Eric Cortés - Photography

A Conversation with Palestinian Photojournalist
Hamde Abu Rahma

December 2015

Bil’in – بلعين‎ is a Palestinian village located west of the city of Ramallah in the central West Bank. The village has a population of about 1,800 habitants. For Israeli and international peace activists, Bil’in has become a symbol of the struggle against the “occupation” and the separation barrier. Hamde’s images aims to represent the nonviolent resistance and the Palestinian life inside the West Bank.

Outskirts of the Village of Bil’lin

“I started being a photojournalist after the death of my cousin Bassem Abu Rahmah, killed by a teargas canister that hit him in the chest after being fired by Israeli forces during a protest in Bil’in on 17 April 2009. In the past I used to take photographs but nothing related to politics or social issues – to be honest I wasn’t interested in politics at all. For many years I have seen Palestinians being killed and oppressed. By taking notice of these actions and showing them to world I found a better way to do something about it, to react, to deal with it.”

Bil’in village – Modi’in Illit

“Doing this job changes your personality completely. The conflict changes who you are. Many times I wanted to stop doing what I do. Often I don’t want to go to the demonstrations anymore because I put my life at risk. I see the soldiers pointing their guns at me. They are not stupid, they know exactly what I am doing. I am recording everything they do. They don’t want you to be there. However, after a while it’s not only a job, it becomes a duty.”

View of Israeli settlement construction – Modi’in Illit

“When you go to a conflict zone it’s because you have to go in order to understand how the people involved are dealing with the tensions in their everyday life. I try to show other parts of the conflict, daily life situations – the same things you also do at home, wherever that is – because we also live normal lives, we play, we drink, we cook. I see many people dying. I take pictures of people being shot. It’s really hard. I try to hide how I feel about it, but it gets me and I cry. Last October I lost three of my closest friends. We were students, we shared stuff, we laugh, we learned. One day you see them lying on the ground, dead. It’s very shocking.”

West Bank barrier – built to separate Modi’in from the Palestinian village of Bil’in

“You permanently have the feeling you could to be the next one. Once a soldier shot at me. Nothing serious happened. But I know this was a warning: ‘Be careful next time, don’t come to close’. People always say be careful – but you cannot be careful. It’s about being in the crosshairs or not. What means being careful? How can you be careful? Staying at my house, not doing anything?”

Israeli settlement entrance to the Green Park section

“Not every photojournalist works for the same reasons. It’s also about being a freelancer or working for an organisation. As a freelancer you might be able to explain the story and your point of view. Because when you work for a news agency, it is not about you and the way you want things to be shown. They own you. It’s actually about them and what they want to sell. Sometimes they take my pictures and do what they want with them. You know, they show those pictures with the people throwing stones and then claim those are the terrorist. It’s important to tell the stories behind the images. In fact many agencies buy my pictures and write completely different things, totally out of the context. They use my pictures to tell the story from there point of view. At the end, it‘s only about them.”

Abu Rahma – walking down the fields inside the West Bank