By Jim Miles
(Apartheid is a Crime: Portraits of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Mats Svensson. Cune Press, Seattle, 2019.)
In Apartheid is a Crime, Mats Svensson has created a very accessible clear expression of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
It is composed primarily of photos of the Palestinian situation. Not photos of the wars, the fighting, and the blood, but of the people and their dispossession under martial law. The faces do not show rage and hatred, but range from resigned acceptance, through steadfastness, passive resistance, and on to – somehow – a seeming ironic happiness – ironic in that it is difficult to imagine anyone smiling or laughing under these conditions. When Israeli shoulders are viewed, their faces are impassive, uncaring.
The landscape is presented in three themes. The first shows the abandoned landscapes from the nakba – houses untended and decaying, the native plants, and significantly the native cactus claiming their own space in the ruins. The demolition of homes highlights the daily ongoing military actions, piece by piece, of the slow demolition of the remaining cultural and civil landscape. Finally, the wall looms above all, combined with wide swaths of cleared ‘buffer’ zones, separating families, farms, businesses, and civic interaction.
Preceded with a foreword by Ramzy Baroud, the photos are accompanied by short text excerpts from many well-known names: Tom Segev, Richard Falk, Nelson Mandela, Edward Said, Moshe Dayan, and Presidents Obama, Carter and Bush. Among them are lesser-known names of Palestinian and Jewish voices, speaking equally as eloquently as the readily recognized names. The general theme of the comments is of apartheid and colonialism, the unfortunate silence of the diplomats, and the daily humiliations and struggles of the people suffering under the apartheid system, a system that always and ever has denied a two-state solution.
The juxtaposition of comments and photos provides a strong message concerning the plight of the Palestinian people. It is concise, not needing a historical background, hitting the reader on an emotional level more than an intellectual level. For those just becoming familiar with the Palestinian problems Apartheid is a Crime is a good starting position; for those already cognizant of the situation and many of its political/legal backgrounds, Apartheid is a Crime presents a visually emotive reminder with concise quotes and references reinforcing longer discourses.
– Mats Svensson, a former Swedish diplomat working on the staff of SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, has been following the ongoing occupation of Palestine since 2003. He is the author of “Crimes, Victims and Witnesses – Apartheid in Palestine.” (Real African Publishers) and his latest “Apartheid is a Crime – Portraits of Israeli Occupation,” (Cunepress, 2020). Mats contributed this article to Palestinchronicle.com.