Understanding the conflict in Palestine through art

Esther-Irene Egan
Staff Writer

Todd Drake standing in front of the photographs taken by his Palestinian students

Todd Drake standing in front of the photographs taken by his Palestinian students

Todd Drake is a human rights photographer who held a workshop in Jerusalem for three weeks in May 2013. He is currently on a photography and video exhibit tour entitled “Double Vision.” The exhibition is “made up of photos, students’ photos, recordings of them telling their stories, creation and their creation.” He wants the exhibit to be a voice so Americans may become more aware of what is going on instead of prejudging a culture they know very little about. He believes that really strong narratives are easier for us to listen to, like the Holocaust. He also believes that there is a counter narrative on the abuse of Palestinian people. Drake ultimately wants to reconcile the clash of these two narratives.

He decided to name his exhibition “Double Vision” because he thinks that Americans should come to terms with the two narratives. He says, “If we just dismiss the Palestinian issue, then we are allowing the abuse of people, in ways that Americans would never agree to.” What if you had family or friends in a certain area and the only way to see them would be for you to be subjected to a checkpoint where you wait seven hours? Perhaps you wouldn’t even be allowed to cross the checkpoint. That is the life most Palestinian people lead. Their homes are usually taken or bulldozed by the military, and they simply have to go with it because the government enforces military invasion of citizen property.

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Todd Drake stands with Marwan Abushanab in front of the photographs taken by Drake’s Palestinian students

Marwan Abushanab, a student at Upstate shared his knowledge on this subject. His family was forced to move to Jordan before he was even born. In 1949, the government told his grandmother that she would be moved to Jordan for only a few hours while they searched her home. They told her that she would be able to come back and everything would be fine. However, the government locked the doors and never allowed her back, forcing her to stay in Jordan.

Abushanab’s grandmother had a necklace of house keys around her neck until the day that she died because she was always waiting to go back to her home in Palestine. His parents are now American citizens and can never go back to Palestine. If Abushanab were to go to the Tel Aviv airport in Israel, he could potentially be profiled and held for six hours, whereas Todd Drake could just walk through without a problem. On Abushanab’s Jordanian passport there is a section that says he is “type P,” showing that he his Palestinian, even though he was born in Jordan.

Drake hopes to “build a very rich way of learning,” and the exhibit does just that. It showcases stories that will leave a visual impact that has the prospect of changing the viewpoint many Americans have on the conflict going on over in Palestine. Drake’s exhibit will be held in the Curtis R. Harley Art Gallery, located in the Humanities and Arts building on Campus, until the March 28. On the left side of the wall are photographs taken by his Palestinian students and on the right side are photographs taken by him with a video in the middle telling the story of several Palestinian lives.