Israeli Photographer’s Stunning Photo of the Year
I just read about the Local Testimony photo awards given to the best work by Israel’s professional photographers. Daniel Bar On–whose shocking image from an Israeli nationalist rally outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv, which supported the IDF attack on the Mavi Marmara–won the award for best photo of the year. It’s such an amazing, dissonant and complex image that I think it requires some explication. Further, it absolutely perfectly exemplifies everything this blog is about.
The richness of this photo is in the multiple elements or layers which combine to produce a jarring, disturbing image. First, the man holding aloft a flame with his arm emblazoned with a Jewish star seems an unintentional (on the part of the man) echoing of the Shoah survivors’ number tattooed on their wrists. This is an ongoing motif from Zionist history, in which the Holocaust is invoked as a reminder that every attack on Israel is a potential genocide in the making.
Perhaps the most shocking element of the photo is the gun-toting Israeli policeman on horseback offering what appears to be a Hitlerian salute. Certainly, the officer didn’t intend this at the time. But that’s what great photographs do: they bring out the underlying meaning of a moment that might not have been evident in real-time. The uniform is what makes the officer’s stance particularly disturbing. It’s as if the State has revealed its true colors in saluting the cause of Israeli supremacism. In addition, the policeman’s face is hidden by his salute, which renders the salute especially cold and inhuman.
The juxtaposition between the policeman’s salute and the tatooed arm brings with it a jarring reference to Nazism and the Holocaust, but in the picture Israelis appear to be both Nazi and victim. It’s one helluva amazing image.
The fluttering Israeli flag seems to be aflame, which adds further drama to the image. And in the background stands a typical Tel Aviv high-rise reminding us that this is the status of the modern Israeli state in which the impulses of fascism co-exist with modern urbanism. It’s jarring to contrast the police officer’s horse with the high-rise in the background, as if we don’t know whether we’re in the modern age or some more primitive time (1933 perhaps?).
42 thoughts on “Israeli Photographer’s Stunning Photo of the Year – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Indeed, a very striking photo. And your parsing of it is good. I would question the “Nazi” salute, though. It is given with the left arm, and seems more to be a signal to halt or change direction. On the other hand (no pun intended) the guy with the Mogen David on his arm seems to be holding a cross from which the flame rises. That is more reminiscent of the KKK.
working overtime to find something bad about Israel… I happen to think you are pathetic… or very young, and trying to make an impression on someone. One day you will realize that you are in fact, only helping and supporting world fascism. Pathetic.. left wing+Fascism… well, like Orwell wrote, they seem to go together….
Thanks for proving my point about how loony those with your rightist views are.
Zvi, you’re spot on. What a pathetic attempt to pull together some outright lies about Israel. Shame on you Tikkun Olam for such rubbish.
A little hasbara from public affairs director of the Zionist Council of Victoria. Welcome. But aren’t you slumming a bit? And is this part of yr job description? Perhaps you ought to make yr way back to friendlier climes before you catch some anti-Israel germs here (a joke).
This is a scary photo, but you do realize that the light comes from a street light high above the protestors? The Im Tirzu fascist is holding a small flag that was probably sold on israel’s independence day for people to hang on their car window.
Scary my A$$.
This is nothing more than a picture taken out of context and sensationalized to suit an agenda.
Talk about hasbara.
Looks like we’ve hit a nerve with the hasbarists. Why aren’t you incensed by the attitudes of those who rallied and portrayed themselves as they did? Take a look at this video from the rally and then argue w. me about whether the picture represents the views expressed in my post.
Thanks for the video, Richard. Now everyone can see just how distorted the thinking of those at that rally are. Makes the photo look simplistic.
Now I’m really scared. Duhay, you can kiss mine.
Yeah the video sure is terrifying.
Max Blumenthal – The Helicopter of love
Interviewee – If you say so
Max Blumenthal – Any activists smash their heads into the bullets?
Interviewee – Its not funny.
”We don’t want those territories, we will let go of it the first day the Arabs acknowledge our state”
Idiot comes up shouting death to Arabs. Interviewee tells him to be quiet and stop. There is one in every crowd.
Other demonstrators express their views about where the Turks can go….Why not. Turkey could have prevented this incident as much as Israel could have by stopping that flotilla from trying to leave their shores….why did they not try to use diplomacy in trying to get those goods through? After all, diplomacy is the prefered method of conduct by the owner of this blog.
Want to be scared…..here you go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtr-6sWgTEE&feature=related
Thugs in masks, throwing projectiles and breaking store windows.
Want to see more? There are plenty others just like this.
