Below is a detail of a photograph by Ellen Flanders from her exhibit, Crossing Borders: Israel/Palestine: A Photographer's Peace Initiative, which showed at the Tangle Gallery in Toronto. Her works combine realistic imagery with reversed prints that make figures ghoulish, or angry swatches of color that cut the picture plane. What follows are excerpts from statements by the artist about the purpose of her work.
The artist, that's me, is a Canadian Jew who spent many of her formative years growing up in Israel with her family.
This exhibit is an impassioned plea to other Jews like myself, in the diaspora, to open our eyes to a tragedy that is occurring at the hands of a state that we call home. We cannot ignore it, nor can we wish it away. The Palestinians are a people who were displaced and dispossessed by the establishment of the State of Israel. We are no longer powerless and we are not the world's victims but we are victimizing another people. The cries for liberation of an occupied people for a land that they can call their own should not be so unfamiliar; we are no strangers to the realities of a stateless people. We must challenge and pressure the Israeli government to take positive steps towards a peaceful solution, a two-state solution.
We hear the Israeli government speak of the Palestine Liberation Organization as terrorists. However, when these same men, now heads of state, were young they belonged to organizations like the Irgun, the Palmach, Lehi, and the Stern Gang-and we called them freedom fighters. People turn to violence when they don't see any political avenues to advance their cause.
Being strangers in many different countries, and persecuted in nearly all, is the experience of most Jews. As a Jewish woman I have experienced this displacement. It is with this knowledge however, that we have an obligation to see to it that no other people should suffer at the oppressor's hands, and certainly not Jewish hands. The oppressed becoming the oppressor is not a title that I relish. I do not want to be ashamed of my heritage, of who we are. I was taught to have pride in my people. It is for this reason that I choose to expose the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories as I have seen it-with eyes wide open. It is when we close our eyes that we need to be ashamed of who we are.
These photos were taken just over a year ago in Jerusalem and the West Bank. the Intifada was three years old and violence was escalating, it was soon after the massacre at the Al-Aksa mosque.