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“Oslo Peace” twenty years on: part 2

Twenty years in twenty photographs. See the introduction here in part 1.

1. A medallion that he keeps in his pocket, a necklace, bracelets and a badge with the face of John Lennon with the inscription “Give peace a chance” are the symbolic trademarks of Uri Savir, the Israeli chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords, signed 20 years ago. 

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

2. At his “office, in a corner of Dizengoff Street, in Tel Aviv, Uri Savir does not mince words: “The occupation is immoral” and Israelis and Palestinians can not keep on living “hypnotized by the past as if we were the sole victims of this world.”

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

3. In Tel Aviv, staff workers and volunteers of YaLa Young Leaders use their computers to connect with around 400,000 people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The only man in the room is Tom Dolev, an activist to whom it does not matter if there are one or two states - only that democracy prevails.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

4. YaLa leaders (from left to right): 30-year old Sarah Benazera, Israeli of Algerian parents, an “Arab-Jew”, as she defines herself; 34-year old Israeli Druze Ranya Fadel; 30-year old American-Israeli Megan Hallahan; and 23-year old Leah Ledwon, a German whose boyfriend is an Israeli Jew.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

5. Muslim Ohood Murqatem, 26, lost her job in a ministry of the Palestinian Authority due to an incurable disease. Being fired and diagnosed the same year was a double blow, but she found “a family” with her Israeli friends at YaLa Young Leaders, who offered her the post of coordinator in Ramallah and East Jerusalem.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

6. Christian Thaer Abdallah, 22, has lived in Ramallah (West Bank) since October 2012, because he wanted to be “more involved” with YaLa Young Leaders. He joined the movement one year ago, and he is now a staff web designer. He no longer believes in the establishment of two-states, but remains committed to “a just, a peaceful solution” to the conflict.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

7. The office of Gershon Baskin, co-founder of IPCRI, who tirelessly worked to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from long captivity at the hands of Hamas. The veteran peace activist is always working. If someone in distress calls him at dawn, for instance, he leaves everything behind and goes wherever he has to, with little sleep.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

8. From 2006 to 2012, Baskin made every effort to free Shalit. After initially refusing the conditions imposed by Hamas (releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners), Benyamin Netanyahu accepted them 5 years later. Speculating that the prime minister was forced to make a deal to distract attention from a big social protest movement, “What a waste of time”, Baskin said. In return for his efforts, the IPCRI co-founder received a very short letter with a few words of gratitude from the authorities.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

9. During a visit to Hebron, Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah, co-founder of Mejdi Tours, which offers dual narrative tours (Israeli and Palestinian) of disputed places, talks about the complexities of this highly conflicted city. Behind him is Kobi Skolnick, the Israeli guide.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

10. The alleys of the Palestinian market in Hebron are covered with a net full of holes, because some settlers living in the buildings above often throw down all kinds of garbage and even stones, as a provocation, hoping to force their “neighbours” to leave.  Tourists are welcomed however, and to those who make purchases shop keepers offer plastic bags to avoid being hit by the rubbish.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

11. Saturday, prayer day for devout Jews, offers an opportunity to witness how separate the Israeli and Palestinian communities are in the city. A history of massacres on both sides is very present in their traumatized minds.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

12. In Sderot, on the border with Gaza, and the last stop of a Mejdi agency tour: Aziz Abu Sarah's eldest brother was allegedly tortured in an Israeli prison and died at home, during the first Intifada. Kobi Skolnick (on the left) was an extremist settler and angry soldier, “an ex-fanatic”, as he calls himself. They overcame the temptation to seek revenge, studying conflict resolution, and are now best friends.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

13. All Palestinians are obliged to show work permits, residency cards or other documents requested by soldiers, before they get (or don't get) permission to cross the Qalandya checkpoint and enter Jerusalem.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

14. Israeli Rami Elhanan and Palestinian Bassam Aramin are more than friends united by grief. “We are a family”, says the son-in-law of late “peace general” Matti Peled (on the left), mentioning that one of his sons is a member of Combatants for Peace and the other wanted to go to the IDF but refused to serve at checkpoints, “to avoid searching and interrogating uncle Bassam”.

Rami (left) & Bassam (right). Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

15. On his mobile telephone, Rami Elhanan, an active member of the Parents Circle Forum Family, shows pictures of his 14-year old daughter (on the right), who was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber, and of the 10-year old daughter of his Palestinian friend Bassam Aramin, murdered by Israeli border police.

Abir (left) & Smadar (right). Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

16. The “separation barrier” or the “apartheid wall”, which began to be built after the second Intifada in 2000, separates Israel from the West Bank. It will run the length of 700 km when completed. This mixture of concrete and fence divides several communities and, together with the checkpoints, aggravates the living conditions of Palestinians.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

17. Gil Hilel and Adi Mazor with Yehuda Shaul, (co-founder of Breaking the Silence (BS), an organization that tries to encourage Israeli society to set itself free from the occupation. They are explaining to border policemen on duty in Hebron that their testimonies are the way they have found to better express their “love for Israel”.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

18. Adi Mazor was a combat soldier in Qalqilyia in the West Bank and is now a member of BS. Here, in Hebron, she is speaking in Arabic to a Palestinian boy. During military service she used to “point a loaded weapon” at children, “only to impose fear”.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

19. Gil Hillel can’t hide her emotion while telling the story of the photo she holds, published in the newspaper when she was serving with the military police in Hebron. On that particular day she was trying to protect a woman settler who wanted to defy a Palestinian mob. After the military service, she began to “ask questions and did not like the answers”. Now, she is also a part of BS.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

20. Gil Hillel and Adi Mazor passing by a military post in Hebron. Sometimes, “the days were so boring“, with extreme heat, exacerbated by their heavy gear, that they would enter Palestinian houses at random, to humiliate the owners.

Udi Goren. All rights reserved.

About the authors

Margarida Santos Lopes has been reporting on the Middle East since 1979, having covered events from the first multiparty elections in Algeria to the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. Now a freelance, she was editor of the Foreign Desk and the Sunday magazine of the leading daily PÚBLICO. Her articles about the Oslo Accords in 1993 were honored with one of the most prestigious Journalism awards in Portugal (Prémio Norberto Lopes da Casa da Imprensa). 

Udi Goren, from Tel Aviv, is a travel photographer, speaker, teacher and artist. In spite of making a living mostly from travel photography and commercial work, Udi takes on activist projects and aims to make an impact with his photography. He strongly believes that when done right, photography can bring forth great changes.


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