From the horrifying live videos broadcast by Hamas terrorists on the morning of October 7 during their invasion of Israeli communities, to IDF soldiers entering Gaza, bombarded buildings, and long lines of refugees with few belongings – the Israel-Hamas war is probably the most visually documented war in history.
Pictures have great power. And that means those in power have a great interest in directing images toward their political narrative.
On this episode of the Haaretz Weekly podcast, Israeli journalist and activist Anat Saragusti, who has lived and reported from both southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, and is recognized as Israel's first woman war photographer, talks to Esther Solomon about the striking visuals we have been exposed to since the October 7 massacre, the stories those images tell us and the Israeli obsession with a "victory photo."
Saragusti is currently curating an exhibition called "Local Testimony": a collection of the most iconic press photographs from the past year. It's on show at Tel Aviv's Eretz Israel Museum until February.
The curation process for the exhibit started before October 7 and originally, Saragusti shares, "the two major themes were the protests against the Netanyahu government's judicial overhaul and clashes in the West Bank between settlers and Palestinians, as well as between Palestinians and the military."
The exhibition had to be completely rethought, of course. In the space that is dedicated to the Israel-Hamas war, the visitor is first met by a video that Roee Idan, a photographer for the news website Ynet and resident of Kibbutz Kfar Azza, took on the morning of October 7.
"It's a short video showing Hamas militants paragliding into his kibbutz. Idan managed to send it to the newsroom, and when he went back to his home he was murdered. His wife Smadar was murdered too. Two of their children hid in the closet and survived. Their young daughter Avigail, who is 4 years old, was kidnapped to Gaza and was only recently released. It's a very chilling image," says Saragusti about seeing the beginning of the attack through the eyes of someone who didn't survive it.
In the conversation, Saragusti also addresses the fact that Israeli mainstream media barely shows images of what's happening in Gaza and isn't regularly reporting on the dire situation in the Strip.
"The fact that Israeli audiences don't see images from Gaza means that journalists are not doing their jobs," she says. "They have to show the images. Hebrew-speaking Israelis watching television news are not exposed at all to what's going on in Gaza. We don't see the atrocities, the rubble, the destruction and the humanitarian crisis. The world sees something completely different."
Israelis fear that the world doesn't see their pain and is only sympathizing with the Palestinians. Saragusti sees things differently. According to her, "The world saw the October 7 massacre. Journalists came to Israel, they saw the bodies, the remains of the Nova partygoers, the destruction in the kibbutzim. They delivered the message, they reported on it. But now the focus is somewhere else.
"The fact is that people outside of Israel are seeing a completely different picture of reality. If we don't see what they are seeing, we won't be able to understand the growing sentiment against us. The majority of people know what happened, they know there was a massacre, they understand Israel went through something devastating. The fact that we Israelis are living in a completely different dimension doesn't work to our advantage. We need to deal with it."
Haaretz Weekly Dec 13, 2023