TIME selects 2012 Best Photographer for his work in Egypt, Palestine, Syria

TIME’s Photo Department faces a daunting task every year as it shuffles through millions of powerful photographs to determine the best and most dynamic photographer on the wires. This year, they honor Italian-born Marco Longari, the Jerusalem-based chief photographer for Agence-France Presse (AFP) who in just the last few months covered the revolution in Syria, the Israeli shelling of Gaza, and the persistent protests in Cairo.

His photographic tour through the Middle East took viewers on a journey of shifting political landscapes. But he focused on the human aspect of these turbulent times and managed to tell important stories. As the TIME Photo Department so aptly writes, “Longari made picture after picture this year that mattered.”

In an interview with TIME, Longari shared what he calls “the most humbling lesson in compassion” he’s experienced in his entire career. He arrived at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City just after an Israeli air strike. Waiting to photograph the ensuing chaos, he phoned his family currently staying in Jerusalem but the line was cut. He managed to compose himself but the unease was still there. That’s when he felt the burden that Palestinians face on a daily basis.

Here are a small selection of his photographs. The rest can be found here.

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There are 5 comments

  1. meqdadtaheri

    Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim.

    We must know the roots of the Occupation if we are to ever free Filastin from it.

    And its roots, unfortunately, run deep.

    Before 1948, Filastin was ruled by a series of empires. “Palestine” was the name given to southern Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria) in the second century by the Romans, in an attempt to break the Jewish adherence to the land. This was a century after the Temple (Beit al-Maqdis) was destroyed and more than a million Jews massacred.

    The Jews stopped fighting the Romans only after they had no more fighting men standing. Conservative Christian attitudes toward the Jews and Filastin can be epitomized by the words of Evangelist William Eugene Blackstone, who proclaimed in 1891 that “the Jews never gave up their title to Palestine… They never abandoned the land. They made no treaty, they did not even surrender. They simply succumbed, after the most desperate conflict, to the overwhelming power of the Romans.”

    This is what we are up against.

    The Jews persisted through the centuries under the various empires, after the Arab invasion of 635AD (which the Jews fought alongside the Byzantines), and after the Crusade massacres of the 11th Century, which decimated much of their population.

    Few Filastinun know that Jewish customs, religion, prayers, poetry, holidays, and virtually every walk of life, documented for thousands of years—all revolve around Filastin and al-Quds. They pray for al-Quds in every prayer, after every meal, in every holiday, at every wedding, in every celebration. The whole Jewish religion is about Filastin and al-Quds. Western expressions such as “The Promised Land,” and “The Holy Land,” did not pop out of void. They have been part of Western knowledge and tradition dating back to the beginning of Christianity and earlier.

    After the Crusades, the Jews lived peacefully with Arabs, often in the very same villages, as in Pki’in, in the Jalil, until the Zionist immigration of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Article 6 of the PLO Charter calls for the acceptance of all Jews present in Filastin prior to the Zionist immigration. These Jews were simply another ethnic group in a region composed of Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, Druz, Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Circassians, Samarians, and more. Some of these groups, like the Druz, Circassians, Samarians, and an increasing number of Christians, are actually loyal to the Zionist Entity.

    Incidentally, genetic studies show that the Zionist immigrants are closely related to groups like the Samarians who have lived in Filastin for thousands of years—a fact that Zionists view as a moral stamp of approval on their occupation of Filastin.

    Few Filastinun realize it, but it will take a lot to dislodge the Occupation from Filastin, and, as described in Jonathan Bloomfield’s award-winning book, “Palestine,” learning the enemy is an integral part of planning the struggle.

