From the Archive: Israel and Palestine
The Magnum Editorial and Archive teams share a selection of images from Israel and Palestine. Warning: this article includes graphic content.
Magnum photographers have covered several key moments in the decades-long history of tension and conflict between Israel and Palestine. Below is a selection of images from the past 80 years.
Photographs in the Magnum archive date back to 1936 when Phillippe Halsmann documented growing tension in Mandatory Palestine (1920–1948), which led to the Arab Revolt from 1936 to 1939. In the above image, we see the Palestine Police Force — a British colonial police service made up of natives and settlers — searching passers-by at a checkpoint in Jaffa.
Soon after the Second World War, Magnum founders chronicled the creation of Israel, with Robert Capa and David Seymour focusing on the arrival of Jewish settlers. Meanwhile, fellow Magnum founder George Rodger captured the life of Palestinians in the aftermath of the first Arab-Israeli War (1948–1949) and the Nakba (or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic), in which the Palestinian population suffered mass displacement and dispossession from 1948 onwards. In this first slideshow (below), we also see a selection of images from Micha Bar-Am’s archive, notably around the Six-Day War in 1967. Bar-Am’s documentation began in 1957 and spans the first 60 years of life in Israel.
In 1960, Inge Morath traveled to the Middle East, documenting several refugee camps across Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. Below is a rare contact sheet found in the archives of a beach camp in Gaza, showing displaced children at school and the daily life of the refugees.
Through the 1970s and ‘80s, several Magnum photographers continued to document conflict and violence in the region. In the slideshow below, we see photographs from Bruno Barbey and Chris Steele-Perkins capturing the aftermath of violence extended into the greater Middle East and North Africa, including Black September (or the Jordanian Civil War) in Amman in 1970, and the Shatila and Sabra Massacre in Lebanon in 1982. In the same year, 1982, Peter Marlow captured images of the aftermath of the Camp David Accords and Israeli protests around the return of the Sinai region to Egypt.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, photographers such as Abbas, Stuart Franklin, Susan Meiselas, Gilles Peress, Larry Towell, Jérôme Sessini, Paolo Pellegrin, Alex Majoli and Moises Saman documented a vast number of protests, tensions and tragedies in both Israel and Palestine. Towell’s ten-year documentation of life in Palestine culminated in a book titled No Man’s Land. Many of Pellegrin’s images feed into As I Was Dying — a series and book documenting the horror and despair in areas of conflict, war and disaster while giving voice to the suffering of those affected.
From the early 2000s, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Mark Power and Josef Koudelka have all documented the physical separation barrier between Israel and Palestinian territories, which spans 708 kilometers, including within parts of the West Bank.
Sanguinetti first traveled to Palestine in 2003, visiting refugee camps in Gaza and Bethlehem and documenting the lives of young Palestinians growing up amidst the decades-long military occupation.
To this day, multiple Magnum photographers continue to work on long-term projects around both Palestine and Israel. Over the past two decades, Peter van Agtmael, Jérôme Sessini and Paolo Pellegrin have continued to document life and reality for Palestinians during the various military operations in occupied Palestinian territories. Van Agtmael has created an extensive visual record of conflict and tragedy in communities across both Israel and Palestine. Last year, Patrick Zachmann documented demonstrations against the current Israeli government in Tel Aviv.
In October of this year, Peter van Agtmael, William Keo and Jérôme Sessini traveled to Israel and the West Bank in the aftermath of the unprecedented Hamas attack on Southern Israel on October 7, 2023. Since the attacks, Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, killing over 14,000 at the time of writing, and displacing millions.
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