15]) Wackstein's work shows once-abused Jews as having in turn, become the aggressor.

Israeli artist Merav Sodaey (born in Israel, 1975) takes press and translates into her own private imagery. In Female Suicide Bombers for Male Suicide Bombers, acrylic on canvas, Sodeay image imitates Gobelin needlework but the images are of a body hacked to pieces. (Palestinian terrorist organizations invest great resources in recruiting young men and young women for their jihad. Men are persuaded to sacrifice their lives for the liberation of their land from the Zionist conqueror and in return, they would gain seventy-two pure virgins in heaven. Female suicide bombers are enticed by the promise of a wedding to be celebrated in heaven with their betrothed – the male suicide bombers.[11]) Another of Sodaey's drawings include Bus Line 32a, which is based on a press photo of the 32a bus after it was blown up in Jerusalem in 2002.[11]

Photos by artist Guy Raz (born Israel, 1964) are another example of abstract political art reacting to terror. Raz chooses sites in Israel where acts of terror have taken place, but the images do not include any concrete reference or sign so only those familiar with the Israeli vocabulary of terror images might recognize these sites. Raz's photographs Two Seconds, 2004 indirectly relates to suicide bombing site in Israel where a bombing had taken place ten years earlier.[16] Using the idea that two seconds is the time it takes for a suicide bomber to trigger his or her explosive belt, Raz takes a picture of a moving bus and keeps the aperture of his lens open for two seconds, resulting in a blur of an outspread bus in motion that appears to be speeding over the city streets. While his images represent terror the result is a surreal image that might look like a futuristic experiment in motion.[11]

Ivana Spinelli's (born in Italy, 1972) Global Sisters: Series 2 (2008) is a series of drawings and paintings of women suicide bombers. In these drawings, nude Barbie-like glamor figures are dressed in gas masks, hoods and suicide belts, holding hands and seemingly striking fashion-like poses for a camera. Like the other artist mentioned above, Spinelli uses photographs of these fashion poses taken from the web or newspapers to generate an archive of the new female warrior.[13]


Photographs have the power to determine what we recall of events and can provide a powerful reservoir in the process of shaping a collective memory. The question of authorship of the photos in Palestine of the conflict is complicated since the news images of the conflict and ongoing revolts were framed and shot by Miki Kratsman (an Israeli) but the production and staging belonged to the Palestinians, who created the images of stones versus tanks, women versus soldiers and masses versus military vehicles.[17]

Miki Kratsman, (born in Argentina in 1951 and immigrated to Israel in 1971) is an Israeli photojournalist who took black and white photos during the first Palestinian Intifada (1987–1993). Photos included youths throwing stones, women demonstrators and men rallying people to their cause.

Kratsman's photographs echoes Christian iconography – a Palestinian Pieta of a mother embracing her dead baby boy, a Palestinian staging a Doubting Thomas – a man pointing toward a hole in the stomach of a corpse left lying on the ground.[18] [19] Other works by Kratsman include Displaced, a series of portraits taken in August 2010 at the Bedouin villages Wadi El-Na'am, El-arakib and Tuawil in the south of Israel. Kratsman lived in the Negev documenting the Bedouin’s lives, their evacuation from their houses and the demolition of the village of El-Arakib by the Israeli governments.

Yoav Horesh (born in Israel, 1975) is also photographer. Horesh's series, Aftermath, 2002–2005, focuses on where suicide bombings have occurred.[10] In this series of photographs, he explored the sites of recent terrorist attacks in Israel after they had been hastily repaired and the destruction had been erased not only from the landscape, but also from the collective memory of Israelis. Instead of being perceived and experienced as a narrative or as an historical moment, the photographs are read as a disruption of time and space, or trauma. The very absence of devastation in these places (as with Gil's work) draws attention to the attempt to erase the trauma and thereby gives the situation a presence that resists and confronts the desire not to see and not to remember. Horesh's work includes over one hundred different sites where a history of violence has been removed.[20]

Non-media terror in art[edit]


Unlike Israeli artist Dganit Berest's use of a direct image of a suicide bomber in The Wall, Rosee Rosen's (born in Israel, 1963) 1991–1993 portrait paintings of suicide bombers are portraits using his friends and self-portraits of himself as Christian martyrs in an effort to perhaps elicit sympathy. Rosen's Martyr Paintings were shown in Tel Aviv in 1995 in the wake of the first wave of Palestinian suicide bombings in Israeli cities. In Rosen's work, martyrdom is examined with regard to iconophilia and self-portraiture. Martyr Perpetua II, 1993 and Martyr Lucy (1991) involve young men and women offering themselves for the cause and shows figures that undergo excruciating pain and torment caused by the pulling, tearing off and plucking of limbs.[17]

In Mohammad Abu Sall's (born in Gaza, 1976) A Strange Body (2002) are seen tank divisions and assault helicopters that regularly make incursions into a Gaza neighborhood, destroying homes, property, agriculture, and human life.[21]

