411.3 The trembling hand: Visual documentation of the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 4:39 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Ruthie GINSBURG , Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, Minerva Center for Human Rights, Tel Aviv, Israel
This presentation takes account of the last developments in human rights politics by offering an interdisciplinary examination of their representations. It draws on visual documentation of the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, an Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. The presentation focuses on revealing the influences of visual strategies and technologies on the (in)visibility of social (in)justice and violence.

For two decades (since the first Intifada), B'Tselem has exposed and denounced the Israeli human rights policy towards the Palestinian by publishing testimonies as proofs of violations of Palestinian’s rights. Among these testimonies were still photographs serving as evidence of human rights abuses. They allow the viewer to peer on the victims of the wrongdoings from a safe distance. The safe distance is even more obvious from the Israeli viewers' point of view. The local conflict fixes the Palestinians as foes in the Israeli observers' perception and prevents them from seeing the Palestinians as victims.

In 2007 B'Tselem initiated a new project named "Distributing Cameras" in order to overcome the obstacle of seeing the Palestinians merely as foes. Palestinians in high-conflict areas were provided with video cameras.  The project aims to report information instantaneously, and to show the conflict from a different angle than that is usually seen.  It is possible to understand that making the injustice and violence visible is an effort of this project to overcome Israeli sightlessness to the Palestinians suffering. Viewing the scene from the Palestinians angle one sees the Israelis' actions and not the Palestinians'. I will additionally argue that these images can be seen as an effective production of “authentic evidences”. The project is achieved through a collaboration between Israeli organization and affected Palestinians and between   professional human rights workers and amateur photographers.