    1. ontogram

      Nonsense. First — genetic studies reveal the absence of close ties of Ashkenazi to the region. Secondly, the Arabs have obviously closer genetic ties to the area. Secondly, the Jews had two thousand years to organize a return to Palestine and actively resisted doing so, opting for other destinations upon explusion (as in 1492) and even in 1948 and even afterwards. If the region — not to mention statehood — was important, why didn’t a sizable majority of Jews re-settle in “Falestin?” The influx of Jews from ME countries was a result of Zionist conquest of Palestine and not long standing Arab policy. To this day, Iranian Jews resist every bribe to resettle. Israel was always in the hearts and prayers of the Jews, but then it is also a poignant religious location for Christians and Muslims as well. So what? I think two thousand years is a very long absenteeism, more so considering that various administrators of the region were not hostile — some even indulgent and encouraging — to Jewish settlement. As for the Jewish “state” — it was short-lived in historical terms, divided itself, and not the root cause for some of the events you describe. Furthermore, banishment from the land was a very infrequent and undesirable strategy for any conqueror who wished to collect taxes. Genetic studies are not a basis for legal claims in any event and the loyalty you cite among non-Jews in Israel is no different from my loyalty to the US even though I am Jewish.

      The underlying cause of the conflict is the invention of phony “rights” by a group of Jews — not, incidentally, the best and the brightest by a long shot — rights to a land occupied by Arabs for at least 1400 years. A proper Jewish state could and should have only been established (even if desired by a minority of world Jews) with the indulgence and approval of the inhabitants. This approach would have been consistent with my Judaism. Instead, they lie, cheated, stole, murdered, pillaged and destroyed a people to establish Jewish power in the region based upon what? Bible stories and some genetic markers, not legal titles Jews never owned more than 8% of Falastin prior to 1948 and, here’s the kicker, they still do not! Zionism is an embarrassment to many Jews, an outrage to many orthodox groups, and a source of criminal acts of murder, bribery and extortion throughout the world. Zionism is an ideology for idiots.

      1. ontogram

        The Jews never gave up their land, they succumbed: This is true. But, having succumbed, why did they not return to this much-treasured place in the 2000 years? It would seem an automatic thing especially considering expulsions like 1492. “Honey — pack up the kids and let’s return to Eretz Israel now that we have to move anyway!” The proof is in the pudding — they did not, there was not even a major movement to do so, in all that time. Assyrians, Egyptians, Turks, Syrians, France, and the British all have a claim to the “Promised Land”, a phrase used as a metaphor because it is biblical in origin. When I ask a fellow Jew what makes him think he has any right to Palestine, the response is always because G*d gave us this land. At this I can only shake my head in wonder — biblical stories that are untraceable as a cause for so much terror and dispossession. Yikes!

      2. meqdadtaheri

        This is a great answer.

        One major question you are leaving unanswered, though, is how do you convince a nation to pack up and leave? Zionists have been spilling their sweat and blood in Palestine for 140 years now—the first settlement was established in 1870 in Mikveh Israel. The first Zionist casualties were those who dried the swamps. They died of malaria. In the twentieth century they died of conflict. Why would they leave after having invested tens of thousands of lives in Palestine, and many thousands of limbs?

        Assuming you could split persons who are of a mixed Ashkenazi-Sephardic marriage, how do you convince six million people to move to European and Middle Eastern countries where they know they would be killed? I don’t have to elaborate about Arab countries. As for Europe, in many major cities, from Marseille to Stockholm, from Amsterdam to Budapest, a Jew setting foot in the wrong part of town is likely to be beaten and even killed—in Western Europe by Muslims, in Eastern Europe by white supremacists.

        Recall that Zionist kids learn about the Holocaust and historic persecution of Jews in the Diaspora in great detail, and grow up with the notion that the only safe place for them (not without justification) is Israel. How do you convince them to dismantle this perceived safe haven?

        Perhaps if their country had been a miserable, unstable backwater, you would have had an easier time doing so. But boy, you’ve got to hand it to them, they have turned desert and swamps into a world-class country whose medical and technological innovations are literally saving millions of lives all over the world. You have your job cut out for you, trying to convince them that they are bad for the world and should not exist.

        By the way, just a few mistakes you made.

        Regarding genetic studies, what you wrote was not correct. You can Google for yourself “genetic studies on Jews,” and see that according to quite a few studies that were published in reputable, peer-reviewed magazines, Ashkenazi Jews ARE closely related to ancient Middle Eastern populations.

        Second, Jews did migrate back to Palestine throughout the two thousand years despite the harsh desert environment, the marauding Bedouins later on, the diseases etc. They were almost massacred to extinction by the crusaders, but they did not stop returning and their numbers recovered. In the 19th century, before the Zionist immigration, Jews constituted the largest religious group in Jerusalem.

