November 29, 2000
In this poster Yossi Lemel juxtaposes Palestinian and Israeli rallies, held almost five decades apart, to argue that the aspirations of the two peoples are in critical respects identical.
November 29 marks the date in 1947 when the U.N. voted to pass the “Partition Resolution” (U.N. Resolution 181(II)), separating Palestine into two separate states, one Arab and one Jewish. For the Israelis it marked a jubilant, metaphysical moment when the Diaspora was reversed and the genocidal goal of the Holocaust thwarted. It also gloriously vindicated the national dream that Theodor Herzl had envisioned more than a half century before.
That same date also marks a watershed moment in modern Palestinian history: their betrayal by the U.N. For decades November 29 has been commemorated as the “International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People.” On this date Palestinians renew their determination not to acquiesce to a future of statelessness and dispersal.
Flags are central in both of the poster’s photographs. For centuries the diaspora community did not have a single unifying symbol. The Magen David (Hebrew: Star of David) flag was proscribed during the Mandate era, 1918-1948. Similarly, the Palestinian flag was outlawed by Israel in the Occupied Territories from 1967 until 1993.
A striking quality of many contemporary Israeli oppositional posters is that they boldly and unapologetically depict both Palestinian people and their national symbols. This contrasts with Zionist poster art from 1918 to 1948 — between the time when the League of Nations approved the British Mandate in Palestine through the founding of the state of Israel. Contemporary Israeli government posters rarely depict Palestinians or mention the word “Palestine”.
Lemel’s poster poses difficult questions and demands painful answers. If independence under U.N. auspices was right and just for Israelis, why isn’t the same true for Palestinians?
Many Israelis respond by saying that Palestinians had a chance to have a state via the Partition Resolution but squandered it when they chose to oppose Israel militarily and lost. This is, at best, an incomplete and self-serving answer.
Why, one could ask, should Palestinians be held accountable for the actions of the neighboring Arab states that chose to attack Israel? Even according to Israel’s own interpretation of events, there were no organized Palestinian political or economic structures at that time. So how could the Palestinians have been culpable, and why should they be victimized in perpetuity for the actions of others?
This poster is important to American audiences because it provides a sense of historical balance so frequently lacking in U.S. coverage of the Palestinian-Israel conflict. It also reinforces, by virtue of its presentation of parallel Palestinian-Israeli histories, the increasing strong preference among mainstream Americans for an evenhanded approach to resolving the conflict.© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.
Questions for A New
1) How well do Americans understand the history of pre-independence Israel or the history of the Palestinian quest for self-determination? If you say they are well-informed and well-educated on these issues, provide evidence. If you think they are not well-informed, provide evidence and suggestions for improvement.
2) How have the bargaining positions of the Palestinians and Israelis changed or evolved since 1948? For example, Israel said it would never recognize the PLO, yet in 1993 it signed the Oslo Peace Accords that established the Palestinian National Authority. Similarly, the PLO said it would never recognize Israel’s right to exist, yet in 1988 it “clarified” its position on this issue to the satisfaction of the Reagan administration that, in turn, opened a dialogue with the PLO, much to the chagrin of Israel. What other issues that the two opponents originally fixed as immutable have come to pass?
3) What is the status of oppositional poster artists in Israel? Are they treated with contempt, praised as patriots, or ignored? How does their status compare to artists in the U. S. who openly criticize Israel?
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