I’m still trying to get a handle on Ariella Azoulay, having now read From Palestine to Israel: A Photographic Record of Destruction and State Formation, 1947-1950. It’s a book to which I need to come back. Impossible to interpret on their own, the photographs themselves require the careful curating given to them by the author, upon whom we are forced to rely. The photographs are made to think, to intend. In addition to the historical detail, points of view are reconstructed by the author. Thoughts are ascribed to the people shown in the photographs in order to recreate the scene of a crime, to set up a “historical tribunal” (p.16), and to drive home the political-juridical judgment that Azoulay wants us to draw. We are asked to fear for future of the photographed subject, and invited to assume the worst. I’m caught in this book between Azoulay’s critical eye and heavy hand. The analysis in From Palestine to Israel is hermetically sealed into a tight critical lens. We are given to understand that none of this had anything to do with “war” and to believe that prior to this act of “constituent violence,” Jews and Arabs lived a common civic life (pp.7, 21). In a compelling way, the pictures draw me into a world. But I find it almost impossible to come to an independent judgment about the photographs, unable to determine on their basis historical guilt and innocence or a political program for the future, which is what Azoulay wants us to do. Stuck before the photographic image and unable to see past its frame on the page, the one thing I think I can say with relative certainty is that 1948 looked like this, the Nakba looked like this.