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August 24, 2005

U Turn


At first I thought they looked Amish.

As I get over my moratorium on writing about Israel, I thought it would be interesting to get your thoughts on this Economist cover.  This edition was actually published in advance of the settlement evacuations — so it preceded  all the drama- (or histrionic-)filled photos that accompanied the event itself. 

Despite all the actual photo documentation, I’m wondering if this cover relates the situation with more poignancy and clarity.  For one reason, it seems to speaks to the departure in the context of its aftermath.  It is also an interesting portrait of the settlers themselves.  Also, I’m drawn to its strong use of the road metaphor.  (With Camp Casey just down the way from Bush’s ranch, and all the various Bush administration " asphalt shots" I’ve featured in the past weeks, the road seems to be some kind of sign these days.)

Your interpretations?

(Autoposted for your review while the BAG is crawling in or out of a tent somewhere.)

(The Economist magazine.  Cover image. August 13, 2005.)

  • Martin

    Beautiful pic. Totally divorced from overcrowded, ugly Gaza. Totally divorced from the usual behaviour of gun-toting settlers who certainly would not be willing to wander off into the twilight without at least a protest.
    Am now curious as to the future. Goodbye from the settlers, certainly, but goodbye from Israel? Will the Palestinians really be able to enjoy the “freedom” that your Administration has dictated is the essential desire of all peoples around the world? Will “freedom”, if it comes, bring peace? Will it bring democracy? Will it bring economic development ?
    My worst fear is that the Palestinians, once they have achieved freedom, peace, democracy anf economic development in Gaza, will come under attack from those who are jealous because they “hate our freedoms”. That would of course lead the Palestinians in Gaza to have to invade whomever is attacking them, or, if the attacker is unreachable or unassailable, attack another target, inventing a series of fake reasons for the war and using the media to convince a peace-loving Palestinian population to support the war.

  • darryl

    Hmmmm. . . too me, it looks like some postmodern remake of the Wizard of Oz. I swear I can see a silhouette for each of the original characters in there.

  • budapest

    Amish, that too my first thought. Or friends/family just out for an eveing stroll.
    So glad though cover not photos the staged “victims” of the “pull- out.”
    Great article on the subject on CounterPunch
    I can’t help but feel the fate of Gaza will be the same as the unwarrented destruction of EU funded water pumps, electricity generators and sub-stations, roads, schools, hospitals, business premises, and famously Arafat’s headquarters in the carnage of 2002 in the West Bank (Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron, Jenin, Qalqilya and Dora.)
    Let a viable ecomomy emerge, then things can get better.
    Sorry for the rant, just feeling passionate on the Bag this morning, and perhaps the calmness of this weeks Economist just brought it out. (My posts are usually much shorter)

  • dave Mac

    How generous of Israel.!
    The hardliners in Israel will have to be appeased after being forced to give up Gaza. The give is always to be followed by a take.
    Anyway, the picture.
    an uphill road? whats over the hill, certainly not the promised land!
    a family strolls peacefully into the sun with nothing but the clothes on their back, their house and property left behind. walking up the first lonely hill on the middle east peace road. Interestingly that road seems to lead back to the 1967 border. (Dont bet on it)
    Fairly divorced from reality isnt it?
    Over that hill lies $300,000 relocation grant and a new house, and the chances are that they or their neighbours burned their farm to the ground rather than let the palestinians find any use for it.
    Anyway, at least they’re not being chased up the hill by stone-throwing arab youths, and returning fire with the family M16.
    Hopefully the Palestinians will reciprocate and give israel something positive in return, so Hamas and the zionazis can be pushed aside and a decent solution sought to this pitiful occupation.

  • radu

    Somebody help me here, but aren’t departure and road quite important symbols for Israelis, given their two millenia journey before they had a state (home?) of their own again?
    In this light this picture might be quite charged for Jews, since it suggests that at least some of them have to start on that road again. As dave pointed up just above, this would be misleading though.

  • khanum

    Fidler on the Roof advert had the same black silhouette image. Being consistent with the iconography.

  • erthsister

    There is something very cinemagraphic about this photograph–I too had a Yellow Brick Road moment! My second and even stronger reaction, though, was to think of the final scene in Ingmar Bergman’s film, The Seventh Seal, in which Death is leading away a string of people backlit against the skyline.
    Bergman image and film synopsis here:
    The effect of this photograph is that they are on a journey, yes, but to where? There are also some shades of the Jode family from the Grapes of Wrath here, as they are traveling across an apparently desolate landscape to some as yet, unknown destination. So there is a feeling of desolation and uncertainty in the image, and a certain simplicity as well, none of this crying and screaming and baggage of both sorts that we’ve actually seen in the subsequent reality. The settlers are having to leave, but is it really that simple? The image shows a simplicity and finality, and an acceptance too, of the situation that most of the settlers we’ve seen pictured in the media have not accepted.
    Returning to the Bergman image (and the description of his archtypical intentions), Death is taking all people, regardless of of age or station, “in one awful democracy” as the professor writes. The new law here too is being applied equally, without regard to status or feelings. The evacuation applies to all (as inexorable as Death?), and as we’ve seen, the removal is implacable and absolute, even to the destroying of earthly possessions such as houses and homes.
    Yet perhaps such an interpretation is too dramatic. The settlers have, for the most part, taken the physical things of life with them. They have the option of starting over, not being dragged off to a Death from which there is no return. But there is no return to Gaza, so that for many, perhaps it feels as final and as devastating as death.