Tyseer Barakat (born in Jabalya refugee Camp, Gaza 1959) creates images using burned materials that suggest the damage and cataclysm of Al Nakba (The Expulsion). His untitled works include several images of people versus tanks.[22]

Sculptures and installations[edit]

A sculpture by artist Carmit Gil continues the theme of buses and suicide bombings. Gil participated in the 2003 Venice Biennale, where her work was exhibited in the Central Pavilion.[23] Gil's Bus, 2002 appears to be a series of randomly placed bright red poles dispersed over a white open space. However, Gils' minimalist sculpture is in fact, an interpretation of a bus skeleton. The viewer has no clue this was a vehicle of public transportation and the poles are the fragmented remains of a bus is encouraged to climb up the stairs. Soon, the viewer realizes the bright red climbing frame was a bus's floor and railings – the remains of a suicide bombing. Gil set out to show that the bus's remains, much like human remains, are cleaned up immediately after "the event", leaving no indication as to what has happened.[10]

In contrast to Carmet Gil's life-size Bus sculpture, artist Jan Tichy (born in Prague, 1974) works with small architectural models that make viewers feel they have entered a rabbit hole and become giants straddling a Lilliputian world.[24] Installed in darkened galleries with searchlight projections, his installations suggest entrapment and secret state institutions. Facility 1391 (2007) recreates a prison located close to the border between Israel and Palestine and resembles many of the Tegart-style, fortified police stations built during the British Mandate. Many of these prisons, constructed throughout Palestine, serve as military bases today. Facility 1391 is not marked on maps and has been erased from aerial photos, much like prisoners who disappear into its "black hole".[24]

Dror Feiler's (born Tel Aviv, 1951) Snow White and the Madness of Truth (2004) is an outdoor sound and water installation at Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. The installation consists of a large shallow pond filled with blood-colored water and in it a small floating boat that features a portrait of a female Palestinian suicide bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, who blew herself up on October 2003 in an attack on Maxim's restaurant in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, killing 21 people and injuring 51. While Jaradat's portrait is floating in a pool of blood-colored water, the sound of Bach's Mein Herze Schwimmt im Blut plays in the background.[25]

Fieler's installation was perceived as anti-Semitic, and caused the Israeli ambassador to Sweden to vandalized the piece (the event was filmed and televised). The Israeli government also tried to force the Swedish gallery to take down the piece but had no success. When the piece was re-exhibited later that same year, the curator was attacked by an unidentified man who tried to throw him down the stairs.[25]

Porcelain sculptures, Jewish Terrorists (2002), by artist Zoya Cherkassky (born in Kiev, 1976), were shown in Tel Aviv during the years of the Second Intifada, when Palestinian organizations where sending suicide bombers to Israel towns and the Israeli military reoccupied refugee camps and initiated targeted killings in Gaza and the West Bank. Cherkassky's figurines are of two Jewish terrorists, Fanny Kaplan and Herschel Grynszpan, pointing at their target. Fanny Kaplan, a Russian revolutionary and descendant from a Jewish family, shot and killed Vladimir Ilyich Lenin after he spoke at a Moscow factory on August 30, 1918. Herschel Grynzpan shot German Third Secretary Ernst von Rath in the German Embassy in Paris on November 7, 1938 to avenge the brutal abduction of his parents and other Jewish Poles from Germany.[24] As with Wackstein's Swastika, this work depicts Jews as the aggressor.

Military themes continue to populate modern Palestinian art. Rajie Cook is a Palestinian-American artist born in New Jersey. His work Ammo Box, which is filled with rocks and stones, part of the "Made in Palestine" exhibit in the US, is a pun on weaponry. The United States supplies Israel with the most sophisticated and powerful military equipment—Cobra helicopters, F-16 jet fighters, Merkava tanks, and intensive military training. These arms are primarily used against a civilian population that has little more than stones with which to defend themselves.[26]

Palestinian-American artist Nida Sinnokrot's Rubber-Coated Stones recall the rubber-coated bullets that Israeli soldiers regularly shoot at Palestinians. They also suggest the iconic image of Palestinian children, armed with nothing but stones, confronting tanks in the streets of their cities. Loose stones are plentiful in the Palestinian territories, as tank incursions have reduced many of their homes and roads to rubble.[27]

Film and video[edit]

Sharif Waked's (born in Palestine, 1964) Chic Point: Fashion for Israeli Checkpoints, is a seven-minute video clip that was released in 2003. In the clip male fashion models are dressed in clothes appropriate for body searches at the roadblocks and checkpoints.[10]

For his video, Waked designed and staged a fashion show in which the models walk a catwalk to the background of a heavy rhythmic beat, parading clothing strategically designed with nets, hoods, zippers and split fabric that reveal their lower backs, chests and abdomens through holes, gaps and splits in the fabric. The fashion show comes to an end as the catwalk fades and the viewer is transported to the reality of the checkpoints with a series of black and white still photos that document the systematic searches of Palestinian men shown lifting articles of clothing for inspection by Israeli soldiers.[13]

