"The critics kill me sometimes: they want a particular poem, a particular metaphor, and if I stray up a side road they say: ‘He has betrayed the road’. And if I find eloquence in grass they say: ‘He has abandoned the steadfastness of the holm oak’. And if I see the rose in spring as yellow they ask: ‘Where is the blood of the homeland in its petals?’ And if I write: ‘It is the butterfly my youngest sister at the garden door’ they stir the meaning with a soup spoon. And if I whisper: ‘A mother is a mother, when she loses her child she withers and dries up like a stick’ they say: ‘She trills with joy and dances at his funeral for his funeral is his wedding’."
— Darwish, Mahmoud. Excerpted from “Assassination.” A River Dies of Thirst: Journals. Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago, 2009.
"[W]hen using the population’s well-being as part of a military calculus, we must be aware of the stick that hides behind any carrot. Any utilitarian use of humanitarian and human rights principles must acknowledge the possibility of its inverse and the speed by which such inversion could occur. If protecting civilians is used as a way of convincing people to comply with military government, at other times inflicting pain on them might usefully achieve the same ends – such as in situations when militaries want to force civilians to exert political pressure on their governments or militants for example. According to this logic, harming civilians is not only a ‘regrettable’ collateral product of military counterinsurgency, but part of an overall logic of this form of military government …
"Military violence, then, endeavours not only to bring death and destruction to its intended targets but also to communicate with its survivors – those that remain, those not killed. … It could thus be said to have a pedagogical pretension. It is a violence that should not only convince but also manufacture the possibility for conviction."
— Weizman, Eyal. The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza. London: Verso, 2011.
have offered coins wine
blood flowers and words
these words like jinn
messengers cut from
the stone of my gut
sharp target i have
cut myself on prayers
palms bleeding christ
and open to receive
a new name a
patchwork grief can’t tear
demons no longer
in my seams”
— from “truth and offering,” Suheir Hammad, ZaatarDiva (2005).
Eight Days and War
150 cm x 150 cm.
"There are many ways to talk about war. But bypassing war is a different story. This room was around 20 minutes by car away from war, in a safe place. Safe places where people and commerce can go on with their lives, though still seeking for images of the war, for the guilt remains undeniable. This is my mother, her sister, her daughter, Maaza and some friends, shot in the 8 days I spent in that apartment, during a schizophrenic period where we were alive around war."
(via Darla Hueske)
"[The] politicisation of aid work is in conflict with the apolitical profile on which the public appreciation for NGOs depends. As a result, NGOs have become extremely concerned to reassert their traditional neutrality and non-political reputation. One way of reconciling conflicting priorities and justifying policy choices was to present them in the language of morality and ethics instead of that of politics. Human rights have become the preferred vocabulary of this new type of humanitarianism … Some policies and regulatory regimes have been translated into the language of rights, others have not. The treatments of war prisoners, for example, has been largely displaced from the international law language of regulation and limits on state action into that of prisoners’ rights. The effects of this change are evident in the American assertion that the Guantánamo Bay prisoners have no rights because they are evil murderers and a threat to Western security. This is a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions but can be justified in the language of human rights. Human rights with their principles and counter-principles and their concern to create an equilibrium of entitlements are much easier to manipulate than clear proscriptions of state action. …
"As the scope of the human rights language expands and most political and social claims and counter-claims are expressed in it, the protection afforded by clearly formulated prohibitions of international law becomes weakened. When everything becomes actually or potentially a right, nothing attracts the full or special protection of a superior or absolute right.
"These developments have led to a convergence between humanitarian work and governmental rhetoric and policies … [C]ontemporary humanitarianism is no longer the cry of dissidents, campaigners and protesters but a common vocabulary that brings together the government, the army and erstwhile radicals and human rights activists. … Colin Powell stated before the Afghanistan war that ‘NGOs are such a force multiplier for us, such an important part of our combat team … [We are] all committed to the same, singular purpose to help humankind … We share the same values and objectives so let us combine forces on the side of civilisation.’ …
"It is not wrong to say that the media campaigns of NGOs have prepared public opinion for ‘humanitarian wars’ and are willingly or inadvertently integral parts of the new order supporting and promoting its moral claims. … The military on their part realising the cachet of humanitarianism has adopted a not dissimilar rhetoric. … [A] telling example was the practice of American aircraft to drop aid packages in Afghanistan in-between bombing raids. ‘Cruise missiles and corned beef’ could be the motto of military humanitarianism."
— Douzinas, Costas. Human Rights and Empire: The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism. London: Routledge-Cavendish, 2007.
We photograph because that’s what one does - sometimes for the sake of having the photograph, of having something we look at later or of having something we can display so other people can look at it later, but oftentimes simply to have photographed. There are billions and billions of photographs on Facebook and on other websites now that will never be looked at again. This makes no sense - unless the photographs themselves are not what matter here. And that, I believe, is what has happened over the past few years: The act of photographing, the gesture, has become part of our interaction with the world. You photograph just like you look. You know that you can never look at all of those photographs again (in all likelihood you never will - who has the time?), but it’s not about the photographs - it’s about the photographing. The act of photography might have turned into the equivalent of whistling a song, something you do, something that might or might not have beauty, a communicative act just as much as an affirmative act: I was there, and me being there means I had to photograph it.
Joerg Colberg, Meditations on Photographs: A Car on Fire at the Mall
"The widespread use of cameras by people around the world has created more than a mass of images; it has created a new form of encounter, an encounter between people who take, watch, and show other people’s photographs, with or without their consent, thus opening new possibilities of political action and forming new conditions for its visibility. The relations between the three parties involved in the photographic act — the photographed person, the photographer, and the spectator — are not mediated through a sovereign power and are not limited to the bounds of a nation-state or an economic contract. The users of photography thus reemerge as people who are not totally identified with the power that governs them …"
— Azoulay, Ariella. The Civil Contract of Photography. New York: Zone, 2008.
Still Life with Pomegranate
Blessings Upon the Land of my Love
Emulsion and acrylic on brick.
Video of Imran Qureshi speaking about his work.
(photo via the Palestine Poster Project)
"Enter Ghassan Kanafani, whose voice could be silenced by nothing less than a bomb, an explosion that shook the whole of Hazimiya. … Only on the posters covering the wall behind his shoulders was there thunder and lightning. The posters of that time that was so unlike this. The star on Guevara’s beret. The questions on Lenin’s brow. Embroidery with the pen and the brush for the stolen name. A boundless horse, bounded in a frame. Photographs of the leaders of liberation movements in Asia and Africa and Latin America, slogans and images and writings we thought would lead to Palestine.
"I wonder, is Ghassan closer now or farther from Acre?
"I compare the posters in the room of this teenage soldier with the posters in Ghassan’s office in Beirut. Opposed worlds: in Ghassan’s world there was room for the poems of Neruda, the words of Cabral, Lenin’s outstretched hand, and the vision of Fanon and the personal colors with which a novelist tries to paint the dream: in navy blue and apricot and orange, and with everything the rainbow may suggest to a narrow, gloomy sky full of omens of disaster and loss."
— Barghouti, Mourid. I Saw Ramallah. New York: Anchor, 2003.