Encouraging new dialogue around “Act of State” by Ariella Azoulay

Visual history of the Israeli occupation of Palestine encourages dialogue at UN Human Rights Council

Challenge

How can  images taken by photographers from Israel and Palestine  create a new space where political leaders of both countries would be able to reexamine the occupation and its history?

Journey

Ariella Azoulay, a renowned Israeli author, filmmaker and visual culture theorist, challenges the viewer to identify occupation in its different forms through an unflinching look into the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Her exhibition “”Act of State – 40 Years of Palestine Occupation”, offers dual perspectives, with photographs detailing lands from times of war to conquest, administration to ambivalence. The photography archive contained around 700 photographs taken by over 80 different photographers from Israel and Palestine.

We envisioned and brought the exhibition to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) at the time of discussion on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We worked with the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, the United Nations’ Cultural Activities Committee, and The Center of Photography Geneva (CPG), to ensure that the exhibition opening coincided with the HRC’s session on Israel and Palestine.

Impact

  • The exhibition at the Human Right Council during discussions on Israel and Palestine, a first of its kind, presented photographs which were both political and historical. It left the viewer questioning  what occupation means, whom it affects, and why the terminology “occupation” has disappeared from the narrative it explores.
  • Photographs provided extraordinary visual testimony of the texture of Israel’s occupation of Palestine establishing a forty-year narrative of the painful aesthetics of destruction.
  • By coinciding with the HRC’s session on Israel and Palestine, the exhibition expanded dialogue with diplomats, civil society organizations, and the local community in a public and inescapable way.
Occupation (conquest) became a forbidden term, not to be used in its new meaning – occupation as a form of permanent – not temporary - ruling.
Ariella Azoulay

PHOTO GALLERY

Exhibition “Act of State” at the Human Rights Council, Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. With co-organizers, Ibrahim Khraishi, Palestine Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Barbara Bulc, Art4Action and Joerg Bader, Director of The Center of Photograhy Geneva, and an image with portrsits of diplomats attending the Human Rights Council’s session.