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Judaea Capta
Artist: Ilan Molcho (Israel)
Dimensions: Approximately 28” x 39”

In the center of this poster we see an armed Israeli soldier stopping a Palestinian woman, who has raised one hand in a sign of compliance and is holding her child with the other.

At the top of the poster looms a gigantic Cedar of Lebanon, that country’s national symbol, which is bespattered with red to symbolize the death and destruction produced by Israel’s invasion in 1982. The outline of the tree and its red coloration also create the impression of an enormous explosion.

At the bottom of the poster is an ancient Roman coin dating from the time when much of present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Palestine were a single imperial Roman colony known as Judaea Capta (Latin: Occupied Judaea).

The artist, Ilan Molcho, explains the symbolism of the poster:


The Jewish nation is traditionally represented in the shape of a woman — a “Daughter of Zion.” In the modern era it turned to be “Deserted Daughter of Zion” or “Judaea Capta” awaiting liberation from the chains of diaspora. The original Roman coin represents the destruction of the Jewish Judean province in 70 CE and was stamped by Vespasian in 71 CE. It depicts a Roman soldier watching over a weeping woman (Daughter of Zion) separated by a palm tree — symbol of victory in Roman tradition. This was a strong ideological Roman statement intended to humiliate and suppress the remains of the Jewish rebellion. It was not until the Zionist revolution and the inauguration of the state of Israel that this historic, cultural, and ideological icon was challenged — offering a “Liberated Judaea.” In my poster, I am returning to the original Roman coin, asking: (1) Is Liberated Judaea captivating others? and (2) Does the abuse of force really liberate Judaea?

Source: Personal communication from the artist, October 2003

The Israeli occupation of Lebanon was part of a chain of events set in motion by Six Day War of June 1967. Following the Israeli victory, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) created a new base of operations in Jordan. The PLO’s presence in Jordan was extremely problematic for King Hussein, in part because he was an ally of the United States, which was an ally of Israel. In addition, the PLO, which launched raids on Israel from Jordanian soil, subjected Jordan to devastating retaliatory actions from Israel. Hussein, in a conflict dubbed Ayloul Al Aswad (Arabic: Black September) by the Palestinians, expelled the PLO in 1970. It then moved its operations to Lebanon, where its revolutionary character and agenda dramatically affected that nation’s complex domestic political structure.

In 1982 Israel launched its invasion into Lebanon, justifying it as an act of self-defense, meant to deny Palestinian guerrillas a base from which to launch attacks against settlements in northern Israel. Hence the name of the invasion, Operation Peace for the Galilee; this operation was the brainchild of Ariel Sharon, who is now Israel’s Prime Minister. The ostensible plan was to move just ten miles into Lebanon to create a neutral zone. However, when then-General Sharon ignored that limit and continued to advance toward Beirut, it became apparent that the operation was actually intended to be an occupation, one that would turn the entire country into a province of Israel.

The Israeli troops who participated in Operation Peace for the Galilee were briefly greeted as liberators by Lebanese who thought it would bring peace and stability back to their country. The operation did generate some early tactical successes, such as the removal of the PLO to Tunisia. However, the operation quickly devolved into a deeply resented occupation that spawned a radical and implacable Lebanese opposition, led by the Hezbollah (Arabic: Party of God).

Operation Peace for the Galilee was expected to take just a few weeks, but lasted almost twenty years and has been dubbed “Israel’s Vietnam.” It resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 Lebanese and more than 1,200 Israeli soldiers, and it was deeply opposed by much of Israeli society. When Israel withdrew in 2000, it did so in such a manner that made it appear as a retreat, for which Hezbollah gleefully took full credit.

Molcho’s poster sprang from an Israeli grassroots movement — led by Peace Now, a national anti-war coalition established by Israeli military veterans — that demanded that the government withdraw from Lebanon, citing mounting casualties, the lack of a national justification for the invasion, and its corruptive effect on Israel’s democratic ideals. These are the identical conditions that led to the emergence of the U.S. peace movement that demanded America’s withdrawal from its tragic misadventure in Vietnam, thirty years earlier.

© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.

Questions for A New
Democratic Discussion

1) Is the comparison between the Roman occupation of Judaea and the Israeli occupation of Lebanon fair? If yes, why? If no, why not?

2) What are the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Israeli peace movements?

3) Why hasn’t the U.S. government paid more attention to the peace movement in Israel? Why haven’t Congressional committees responsible for Middle East issues invited them to appear on a regular basis?

4) The heroic Argentinean-Jewish journalist and author, Jacobo Timerman, was arrested, tortured, and ultimately deported to Israel for his unflinching coverage of Argentina’s “dirty war” (1976-1983). He was deeply opposed to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Like many Israelis, Timerman felt it betrayed the promise and vision of Zionism. In his book, The Longest War: Israel in Lebanon, he said, “I think it does more justice to reality if one calls Israel a parliamentary republic and not a democracy.” What are the distinctions between the two forms of government? Would it hurt Israel’s image internationally if the world came to see Israel as a parliamentary republic and not a democracy? If yes, why? If no, why not?



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