“We don’t want those territories, we will let go of it the first day the Arabs acknowledge our state”
What complete rubbish. The Arabs have acknowledged the State of Israel officially and unofficially numerous times over the past couple of decades or more. What clearer acknowledgment is there than the Arab League repeatedly unanimously approving and extending a peace proposal that includes official recognition and full normal diplomatic and economic relations?
Because Israel’s siege is a clear violation of international law and the flotilla was a deliberate protest against an illegal policy. The flotilla deliberately chose to resist cooperation with Israel since Israel had no legal right to stop the ships or interfere w. them or to place Gaza under siege.
If diplomacy is the preferred method of conduct why did Israel murder 9 Turks?
Stay on topic & do not proffer propaganda materials that seek to prove that Arabs are violent or evil. Anyone can do that & show Israelis doing things just as bad. THis isn’t a place for grandstanding or scoring political points. If you want to do that there are many other places to do so. Not here. If you continue this practice yr future comments may be moderated.
The birth of supremacy in the Jewish state. How ironic.
Ummmm – Israel is based on the idea of supremacy. They’ve just become more brazenly open about it as the years pass.
But these comments seem like political grandstanding and political point scoring.
That’s why I’m the editor here & you’re not.
[Comment banned for violation of site rules]
I’d like to make two points.
First, the guy isn’t holding a flame, but rather a small flag with a plastic stick. You could see clearly that the light is coming from the lamppost nearby.
Second, your definition of a great photograph is debatable. In some cases a “great” photograph distorts the true context of the picture and in this sense it is deceiving the viewer, just as authoritarian regimes have done skillfully throughout the 20th century.
At least in this picture, the officer on the horse was there in order to prevent violence in that demonstration, and not vice versa. Moreover, he raised his hand due to prosaic reasons, I assume. Yet the privilege of the photographer – to freeze reality into one single snapshot – gives him the opportunity to wink to the viewers. His success lies in the fact that he is distorting the real situation in that particular moment. Thus he converts this deceptive image into a tool for promoting a certain political worldview.
Even though I share a similar political view with those who praise the image, I don’t wish to use images in a manipulative manner in order to promote my message. The political reality in Israel is terrible enough. I prefer to stick with the truth in the attempts to change it.
No doubt that is precisely what Picasso did in Guernica. Though most of the world who’ve deemed this work a masterpiece wouldn’t call it distortion. Thankfully the judges disagreed w. you & labelled this image the finest Israeli picture from 2010. I agree w. them.
You do? C’mon. Yr views are pretty clear fr. yr comment & I strongly doubt you share anything w. me. You’re an Israeli liberal who believes you’re a humanitarian & good hearted soul. And you prob. are about everything except the Israeli-Arab conflict. Which makes you Progressive Except [for] Arabs (PEA).
Well, photography and painting are not the same. Picasso did not distort reality because he didn’t try to depict it accurately in the first place. It was (and still is) acclaimed because of its piercing symbolism, which entailed not only a message on the Spanish civil war, but on the horrors of war in general. The surrealistic elements in this painting are not a distortion of reality, since they serve Picasso’s artistic purposes; As for documentary photography, that’s a different story, and the general context of the photo should play an important role, in my view, in the way we interpret it.
As for your second remark, it was an insulting and disrespectful reaction. As a quite devoted reader of your blog I thought that it encourages decent and rational discussion on the issues it raises. This ad hominem reaction of yours, with no counter-argument to what I actually wrote, proves the exact opposite. Your portrait of me isn’t accurate as well, but that’s entirely understandable. We don’t even know each other.
Your view of photography is reductionist. I dare say you know very little about the field. Photography is not an exact miming of reality. It is a very complicated mix of elements which include the photographer’s perspective (both literally & figuratively) . If you have a problem w. the photograph I welcome hearing those specific problems. If you continue to speak in generalities having no bearing on the actual image itself, then your views will have no resonance.
As for yr political views, you made the claim that you agree w. my political views & provided no proof whatsoever to support the claim. You know as well as I that anyone can say anything on the internet (& they do & they have here as well). So I’m afraid yr claim is so vague as to have no probitive value.
I have no problem with the photograph. The photographer captured what he captured impressively, and this is not the issue on which I commented. I wrote on its success. I think that most of those who praise it (and I don’t refer only to your post) are de-contextualizing it in order to fit it into the slightly too simplistic account of Israel as a pathological case of the victim becoming a murderer.
I wrote that I agree with the political views of those of praise it. I don’t think I should provide any proof to that. I don’t need to “prove” my political views to anyone. At least not here. At any rate, I only said it in order to lessen the chances of receiving comments that would label me as another Israeli who defends the misdeeds of his country.
