Palestine protest at Manchester Open exhibition

This week has been interesting. After HOME in Manchester pulled a literary celebration of Gazan writing following a complaint from a Jewish lobby group, there was outrage from many people in the city. The weekly peace protest ended up outside the building on Saturday and this week artists in the Manchester Open exhibition came together with the desire to get involved. There was an open letter signed by around 170 artists (there are 480 in the show) and then last night I was among a group of participants of the exhibition who went and took down our work from the walls in protest about the silencing of Palestinian voices. It was a sombre action – it’s a strange feeling taking art out of an exhibition part way through. It put pressure on the bosses at HOME though – it turned the whole thing into a PR disaster for them and today they reinstated the original event. Their apology was somewhat mealy mouthed but still, it’s a result. Their original excuse that they were being politically neutral in cancelling the event was shown to be a nonsense. More here.




My West Bank visit blog posts

The horror unfolding in Gaza over the past two months has led me to think and speak a lot recently about my trip to the West Bank and Israel in 2008. I just sent a colleague some published stories I wrote during that time, which made me also search my blog for posts. There are quite a lot so I’m pulling it all together just in case it’s of interest to anyone.

power dynamics

Maybe i was daydreaming when my current human relationships assignment was set but until I read a classmate’s blog post I had no idea that trying to capture negative emotions or situations was part of the brief. Unless I witness some toddler tantrums or tellings-off when I spend time with a family next week, the relationships I photograph are likely to be quite convivial. But thinking about this got me wondering what I had shot in the past which would have fitted the bill, and one place springs to mind: Palestine.

I spent four weeks in the Holy Land in 2008 – three based in the West Bank and nine days based in Jerusalem. I happened to be there during Ramandan, Eid and the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. I was invited several times to Palestinian homes for iftar – the breaking of the fast – which was lovely. I also spent the last two Fridays of Ramadan at one of the main flashpoints between Palestinians and the IDF during the Muslim holy month – namely the Kalandia checkpoint. From very early in the morning here, especially on Fridays at this time of year, thousands of Muslims try to cross from Ramallah into Jerusalem to pray at the Al Aqsa mosque, the third most sacred site in Islam. Of course they need permits to do so, and men aged over 16 and under something like 60 aren’t allowed to go at all.

It’s absolute bedlam and the tension level is very high. The soldiers split men and women into separate queues and make them wait for hours in the blazing sun. People appear to be arbitarily refused access, even when they have the correct permits. Others chance their luck without the correct paperwork. People lose their family members, faint, get upset, are routinely humilated by the soldiers, and lots of tears are shed. Dignified, elderly people are made to wait around for hours on end. As the morning wears on people get more stressed and upset because they want to get to the mosque for afternoon prayers, and many end up saying their prayers next to the barbed wires and ugly concrete walls of the checkpoint. It’s distressing to watch and encapsulates all that is wrong with the power dynamic between an occupying force and the people they are colonising, and in this case humilating on an almost daily basis.