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Amahl Bishara


Wearing Catastrophe on Our Chests

[Photo by Mohammad Al-Azza]

Last year around this time, my family and I were in Bethlehem dining with a seasoned American activist when my three-year-old daughter leaned over and whispered in my ear with a fierce intensity: “Tell her about the Nakba!” When I relayed her suggestion to the rest of the table, we all smiled, since this friend knew quite well about the Nakba. The word literally means catastrophe, and it has come to signify Palestinians’ displacement and dispossession at the hands of Zionist ...

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Watching the Occupation at a Close Distance

On May 15, 2014, Nakba Day—a day on which Palestinians commemorate the mass dispossession caused by the formation of the state of Israel—Israeli army snipers shot and killed teenagers Nadeem Siam Nawara and Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Daher during a protest outside of the Ofer prison, where Palestinian political prisoners are held near Ramallah. A few days after their deaths, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI) issued a video, “Unlawful Killing of Two ...

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Everyday Brutality: The Israeli Army Beats and Arrests an Injured Journalist in Bethlehem

[Photo by Mohammed al-Azza in February 2013]

In the newspapers of late, words about a renewed peace process have filled column space. In the streets of Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, in the West Bank, families read the political scene differently. They listen in the middle of the night for the clatter of soldiers’ boots coming down their streets. Nidal al-Azza, a forty-five-year-old human rights lawyer and father of four, heard them approaching his family home, where he and his family live with his mother, sister, and ...

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A Camera’s View Finder Confronts a Gun Sight

[Israeli soldiers approaching Aida Refugee Camp. Image by Mohammad al-Azza]

[All photos by Mohammad al-Azza.] “We were joking,” said Mohammad al-Azza from his hospital bed, “but I couldn’t take the joke.” My husband and I had called and woken up our friend, a photographer and documentary maker, recovering after an Israeli soldier shot him in the face—and these were his first drowsy words after accepting our well wishes. A day earlier, on 8 April, Mohammad was injured while photographing an Israeli raid into his community of Aida Refugee ...

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Permission to Caption

[“Yasmine and Fatima”, C-Print, 2003. By Alessandra Sanguinetti.]

Ever since the start of the first Intifada in 1987, the West Bank and Gaza have become the center not only of Palestinian politics but also of international coverage of the Palestinians. On the ground, these processes of media production are collaborative and dialogical. Working with visiting journalists, photographers, and other media makers, Palestinians translate, set up interviews, and navigate checkpoints. They not only interpret Arabic; they also interpret facial ...

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New Texts Out Now: Amahl Bishara, Back Stories: US News Production and Palestinian Politics

[Cover of Amahl A. Bishara,

Amahl A. Bishara, Back Stories: US News Production and Palestinian Politics. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2012. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Amahl Bishara (AB): Back Stories is an ethnography of the production of US news during the second Palestinian Intifada. I started this project in New York City around the beginning of the uprising. I would wake up every morning, and my first step would be to reach for the news. But obviously the news ...

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Do Photographs Pose an Existential Threat to Israel?

[Front page of the 15 November edition of the Washington Post newspaper featuring Majed Hamdan's photo of Jihad Masharawi mourning his son's death.]

One of the most wrenching images from the November 2012 conflict between Israel and Hamas was that of BBC journalist Jihad Masharawi holding the shrouded body of his eleven-month-old son. His face is gripped with agony, his eyes closed as he looks upward. We can imagine that he feels utterly alone in his grief, but he must also be aware of the men around him in this hospital room. Some or all of the men are likely fathers, uncles, or older brothers to young children. They ...

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Degrees of Incarceration

[Still image from

When I started shooting for what would become Degrees of Incarceration in 2003, I had no idea that it would entail anything more than a day’s work. I showed up with a camera because a dear friend and colleague asked if I had a day to document a youth play about prisons. I ended up spending the night (leaving Bethlehem by public transportation after 4pm was impractical, my new friends told me) and then regularly returning to the youth center that organized the play. As I got ...

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Amahl Bishara


Amahl Bishara is an associate professor of Anthropology at Tufts University. She is the author of Back Stories: U.S. News Production and Palestinian Politics (Stanford 2013), and the director of Across Oceans, Among Colleagues, a documentary about the Committee to Protect Journalists' work in the Middle East during the perilous seasons of 2001-2002. She also directed Degrees of Incarceration, a documentary about the impact of political imprisonment on Aida Refugee Camp. Her recent article “Driving While Palestinian in Israel and the West Bank: The Politics of Disorientation and the Routes of a Subaltern Knowledge” analyzes the Palestinian politics of movement in the everyday.