In the context of the Mavi Marmara massacre can you tell me why this is “slightly too simplistic” or simplistic at all. In fact, it’s spot-on accurate.
This makes it appear that you weren’t really sincere in saying it & only did so to avoid criticism. So I wonder whether your claim was sincere. I really have a problem w. Israeli liberals such as yrself. You pride yrself on being a humanist, on being able to criticize yr country. But when push comes to shove, you can’t really rise above a faint whisper when it comes to doing anything about the miserable situation in which your country finds itself.
“His success lies in the fact that he is distorting the real situation in that particular moment. Thus he converts this deceptive image into a tool for promoting a certain political worldview.”
Pray tell, what is your interpretation of the “real” situation in that particular moment? You state that you have the same political views as those who praise the picture. Do you?
If you did, you would mention the fact that these people are celebrating the execution of individuals who spent months collecting humanitarian aid and support for a concentration camp called Gaza! This is the background in that picture.
I don’t like the truth manipulated either, but this photograph is symbolic of the truth and the reality of the Jewish state right now and the even worse direction it’s headed in. It’s not like we need this particular picture to validate that reality. That reality speaks for itself. No one is deceiving anyone with this picture. Israel is edging closer to fascism. I’d say raids in the middle of the night, throwing activists in prison, locking up children, and other repressive measure Israel uses to control Palestinian movement while dispossessing them of their land demonstrates a country edging towards fascism.
What I see in the picture is an officer raising his hand for some insignificant reason near a rally in support of Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara. If you see in this photo a symbol of the fascism that takes over Israeli society, that’s fine. I, however, think it takes a big interpretive leap in order to reach this conclusion.
I really think that if you want to argue against Israel’s policy, you should rely on real evidence, and not on photos with some symbolic elements that aren’t really there (a random left-handed “Nazi salute”, a non-existing flame).
What I am trying to say is that I prefer that the criticism on Israel would concentrate on its actual deeds (you mentioned some of them), and not use visual tricks for that purpose. There are plenty of photos from the occupied territories that describe the political reality truthfully and accurately. Any hermeneutical game of attributing to a photo way much more than it shows, does nothing but satisfying the already-convinced among us.
You’re right there are many, many pictures from the Occupied Territories to prove that there is truth to the symbolism in this picture.
But you know, some pictures stick in people’s minds for a reason. I get the impression that you don’t want this picture to go anywhere or become symbolic of the present Israeli psyche. I do! I want it to be a lasting image because even if you can’t say that the individuals in the picture are part of a “fascist” rally, fascism is already part of their psyche and maybe it will help wake people out of the nightmare they’re enabling. Check out recent polls and see in what direction Israeli public opinion is trending.
I look at the nationalistic symbol tatooed on the man’s arm and immediately I think, Zionism and a state where Jews are supreme and privileged under the law and social services while “others” are subjected to an inferior system.
However, irregardless of your objection to it or my own approval of it, the picture will either acquire a life of its own and become iconic or its attraction may be short-lived and fizzle away.
One thing I’m certain of: circumstances in Israel will continue to morph into the ugliness that this picture reflects if the world does not squash the occupation now and then we’ll look back on this picture and see it as a moment when we got a glimpse into an evolving fascist psyche and a not-to-distant reality taking shape.
It’s not the occupation. The occupation is only a manifestation of the ugly aspects of Zionism and its product, and a catalyst for more brazen expression of that part of the Israeli mentality.
Are you clairvoyant & can read the officer’s mind? How do you know why he’s raising his arm?
Watch the YouTube video linked in this thread. You won’t have such trouble making the leap after that.
There is no “trickery” in this image & I dare you to prove that there is. You choice of language is offensive & insulting to the photographer. And if you are claiming that my interpretation of the photo involves trickery that is equally offensive.
I didn’t mean to be offensive, and if I was, I apologize for that.
The photographer obviously captured that real moment in the rally. And the photo indeed calls for many interpretations, including yours. I myself don’t feel comfortable with the attempt to ascribe to that particular moment seen in the photo a genuine reflection of the social/political currents in Israel. Mainly because it entails some elements which are quite coincidental and have to do more with historical associations than with what actually was there. But that’s just my opinion, and following what Kalea wrote, images have their own histories.
Calling me a liar when I say my goal is peace & security bet. Israel & its neighbors was offensive. Thanks for yr apology. I appreciate yr offering it.
