Love love love Edward Said. In this book, he’s writing a sort of image-analysis/personal-narrative hybrid. Alongside the photography of Jean Mohr, Said considers what it means to be Palestinian in a world where Palestine, as it were, no longer exists. In 1948, following WWII, European Jewish people basically “created” Israel by destroying Palestine. The country was stolen, and the people were exiled. From there on out, Palestinians have been painted as terrorists, they’re stopped at borders, herded into camps or prisons, denied reentry or residence, they’ve had their land taken from under them, and have been censored and silenced. Israel also has the political (and financial) backing of the U.S., which obviously gives them the power to do whatever they want. So this book seeks to humanize the situation by documenting Palestinian culture within such an oppressive regime.
I really liked reading Said’s perspective of things. The barriers that keep him from being able to revisit his home country or where he grew up in Beirut (where a lot of Palestinians fled to and which has since been invaded by Israel) relate to the concept of photography. Photography is all about distance–pictures, as a genre, capture moments from the past. Ones that already happened. Ones that you may not have been there for. Ones that you can’t get back. And so even Said himself can only look at the pictures. He literally can’t be there, which is very sobering. Really I had to stop midway through to check the publication date on the book because it all sounded like the stuff I’ve read about Palestine in the past few years. Turns out it’s from 1985, which is crazy. Crazy how so little changes and yet so much changes. The timelessness of displacement is just crazy.
Best line: “Wherever we Palestinians are, we are not in our Palestine, which no longer exists.” -Edward Said