The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is sponsoring a poster competition to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. The winner of the contest will be announced on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. The graphic art is extraordinary and confronts Israel’s human rights situation head on.
ACRI joined together with the City of Holon to exhibit some of the posters outdoors and it stirred great controversy among those who believe that discussing these issues can only damage Israel. The right-wing group, If You Will It, complained to the Israeli government and asked it to investigate whether the city exhibit was mounted with state funds. It also demanded the firing of any employees who helped organize the exhibition.
This is the typical extreme nationalist backlash against anything that smacks of leftist “defeatism.” Among the interesting reasons for fearing the exhibit’s message:
There is no need to point out that the purpose of this exhibit is to continue the demonization of the IDF…through its representation as cruel and immoral in order to lay the groundwork for those elements in Israel and abroad pursuing Israeli officers for the purpose of bringing them to justice [for war crimes].
Several posters stand out for varying reasons. One titled, You Don’t See It with Your Own Eyes? (the English translation on the poster isn’t precise) comments on the Gaza war and Occupation in general. Graphically, it mimics a vision chart with numbers displaying on each line along with text, as each line gets progressively smaller. The top line displays the number of agreements Israel has signed; next the number of Gaza war dead; next the number of civilian dead; then the length of the wall; number of checkpoints; number of years the Geneva Conventions have existed; the number of Conventions; and finally the number of peoples (2); and conflicts (1).
Another displays three “windows” through which you see an idyllic rural image with the caption, “there are those who gaze out on pastoral landscape;” and an urban image, “others view urban landscape;” and finally a solid graffiti-strewn image of the Separate Wall, “and those who see nothing.”
This too is a testament to power of art to “see” the social landscape in the way that the average Israeli almost never does. And that is why the Israeli right seeks to demonize this exhibit. It is dangerous to the equilibrium of the Israeli public. The current government needs to maintain an image of an Israel that is secure, safe, and stable. That image is what allows Israel to continue to defy international law and bodies, and the power of the U.S., EU and other governments insisting that it return to 1967 boundaries and recognize a Palestinian state. Anything that threatens this slumber into which Israelis have slipped is a danger.
H/t to Didi Remez for bringing this story to my attention and helping me find the poster images.