From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction & State Formation, 1947-1950

By Grace Cowlard | 04 November 2011
A black and white photo of a building whose roof has caved in, covering the floor in rubble
© IDF and Defense Archive
Exhibition: From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction & State Formation, 1947-1950, The Mosaic Rooms, London, until November 25 2011

At the heart of conflict in the Middle East, the journey from the destruction of Palestine to the formation of Israel has seen 50 years of violent struggle take its toll on the territory's people.

Now, in a fascinating photographic exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms, London, leading visual theorist Ariella Azoulay unveils the stories behind the conflict.

Striking in nature, these images tackle not only the establishment of the state of Israel but the formation of a new identity for the Palestinian people.

Via the medium of photography, Azoulay attempts to explain the events and stories behind more than 200 photos from the Israeli archives, many of which have never seen before outside of Israel itself.

The beauty of Azoulay's work is her narrative, which addresses the human-interest side of the conflict by recounting tales often stifled, twisted and shunned by Israeli Jews and the West.

Depicting four crucial years from 1947-1950, individual stories radiate from the exhibition to tell the personal story of how the Palestinian majority in Mandatory Palestine became the minority in Israel, while the Jewish minority established political power to rule ex-Palestine.

Taking on a two-pronged approach, Azoulay deftly weaves theory of the nakba – meaning catastrophe in Arabic, referring to the defeat of the Palestinian armies in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war  with the Zionist theory of a utopian Jewish homeland.

The conflicts between these two visions highlight the stark disparities between Jews and Arabs on the road to forging a diplomatic existence in Israel, yet present the conclusion that neither side is capable of explaining why such deep conflict took hold.

"What was and still is truly unavoidable is not national conflict, but rather the co-existence of Jews and Palestinians in a shared territory and the open space for a variety of forms to shape, practice, express and represent this co-existence," she says.

Accompanied by a series of talks discussing relationships between photography, film archives and the writing of history, the exhibition coincides with the publication of Azoulay's accompanying book of the same name, published by Pluto Press on 3rd November.

Azoulay directs the Photo-Lexic project at Minerva Humanities Centre at Tel Aviv University.

  • Open 11am-6pm Monday-Friday (4pm Saturday, closed Sunday). Admission free.
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