Filmmaker Catherine Yass, (b. 1963, Kiev) in her short film, Wall (2006) invokes the blockage of visibility as the dominant viewing condition of State control. Yass shot the Wall during a visit to Israel in 2005, while driving along various sections of the Separation Wall, some still under construction. The wall takes over the frame blocking out everything but a highly textured surface. This film depicts no people and records no voices but lingers on this seemingly endless snaking form. The wall's monolithic presence is deciphered only by the seams between its blocks as the camera crawls along its path. The film portrays terror as an enhanced process of abstraction.[13]

In 2005, Nida Sinnokrot filmed a documentary entitled Palestine Blues, which examines the grassroots resistance movement that has sprung up against the Israeli Security Wall and Settlement expansion in the Palestinian farming communities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

US exhibitions[edit]

Reactions to art works of terror and specifically to Palestinian-only shows in the United States have been controversial and intense.

Art exhibits on terror[edit]

In 2008, The Chelsea Art Museum canceled The Aesthetics of Terror, an exhibition that was scheduled to open in November 2008. The show's curator, Manon Slome, canceled the show and resigned from the museum as a result of significant differences in opinion regarding content and the direction. An artist involved in the show said in an email that museum president Dorothea Keeser "concluded that the show glorified terrorism and showed disrespect for its victims."[28] Slome later published a book entitled, “The Aesthetics of Terror,” which shows the works that were to be exhibited at the cancelled shows and discusses the controversy over showing works that depict terror.

Palestinian art exhibits[edit]

Exhibits that reflect Palestinian identity are also met with controversy and protests and pleas to either balance, censor or close the exhibits.

Made in Palestine which first showed in Houston in May 2003, was an exhibit that included 23 Palestinian artist. The exhibit drew the ire of some San Francisco politicians when it opened in San Francisco in April 2005 and there were pleas to close the show before its schedule end date. Two New York legislators and an assemblyman protested the fundraising efforts to were to bring the show to New York and called the exhibit a promotion of terrorism, anti-American and anti-Israel. Many museum and galleries that were interested in the show later cancelled fearing that hosting an exhibit that was all Palestinian could cost them their funding.[29]

The Bridge Gallery in New York City encountered significantly more resistance to the lead-up of its opening in March 2006, but was able to open with the help of several volunteers, personal donations and donated space. After the NY exhibit, the show was brought to Montpelier, VT in March 2006.[30]

In January 2005, The Ulrich Museum in Wichita, KS (affiliated with Wichita State University) hosted the exhibit, Where We Come From, by artist Emily Jacir, whose art address the complexities of the Palestine and Arab identity and experience. The Jewish Federation of Kansas demanded they be granted access to the museum in order to place a poster and political materials to balance Jacir's work. One rabbi protested to the local media and dismissed Jacir's work as "propaganda" and "a blatant anti-Semitic attempt to breed hatred."[30]

Jacir's work also appeared in the Made in Palestine exhibit. Memorial to 418 Palestinian Villages Which Were Destroyed, Depopulated, and Occupied by Israel in 1948, 2001, is an installation of a refugee tent with embroidery thread.[31]

In February 2005, a group exhibit of 16 contemporary artists, shown at the DePaul University Museum in Chicago entitled, The Subject of Palestine. During the weeks leading up to the show, newspapers and blogs leveled accusations at DePaul for "cultivating far-leftist anti-Semites and haters of America."[30]

The Museum of Children's Art in Oakland (MOCHA) cancelled its Palestinian children's art exhibit entitled, A Child's View From Gaza, due to pressure from local Jewish groups. The show featured drawings by children on Israel's Operation Cast Lead, the military assault of December 2008 – January 2009.[32]


  1. ^ Ankori, Gannit (2006). Palestinian Art. p. 48. 
  2. ^ Haddad, Linda Isam (20 April 2005). "Palestine US exhibits stirs controversy". Retrieved 20 April 2005. 
  3. ^ "Chelsea Art Museums Cancels Terror Show". Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ofrat, Gideon (1998). One Hundred Years of Art in Israel. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3377-6. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Ankori, Gannit (2006). Palestinian Art. London, UK: Reaktion Books Ltd. ISBN 1-86189-259-4. 
  6. ^ University of San Diego. "Palestinian Art". Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "Visual Arts". Institute for Middle Eastern Art. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Stiles, Dr. Kristine. "Powered Light and the Sound of Water". Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Lisa Muszynski, Matti Hyvarinen (2008). Terror and the Arts: The Arts Investigating Terror. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-60671-5. 
  10. ^ a b c d Arieli-Horowitz, Dana (2008). Matti Hyvarinen and Lisa Muszynski, ed. Terror and the Arts; Art in the Age of Terror: The Israeli Case. New York: Palgrave Macmillian. ISBN 978-0-230-60671-5. 
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See also[edit]