  • acm

    yeah, I immediately listened for that little Fiddler theme in the background for this image as well… (which brings with it a mix of poignance and optimism, of change not welcomed but accepted, but perhaps of a way of life lost too)

  • Lisa

    As one of those evil, racist, Zionist individuals who supports Israel, when I saw this picture, I saw individuals setting out on a road of their own making.
    Whether or not you agree with them (and I do on this), you must acknowledge that most Israeli’s believe that they do not have a partner for peace and that terror will continue no matter what they do. So when I see this picture, I see Israel taking its future in its own hands and setting out in its own direction alone.
    Their backs are to the camera which suggest to me that they know they are vulnerable and having chosen this path out of bravery.
    Look what is behind them:
    And yet they still go, knowing that the guns though not in the picture are still there in reality.
    They go because this must end and if it will not end through negotiations (and they have tried), it will end on their terms.
    I hope the Palestinians won’t waste this opportunity but I expect my hope is futile.

  • ralph stephenson

    Concerning “U TURN”. The image is as ambigious as Israeli intentions are concerning Palestine freedom. The ambiguity is meant to obfuscate
    the real intentions of Israel which is to complete the progrom against
    the Arabic population. Are they going or are the images across the road
    returning. No furniture, no pots and pans… just a sabbath stroll.
    I’ll be back shortly. The whole affair (Gaza evacuation)is a sham.
    By the way, think your blog brings to light a much neglected aspect of how images work as information and more.

  • ummabdulla

    At first glance, I assumed these people were leaving, and shown from the back. But when I look at it closely, they could be walking towards the camera.

  • hauksdottir

    Totally fake… paved road and clipped GREEN grass… in Gaza?!? Maybe in England, but not in a desert farming community. We don’t even have that much greenery in California outside of the cities. (I lived in Visalia for 4 years… right in the heart of the 3 counties which feed the country.)
    And I don’t see Amish, I see Mormon. A big bull farmer and his herd of wives and children. There is only one other figure who might be a male of reproductive age. That gender inequality is bothersome. A farm would have hired-hands if there aren’t enough male kinfolk.

  • amanuensis

    Everytime I see the picture and headline, the tune “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” pops into my head.

  • fotonique
  • Rafael

    Because of the deep shade, you can’t really tell if these people are coming or going, thus putting into question everything about the pull out. Are these settlers on the road to peace? Are they lost in a sea of empty promises and religious/histrionic rhetoric? Does this road lead anywhere?
    Just because you are ON the road, does not mean that you are going anywhere….

  • nevercalm

    the allusion to oz is interesting, as it invokes a dream world. the israeli settlers in gaza, international war criminals all, are living in a similar place, where idf forces (who routinely kill an occupied people at will and with total impunity) are suddenly “nazis” (finally, reality intrudes!!!) and where, somehow, they are the victims in this whole scenario. meanwhile, tens (hundreds??) of thousands of displaced, occupied, oppressed, ghetto-imprisoned and targeted palestinians are “terrorists.” the dream that the idf, who finally were forced to expel these people in accordance with the will of the planet and international law (and counter to their many years of protection of the efforts of the “settlers”) are “nazis” because they’re not abiding the will of the utter minority of israelis was virtually unreported here in the us.
    all in all, this image is waaaaay too generous, if either amish or oz are the images that the bulk of the audience are distilling…what id like to see is some criticism of these people, who operate against the the international community and whose situation is almost wholly subsidized by a cowed, and now by the virtue of that support, targeted US.
    the us media, as ever, failed completely. we were shown again and again images of these “poor, poor settlers” who are being evicted from their enclaves, which exist purely at the whim of their government against more UN sanction than saddam hussein ever faced, and which daily burden the lives of the arabs around them by their very presence. i have yet to hear the realities which settlers faced stood up against the realities faced by the arabs who are/were so unfortunate so as to live near one of their “settlements.”
    or is oz the dream world of the palestinians, where a people who have absolutely no say with respect to the bulk of their nation are expected to form a functioning state, and who will be villified when the pitched battle of their attempts to build a viable organization fails? i suspect that, as ever, the latter applies the most – and once again the palestinians, with virtually no control over their fate, are once again portrayed as aggressors and terrorists in a world which accepts something like saddam hussein being a threat to the united states.

  • Concerned

    I am torn in two by the plight of all people in Israel. The photo could represent both sides of the issue of Gaza. The Palestinians were torn from their homes by the British mandate to create the state of Israel. They had no say, and became puppets in a saga played by only the strong nations of the world – as too often happens to the innocent civilians cauaght up in world affairs. My heart has long gone out to them. On the other hand, we seem to forget how the Israelis got to Gaza and the West Bank. In a war declared by the Arabs, the purpose of which was stated openly and clearly to be the elimination of the settlers of Israel, the Israelis defended themselves, won, and,in the process gained control of these areas for the first time. I wonder how willing the US (or any country for that matter) would be to return territory gained in a battle meant to destroy it? History is usually cruel to the citizens of countries at war – is there anyone alive today who cannot remember all the battles around the world, where the innocent have had to pay the price of arrogant leaders?

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