At an Exhibition of Photographs of Israel, Some Wonderful Images, and Much Foolishness

March 25 2016

This Place, currently at the Brooklyn Museum, displays 574 pictures of Israeli scenes taken by a dozen accomplished photographers. In his review, William Meyers notes that there are “some wonderful images,” but the exhibit’s attempt to convey a message is at best meaningless and at times something worse:

[One of the photographers, Josef] Koudelka, calls the wall Israel built to protect itself from the suicide bombings of the second intifada “a crime against the landscape,” and his extensive documentation makes clear how ugly it is. In his text, Koudelka, one of the world’s great photographers, makes an analogy between Israel’s wall and the Berlin Wall—but the analogy is off. The latter was built to keep people prisoner, to prevent their escape; the former for security, any country’s first responsibility.

For “Desert Bloom,” a series of aerial views of sites associated with the Bedouin of the Negev, Fazal Sheikh began by consulting B’Tselem, . . . Breaking the Silence, and [other] far-left groups that cloak their activities in the rhetoric of human rights but seek to discredit Israel. Aerial photography requires interpretation to be understood, and these pictures, which purport to show Israel’s indifference to its Bedouin citizens and a disregard for environmental concerns, actually document the need for the plans that the government has been trying for several years to implement to improve the educational, health and employment opportunities in the region.

[The exhibit’s organizer and prime fundraiser, Frédéric] Brenner, in [an] interview, . . . said, “I came to feel that only through the language of artists could we hope to create an encounter that truly reflected the complexity of the place, with all its rifts and paradoxes.” This is the hyperbole of fundraising, Brenner’s strong suit. The parties to the conflict . . . will not be swayed by the language of artists. Only donors will.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Bedouin, Breaking the Silence, Israel & Zionism, Museums, Photography

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon