Posters Cast Israeli-Palestinian Conflict In New Light
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Violence is what most Americans associate with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But there are other images unknown to most Americans in a new exhibit: “Antonym/Synonym: The Poster Art of the Palestinian Conflict.”
Dan Walsh has been collecting these posters since he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco in the mid 70s. To improve his Arabic, the Bronx native translated posters on the streets of Marrakech.
“Like many Americans,” Walsh says, “I considered all Palestinians to be terrorists. And so when I saw their posters, many of which were very beautiful, talking about their struggle in sort of a heroic way, I was taken aback.”
Today, Walsh has about 3,000 Palestine posters, by Palestinians, Israelis and others. He believes they offer a less-confrontational way to discuss the conflict.
The top of a poster entitled “November 29” shows Israelis dancing in the street on November 29, 1947, the day the United Nations authorized the creation of a Jewish state. “The bottom photograph,” Walsh says, “is a picture of Palestinians dancing in the street in 1993, when the Oslo peace accords where signed in Washington, D.C., which basically legitimated formally, through the international community, the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
A poster done in 1980 called “Selma” is by probably the best-known Palestinian artist in the occupied territories, Slimuhn Montsor. In Palestinian culture, as in Jewish Culture, the homeland is portrayed as a woman.
“There is also the image of the orange,” Walsh explains. “It's code for the land and its fertility and the ancient link the Palestinians claim to the land. And for the wider world — the woman inside of a home, beautifully decorated, no rifles, no clenched fists, there's no Arabic in the poster — it’s a basic way of getting a message about Palestine into a more Western market.”
In one poster, Israeli artist Iris Deshohn takes a famous photo of Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism, and morphs it into a picture of Yasser Arafat.
“What she's saying with these posters is that at their core, at the beginning, the two people had identical objectives,” Walsh says, “and that Herzl and Arafat, at least in terms of their departure points, held identical agendas. Both men believed deeply that their people were being dispersed and held in exile unjustly. Both believed that their causes were just, and both men were leading their people back to the same piece of geography, Palestine or Israel.”
Walsh knows that this exhibit is controversial, but he says that if you can't talk about a problem, how can you even begin to solve it?
His exhibit is only available online, at www.liberationgraphics.com
- Stephanie Simon