We have grown accustomed to seeing photographs captured during conflict dehumanizing victims and fetishizing their suffering. Our Eye on Africa column has previously discussed the disproportionate ways in which the pain of non-western victims is consumed through the media, even though it does not educate us about the context leading to the suffering. Yet, other forms of war-photography capture something else: everyday life under conflict. Instead of focusing on the pain and suffering of victims, these photographs aim to highlight the continuity of life. They focus on the possibility of a future and the necessity to maintain a sense of self. Conflict and suffering can in fact be captured in ways that do not always freeze moments of agony and death in eternity.
“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” said Rabbi Hillel, one of the most influential sages and scholars in Jewish history.
It is unlikely that Barak Obama had this phrase of the Talmud in mind last week during the Moscow’s G8 summit. However, he seems to have performed a political interpretation of this often quoted Jewish aphorism when he tried to convince his fellow world leaders of the necessity of joint military action against the criminal Assad regime in Syria. Continue reading “Syria: If not now, when?”