        You mentioned that “various administrators of the region were not hostile — some even indulgent and encouraging — to Jewish settlement.” This is the first time I read that. Who were those administrators? I thank you for teaching me.

        You mentioned that the Jewish state was short-lived. I read that Jews have lived in Palestine continuously for more than 3,300 years, and that not only are they genetically related to ancient peoples there, but also Hebrew is a dialect of Canaanite, which takes them even farther back.

        You mentioned that “banishment from the land was a very infrequent and undesirable.” But that is not correct. It happened a lot in ancient times and many nations disappeared like that. Taxes could always be collected from the exiled nations in other parts of the empire where they were resettled, if the ancient empire collected taxes.

        You mentioned that “the loyalty [of] non-Jews in Israel is no different from [your] loyalty to the US even though [you are] Jewish.” That is not correct. It is a different loyalty. It is the loyalty of Arab speakers to a Jewish country surrounded by 300 million other Arab speakers who mostly want it annihilated. That is quite a position they are putting themselves in. It’s nothing like your situation in America.

        If this group of Jews, who have recently figured how to shoot down one rocket with another—the only group on earth to figure it out—are “not the best and the brightest by a long shot,” then that makes you one arrogant SOB, wouldn’t you agree? These Zionist Jews don’t come even close to your brightness. Please understand, I am not trying to insult you, just trying to make a point—you are wrong; if they are not the very best and brightest, then they are pretty damn high up there.

        You mentioned that a “proper Jewish state could and should have only been established… with the indulgence and approval of the inhabitants.” It actually started like that. There was a lot of symbiosis between the Arabs of Palestine and Zionist immigrants. In fact, the first Arab school in Palestine was built by Zionist in the village of Ja’una, near Rosh Pina. Violence started in the 1920s with the ascent of Arab nationalism. That was the first time that the Arabs of southern Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria), started considering the pursuit of their own national aspirations independently from the rest of Greater Syria.

        You mentioned that the Zionists murdered. The closest I can think that a Zionist attack came to a murder, was Deir Yassin. It is worthy of note, though, that the Zionists did not go house to house stabbing people (a recent operation like that took place a few years ago by a shaheed against a settler family). The Zionists threw grenades and shot people to death. To be honest, though, I should mention that it was during a battle, to which they brought a loudspeaker to warn civilians to stay out; a battle in which Arab men dressed like unarmed women suddenly opened up; a battle in which Arab men feigned surrender and then opened up; a battle in which the Zionists left a corridor open specifically for civilians to evade the fighting; a battle after which, the Zionists, on their own, called the Red Cross.

        All echelons of the Zionist leadership condemned the Deir Yassin actions. None of the fighters who participated in what later was called a “massacre” had any squares, summer camps, or football clubs named after them, which is what you see today on the Palestinian side. In the West Bank, shaheeds, who targeted Jewish civilians, receive these posthumous honors.

        In addition to murdering, you mentioned that the Zionists “lie, cheated, stole, pillaged.” Any instances you might care to mention in support of these claims? Incidentally, I must tell you, if you hadn’t mentioned that you were Jewish, I would have sworn that you were a neo-Nazi. Please don’t take offense; it’s just that you come across as really full of hate.

        You mentioned that the Zionists “destroyed a people.” Actually, historians argue that the single most important factor in the creation of the Palestinian people is the Zionist movement. It created one of the strongest national movements in the Arab world. In the 19th Century, a Druz, a Christian, or a Shiite living in Haifa would be more loyal to his coreligionist in Beirut than he would to his neighbor. Today, this would be unheard of. While the Arab Spring pushed to the surface religious fault lines in many Arab countries, it did nothing of the sort in Palestine, thanks to Zionism.

      3. meqdadtaheri

        Incidentally, Deir Yassin was inflated and exaggerated by the Higher Arab Executive—Hussayn Khalidi, in particular—to foment hatred and draw Arabs from neighboring regions into the conflict. The fabricated stories included rape and atrocities which had never happened. The unintentional consequence was the spread of fear throughout Palestine, which drove thousands of Arabs to flee their villages and become refugees.

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