curated by Jack Persekian (PS)

Avi Mograbi.

I’ve always had problems with my eyes. As far as I can remember, I could never see properly. I am short sighted. So I always had to wear glasses; not really cool (during my teens) and definitely not practical. That, I think, lead to my over-obsession with my eyes which at a certain point in my life drove me to the point of imagining that I will go blind. I became more aware of things that were associated with eyes, particularly with those stories that told of people whose eyes were gouged out as retribution. In pre-Islamic history the story of the ‘blue-eyed from Yamamah’ (an oasis in what is today the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) was etched in my mind. This keen-sighted woman who could see for miles and who could alert her people of incoming danger, was eventually captured by the enemy and her eyes gouged out. During Christian classes we were told of the story of Santa Lucia who by some miracle of devout belief got even more beautiful pair of eyes than the ones gouged out the day before. There were many such stories but the one thing I could see put into practice in one way or another and almost on daily basis was the “an eye for an eye” lex talionis (Latin: for “law of retaliation”). This phrase from Exodus 21:23-27 which was meant to express a principle of retributive justice, of proportionate punishment as in the motto “Let the punishment fit the crime”, was somehow skewed in Israel/Palestine where the stronger could decide and measure at his discretion the perpetrator of the ‘crime’ and its severity, thus inflicting the punishment deemed ‘proportionate’ according to his qualified judgment. In a place were the law is somehow guided by and applied according to who you are, who your mother is, how much money you have, which religion you’ve confessed to, and with which race your blood was tainted; you might as well do without it. I could by now guess for certain that you’re thinking along the predictable polarities of Israelis (i.e. stronger) versus Palestinians (i.e. weaker). If you are, you’re wrong. I am referring to everybody within the confines of that war-torn god-forsaken place. It is not only the “skipping … of self-reflection regarding the original sins [my emphasis] that lead up to the [martyrdom] act in Jerusalem [which] is avenged by demolishing the family house, village or town of the perpetrator” but also the booty some Palestinian filch and the power and control they hoard thanks to the state of lawlessness (vindicated by the ‘fact’ that there is no ‘just’ and functioning law). Lex Talionis is the modus operandi. I tried very hard to comprehend the relevance of Samson’s last prayer “avenge but one of my two eyes” to what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. The only answer came from the unlikely Mahatma Gandhi when he said “an eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind”. Then I understood and could sleep the long nights having figured out why these Israeli soldiers stood by taking ‘pleasure’ in the misery and humiliation of the poor children stranded behind the gate on the other side of the fence (that ugly massive fence which put their homes and school on opposite sides) for hours waiting endlessly and hopelessly to go back home. I understood why these soldiers didn’t even pay any attention to the angry reprimanding Avi Mograbi, to the pleading man …, to all the suffering and unwarranted despair. I can see they’re Blind.

*Ariella Atzmon, An Eye For An Eye, or, an eye for an “I”: authors and executioners.
Artist(s): Avi Mograbi
Title: Avenge but one of my two eyes
Country of production: Israel
Year of Production: 2005

Directed by: Avi Mograbi
Produced by Avi Mograbi and Serge Lalou – Les Films D’Ici
With the voice of: Shredi Jabarin
Camera: Philippe Bellaïche, Avi Mograbi
Editing: Avi Mograbi, Ewa Lenkiewicz
Sound mix: Dominique Vieillard

“Avenge But One of My Two Eyes” is a ramble between three arenas at the height of the “El Aqsa” Intifada: the pracice of the Masada cult, reinvented in the mid-forties of the twentieth century and interwoven with the leading Zionist discourse; the condition of oppression and besiegement of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories; the continuous religious and secular cult of Samsom, aka “Samson the Hero”. Real places, times and situations penetrate one another and integrate, presenting the Israeli reality as it is: embroiled, violent, suicidal.