Book Review: Kai Wiedenhöfer: Wall
by Anis Hamadeh
Photographer Kai Wiedenhöfer from Berlin has accompanied the Israeli Palestinian conflict for more than a decade. To produce the photo book at hand, “Wall”, he had traveled into the country every six months to document the building of the Israeli separation device. The pictures date from the time between October 2003 and January 2006.
All 51 phtos were taken with a 6 x 17 cm panorama camera and each fills a double page of the format 59 x 20 cm. At the end of the book you find annotations in English about the individual motifs, the place and time of the shot and the background. The pictures show individual parts of the wall, from the Jerusalem region, from the village Qalqilya, that is walled in, and from other places in the Westbank and also the Gaza strip. Often one sees the wall in the making, with spaces in between, or as fragments. The spactator can guess the dimensions the building, will attain, and sees how villages and junctures are being cut in the middle. Apart from that we can witness scenes at the wall, for example Palestinians climbing over the separation device where its building is not finished yet. Encounters between the military power and the Arab population, demonstrations and passive resistance. A boy, who is tied on an Israeli army jeep as a human shield, art on the wall, and again and again the rubble of Palestinian houses and infrastructure.
According to the Israeli human rights organization Btselem the wall will have a length of about 700 kilometers, more than half of it being accomplished by now. Not only is the beautiful landscape destroyed and disfigured, the separating device also is consciously built and planned not on the border, but in many places on Palestinian territory, as you can see on this map: http://www.btselem.org/Download/ Separation_Barrier_Map_Eng.pdf. The land theft, that goes along with this, is a guarantee for more insecurity and trouble in the region. It reminds one of 1948, when Israel was founded - on a larger territory than suggested by the UN partition plan (which was controversial to begin with). It is hardly possible to demonstrate ones own readiness for conflict more evidently than with the erection of such a wall. “We want to wear down the Palestinians”, is what this building is saying, and most of all: “We want your land, piece by piece.” Addressing the populations in Israel and the western world, though, Israeli politicians say that it is all about security and the protection of the Jewish inhabitants. It is the same argument that also serves as a justification for all other human rights violations: the executions of oppositional politicians, the uninterrupted killing of civilians, the imprisonment of 10.000 Palestinians, the refugees issue, the occupation, expropriation, the constant shooting, streets and settlements “for Jews only” on alien territory, the demolition of houses, uprooting of olive-trees, confiscation of water (the wall lets more wells shift from Arab to Israeli land), the harassments at the checkpoints, the collective punishments for the population, and so on and so forth. The reproach of anti-Semitism and the US veto are the reasons why Israel cannot be made responsible for its deeds. In order to escape the reproach of anti-Semitism - which, in view of the occupation, is as absurd as it is ideologic-dogmatic - mainstream media in Germany and other countries pursues a selective and suggestive news coverage on a regular basis, suggesting that Israel did not produce the terror problem by itself and being quite inventive in that. Thus the media is co-responsible and an accomplice. The same unfortunately holds true for most of the politicians. They try to balance and draw a picture of the Middle east conflict that suggests the existence of two equal oppponents fighting against one another, which is nonsense. They do not even mention the occupation and the refugees issue, as they so not mention the three billion dollars Israel receives annually from the USA - for mere military purposes, without the economic aid. So it remains with others to write and speak about it, those for whom a democracy without human rights is unthinkable.
Kai Wiedenhöfer lets photographs speak. His pictures of the wall are a time document. They impressingly show a political deed in its making and leave the spectator in perplexity. It does not need an international court to recognize that this building is not a contribution to peace, but a destructive monster. Photographer Kai Wiedenhöfer had documented the fall of the wall in his own city, Berlin, which brought him to believe that walls - even if they are built on the borderline! - offer no realistic solutions for political conflicts.
Kai Wiedenhöfer (2007): Wall. Steidl Verlag, Göttingen. ISBN 978-3-86521-117-0 http://www.steidlville.com/books/ 431-Wall.html
You can see a few of the photographs on Anis’ site at http://www.anis-online.de/1/rooms/kai.htm