Death is Iconic

Posted by lapata on October 19, 2014 · 2 mins read

Death is Iconic IThis summer, Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of civilians, bombing schools and hospitals, and even UNRWA shelters. This might just have been another chapter in the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, but this summer, there was something new: an unprecedented number of photographs and videos made it through to the international community via twitter and other social media platforms. Those who refuse to believe the extent of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, or who believe the oppression of the Palestinian people is strategically justified for the survival of the Israeli state, were in denial about the many images rushing into the rest of the world.

Most famously, George W. Bush's former speech writer, David Frum, latched onto a conspiracy theory that held that a series of images of two Palestinian brothers expressing raw grief over the death of their father whom they'd just brought to the hospital was simply a piece of propaganda. According to this theory, the photographs were staged, and this could be seen from the fact that in one, the more distraught brother had blood on his hands, and in another, he did not. The blood had been added for effect, went the theory. Unfortunately for Frum and his ilk, these photos had been taken by numerous professional photographers working for international news services, who spoke up and outlined the sequence of events, showing that while the men arrived at the hospital soaked in blood, in the interim, as their father lay in the operating room, they'd washed their hands. Death is Iconic II

When I saw these striking images, I understood immediately what it was really all about. It was about the iconic nature of the photographs. Two men, in a state of mourning, embracing: they look like figures in classical paintings, or religious icons: figures of saints and martyrs. It was a dangerous turn in the image war, and the Frums of the world were scared.

[My paintings are acrylic on wooden panel, 5” x 7”. The original photographs were taken by Hatem Ali/AP, and Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters; my hat is off to these brave photographers who put themselves in the path of danger on a daily basis. My desire was to engage with the ways in which the underlying photographs looked like religious icons.]


moazzam sheikh | October 20, 2014

Important work! Thanks for explaining the context. In the face complete moral bankruptcy among our politicians, the artists of this country, the painters, the writers, the poets, the musicians - people from all of those areas of expression have to now step across the line. Last night at the closing hours of our week long Litquake festival, I read along with other librarians from a work in progress ( a decent man), a story that opens with the image of a US senator who has hanged himself with a zuccini shoved up his ass after having cast his vote in senate in support of Israel's right to defend itself after having killed hundreds of children and women. I was heartened to see that folks in the audience responded to the piece. In our extremely corrupt political culture, I believe, a critical mass of artistic expression about the plight of Palestinians can offer a token of poetic justice.

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