A New Exhibit Displays Some of the Oldest Extant Photographs of Jerusalem

Feb. 14 2019

A recently opened exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art features the daguerreotypes of Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, a Frenchman who spent three years traveling around the Near East using the new technology to take pictures. Among them are twelve photographs of Jerusalem. Karen Chernick writes:

Girault de Prangey began his journey in Rome and crisscrossed the Mediterranean coastline before arriving in Jerusalem on May 21, 1844—two months later than he had hoped, having originally planned to be there for Easter celebrations. When he finally reached the Old City, he captured a comprehensive tourist checklist: panoramic views of the walled ramparts, the Damascus and Lion gates, the Pool of Bethesda, the Dome of the Rock, the churches of the Holy Sepulcher and Nativity, the Moroccan Quarter, Robinson’s Arch, and the tombs in the Valley of Josaphat outside Jerusalem. . . .

Girault de Prangey wasn’t the first photographer to bring a camera and light-sensitized plates to Jerusalem; photography came to Ottoman-ruled Palestine the year it was invented, in 1839. For centuries, European artists had painted the ancient hilltop city in countless religious artworks without ever having seen it. As soon as Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre released his eponymous new mode of image production in 1839, European photographers flooded the region to capture it and bring their records home. . . .

Frédéric Goupil-Fesquet used the new technology to create the first photographs of Jerusalem in early November 1839, just three months after the announcement of the daguerreotype. He was quickly followed by Pierre-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière, who photographed Jerusalem in February 1840.

These early photographs were used as source material for European book illustrators, but most survive now only in their translated medium as etched engravings. Only Girault de Prangey’s daguerreotypes, which he stored meticulously in custom-made wooden boxes, have survived.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Arts & Culture, Jerusalem, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photography

Despite What the UN Says, the Violence at the Gaza Border Is Military, Not Civilian, in Nature

March 22 2019

On Monday, a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry issued its final report on last spring’s disturbances at the Gaza border. Geoffrey Corn and Peter Margulies explain why the report is fatally flawed:

The commission framed the events [in Gaza] as a series of demonstrations that were “civilian in nature.” Israel and its Supreme Court, [which has investigated some of the killings that occurred], framed the same events quite differently: as a new evolution in Israel’s ongoing armed conflict with the terrorist organization Hamas. Consistency and common sense suggest that the Israeli High Court of Justice’s framing is a more rational explanation of what occurred at the Israel-Gaza border in spring 2018.

Kites, [for instance], played a telltale role [in the violence]. When most people think of kites, they think of a child’s plaything or a hobbyist’s harmless passion. In the Gaza confrontation, kites [became] a new and effective, albeit low-tech, tactic for attacking Israel. As the report conceded, senior Gaza leaders, including from Hamas, “encouraged” the unleashing of waves of incendiary kites that during and since the spring 2018 confrontations have burned thousands of acres of arable land within Israel. The resulting destruction included fires that damaged the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which conveys goods and gasoline from Israel to Gaza. . . .

Moreover, the incendiary-kite offensive was an effective diversion from the efforts encouraged and coordinated by Hamas last spring to pierce the border with Israel and attack both IDF personnel and the civilian residents of the beleaguered Israeli towns a short distance from the border fence. . . .

The commission also failed to acknowledge that Hamas sought to use civilians as an operational cover to move members of its armed wing into position along the fence. For IDF commanders, this increased the importance of preventing a breach [in the fence]. Large crowds directly along the fence would simplify breakthrough attempts by intermingled Hamas and other belligerent operatives. The crowds themselves also could attempt to pour through any breach. Unfortunately, the commission seems to have completely omitted any credible assessment of the potential casualties on all sides that would have resulted from IDF action to seal a breach once it was achieved. . . .

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Read more at Lawfare

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Laws of war, UNHRC, United Nations