I can only quote Max Lieberman watching the Nazi mob celebrating Hitlers election victory 1933
“I cannot eat as much as I would like to vomit”
I have been auditing the zeitgeist of world affairs actively now for fifteen years. I like to look at all sides of a problem before making a judgment. I’ve been visiting this site for the past few weeks. I thought I might find some interesting, enlightening commentary to add to my knowledge base. There is so much dross on the internet. The comments regarding this photo are silly. It is just a snapshot of time and space. Extrapolating from one small microcosm can be instructive; however in this case the inferences drawn are naive. The difference between this scene and Nazi Germany is that between the years 1939 and 1945 it would have been possible to capture millions of possible images of a raised salute. One freaky, chance moment in Tel Aviv captured by an opportunistic photographer does not a summer make. The comment about the building representing a “fascist” regime is also a fatuous musing from a fervid brain. I think I have got all I can from this site. The intellectual depths seemed substantial but it must have been another mirage.
” It is just a snapshot of time and space. Extrapolating from one small microcosm can be instructive; however in this case the inferences drawn are naive. The difference between this scene and Nazi Germany is that between the years 1939 and 1945 it would have been possible to capture millions of possible images of a raised salute. One freaky, chance moment in Tel Aviv captured by an opportunistic photographer does not a summer make.”
Oh boy, I can extrapolate tons of images from the internet demonstrating fascist repression being used against Palestinians. Perhaps, raising one’s arm in the air is too taboo for citizens of the Jewish state and that’s why we won’t see this image on every street corner, but one doesn’t have to raise ones arm in the air to prove that one is enforcing or embracing a supremacist ideology.
This snapshot is merely symbolic of what’s going on in the collective Israeli psyche and what’s going on is either depraved indifference and at best obliviousness to obvious human suffering and/or actual supremacist ideology in motion, and this my friend, is where the past circa 1930 and the present intertwine, forget the picture. Like I said who cares about a picture with two guys with their arms in the air, when people are being shot execution style, children are being abducted at night and protesters are shot at and imprisoned, and I won’t even get into the evictions, demolitions, cleansing of villages and the rest of it.
Bye, and don’t slam the door on yr way out…
the problem isn’t that it is a really really dull photograph, I mean you can argue about taste and knowledge of photography all you like, but it doesn’t count for more when every single idea that it tries to invoke is boring as hell.
The problem isn’t that you’re a really, really dull commenter and every single alleged idea you try to invoke is boring as hell.
I found the video to which you had a link far more frightening
than the photo. A lot of the young people in the crowd remind
me of the soccer fan hooligans one sees on British and
Even if I were living on a deserted island and never had access to the internet or media, I would assume that what’s going on in that picture is wrong. Celebrating the massacre of human beings is wrong. Celebrating a blockade that is hurting men, women and especially children is wrong.
People here state that the image is taken out of context and misinterpreted for propaganda or a biased political agenda. No, sorry. What was going on at that rally is a celebration of man’s inhumanity to man.
But irrespective of the rally, this photograph on its own is “symbolically” reminiscent of 1930’s military oppression on the left with the officer on the horse and KKK racist supremacy on the right, marching side by side.
Does this symbolism represent reality? How could it not, when we consider what is being done to Palestinians erasing their history, erasing the Nakba, and erasing them from the West Bank and locking them up in Gaza and justifying an occupation that is no longer viable from any legal and/or human perspective.
Contrast the video posted above by Mr. Silverstein with this video.
With all due respect sir.
You post a video here produced by Max Blumenthal that shows footage of a rally in Israel, in support of Israel following the flotilla incident.
In response to your video post, comments followed comparing the demonstrators in the video to soccer hooligans, and that it is scary. Even comparing Israel to a supremist state and referencing the sieg heil salute of nazi Germany.
In response, I post a very scary video of palestinian demonstrators rampaging through a British city in a manner that really recalls the images of pre WWII germany and I am accused of political grandstanding and warned of moderation.
Your blog sir, but I have not attempted to smear, defame or personally attack anyone. I am just trying to clarify to myself and all your readers what your true agenda is. But, I guess we all knew that when you inferred that a moment in time at an Israeli demonstration resembles a nazi salute.
Your video is off-topic. The topic at hand was not Arabs rampaging through a British city. If you want to discuss that subject there are hundreds of sites only to happy to oblige. If I ever publish on that subject you’re welcome to post the video.
The image I featured was of the same rally about which Max’s video dealt. That’s called being ON-TOPIC. Stay on topic & you’ll be fine. What you were doing is tit for tat point scoring which isn’t what this site does.
Finally got to the end of these comments…
I also think that there is no flame being held aloft in the photo, there’s light coming through from the street light. However you want to interpret it is fine, but you’ve ignored the flame vs. streetlight issue that other commenters have raised.