Imagine, living in the aftermath of a war that not only occurred before your lifetime, but before the lifetime of your parents. Imagine, growing up in the wake of destruction from a wave that occurred decades before you were born. Imagine, knowing the aftermath without ever having known the antecedent.
The majority of Palestinians living in the occupied territories are young people who have spent their lives in the shadow of a war from their great-grandparents’ generation. For Palestinians, it is not simply a matter of one, singular event that drives their situation. Palestinians mark time on an altogether unique clock; major political events designate their experience in a general sense, but for each person there are smaller and more personal events that mark each family’s own timetable.
To better understand the complexity of the term “aftermath” when applied to Palestinians, here is a general rundown on the Palestinian population: First there is the post-1948 population, those who originated in the region that is now the state of Israel. Many fled as refugees to southern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and what is now called the West Bank. Then there is the post-1967 population (which contains a large portion of the post-1948 population) that originated in the West Bank but became a mass of internal refugees during the Six Days War of 1967, as well as a population dispersed in refugee camps in Jordan and many other countries. Although separated by two decades, these two events mark the mainelements of the Palestinian Diaspora.
In the summer of 2007, I spent five weeks extensively traveling throughout the West Bank in order to photograph the daily life of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
As a Palestinian American, it was important to me to be able to document all aspects of Palestinian life, from the oppression and destruction, to the domestic and mundane, to the celebratory and joyful. All too often, in the United States, the only images of Palestine and Palestinians that Americans are shown are inaccurate depictions of Palestinians as uniformly violent and angry.
The reality in fact is that Palestinians are predominantly non-violent and surprisingly tenacious given the circumstances of their lives. However, this side of their story is not often depicted in mainstream media.
Despite severe human rights violations, economic strangulation, and the slow and systematic ethnic cleansing of native Palestinians from their lands, beauty still lives in occupied Palestine. The people themselves are a testament to willpower in the face of injustice, as they have developed exceptional coping mechanisms in order to survive their circumstances.
My intent in documenting Palestinian survival is to educate people on the consequences of spontaneous and unresolved wars. I want people to understand that although the wars of 1948 and 1967 are long over, Palestinians live in a continual and latent state of post-traumatic stress.
I furthermore want the beauty, complexity and perseverance of these people to be just as attention-worthy as their mistakes and their often violent deaths.
It is my hope that through this photographic education project there will be stronger international support for the creation of a Palestinian state, so that we can finally allow these people to stop living in an aftermath society, and start living anew in a nation of their own making.