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Ruthie Ginsburg: Ariella Azoulay’s Academic Clone


Editorial Note

Just as an older generation of academics-activists is retiring or moving on, a cadre of their students is supplanting in the Israeli academy. Like their mentors, the younger generation is dedicated to pursuing the binational state project and, more to the point, using their tax-payers supported positions to do that. 

Ruthie Ginsburg, a visual culture researcher from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is a case in point. She did her doctoral dissertation under Ariella Azoulay at Bar-Ilan University at the Program for Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies. As IAM reported, Azoulay subsequently moved to lead the Photo-lexic international research group in the Minerva Humanities Center of Tel Aviv University, part of the Political Lexicon Project directed by Adi Ophir.  

Ophir described the project in the following way: "The Lexicon group studies foundational concepts in political theory and initiates the writing of original essays in the field... Through the critical interpretation and redefinition of these concepts the group seeks to broaden the horizons of the theoretical thought and at the same time to shed light on present political conditions."   Though sounding general in scope, the project was essentially a compilations of essays bashing Israel.  Azoulay used an obscure approach known as critical photography to produce images equating the treatment of Palestinians to the fate of Jews during the Holocaust.  Most notoriously, Azoulay added a caption to an image of a chain-link fence and some Palestinians stating "In this act, too, Palestinians are the ones who will be arrested. This time, however, they force the Israeli soldiers to chase them as if they were chasing (Jewish) prisoners under the Nazi regime."

Ginsburg, as her Bezalel web page indicates, is teaching photography, visual culture and gender at the History and Theory Department, as well as at Tel-Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University. Ginsburg is more than ready to follow in the footsteps of Azoulay.  She is now leading the Photo-Lexic research group at Minerva of Humanities Center, Tel-Aviv University.   Her most recent book is And You Will Serve as Eyes for Us − Israeli Human Rights Organizations as Seen Through the Camera’s Eye (Hebrew). 

The articles by Ginsburg are to be found in journals and books on Visual Culture and Human Rights:  "Framing, Misframing and Reframing"; "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest Soldier of them All?"; "Taking Pictures Over Soldiers' Shoulders: Reporting on Human Rights Abuse from the Israeli Occupied Territories".

As IAM repeatedly stated, scholars have the right to engage in political activism. What is wrong, however, is the fact that activism became so seamlessly combined with an academic position.  Ginsburg seems to take this for granted.  For example, in the article “Taking Pictures over Soldiers' Shoulders: Reporting on Human Rights Abuse from the Israeli Occupied Territories”, she writes that her goal is to “dismantle the uniform understanding that the photographs… as nothing more than objective evidence…” She adds that the critical approach enables her to "represent a certain “reality” and also a viewpoint that is chosen over others.”

This use of critical jargon should not deceive the readers.  Ginsburg is not interested in using photography to represent objective evidence, because her point of view “chosen over others” is to present the Israeli soldiers in a most incriminating way.   By adopting critical photography, Ginsburg can contribute to her political agenda of human rights for Palestinians.   As she put it, “human rights language has created the foundation for “an advocacy revolution” and has done so by providing the abused and oppressed with the tools to pressure from within and beyond the borders of the nation-state.”    

Once again, the long suffering tax-payer is forced to support this self-proclaimed “advocacy” revolutionary.


Symposium in honor of the book "And You Will Serve as Eyes for Us − Israeli Human Rights Organizations as Seen Through the Camera’s Eye" by Ruthie Ginsburg

We are pleased to invite you to an evening seminar in honor of the new book of Ruth Ginsburg, "And You Will Serve as Eyes for Us − Israeli Human Rights Organizations as Seen Through the Camera’s Eye" (published by Verso). The evening is taking place on behalf of the Minerva Center for Humanities, the Minerva Center for Human Rights and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Tel Aviv University.

The book "And You Will Serve as Eyes for Us" is about civil perception of Israeli human rights organizations operating in the occupied territories. By analyzing photographs of three organizations it is trying to discuss the problematic position of citizens who adopted a universal language to criticize their government's policies. While international rights organizations are driven by directing their gaze toward the other, the book argues the perspective of local organizations is reflexive and is directed internally towards acts made in their name.

The book shows how the visual analysis is essential for understanding organizational activity. Through drafting the development of organizations and interviews with activists, a question is raised about the "visibility" of attacks on Palestinians and presentation to distant viewers.

This seminar will be held on Wednesday 21/01/2015, at 18:00 at Tel Aviv University, Gilman Building, Room 496

Participants: Aeyal Gross, Daphna Hacker, Michal Givoni, Dafna Ben-Shaul and Ruthie Ginsburg 

Facebook event page:



Book catalog:


Review by Gilad Meltzer:


Entrance is free, all are welcome!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ruthie Ginsburg <ginsburgruthie@gmail.com>
Date: 2015-01-18 12:36 GMT+02:00
Subject: [SocSci-IL] השקה לספר
To: socsci-il@listserver.huji.ac.il

האם אפשר בבקשה להפיץ את ההודעה הבאה ברשימה?

אנו שמחים להזמינכם לערב עיון לכבוד ספרה החדש של רותי גינזבורג, "והייתם לנו לעיניים: ארגוני זכויות אדם ישראליים מבעד לעין המצלמה" (הוצאת רסלינג). הערב מתקיים מטעם מרכז מינרבה למדעי הרוח, מרכז מינרבה לזכויות האדם ומרכז אדמונד ספרא לאתיקה באוניברסיטת תל אביב.

הספר "והייתם לנו לעיניים" עוסק במבט האזרחי של ארגוני זכויות אדם ישראליים הפועלים בשטחים הכבושים. באמצעות ניתוח תצלומים של שלושה ארגונים הוא מנסה לדון במורכבות עמדתם של אזרחים שאימצו שפה אוניברסלית על מנת לבקר את מדיניות ממשלתם. בעוד שארגוני זכויות בינלאומיים מונעים על ידי הפניית מבטם לעבר האחר, הספר טוען שמבטם של הארגונים המקומיים היינו רפלקסיבי ומופנה גם פנימה למעשים הנעשים בשמם.

הספר מראה כיצד הניתוח החזותי חיוני להבנת פעילות הארגונים. דרך שרטוט התפתחות הארגונים וראיונות עם פעילים עולה השאלה בדבר "נראות" הפגיעה בפלסטינים והצגתה לצופים רחוקים.

ערב העיון יתקיים ביום רביעי, 21.1.2015, בשעה 18:00 באוניברסיטת תל אביב, בניין גילמן, חדר 496

משתתפים: אייל גרוס, דפנה הקר, מיכל גבעוני, דפנה בן-שאול ורותי גינזבורג

דף האירוע בפייסבוק:

על הספר בקטלוג ההוצאה:

ביקורת מאת גלעד מלצר:

הכניסה חופשית, כולם מוזמנים!

Dr. Ruthie Ginsburg

והייתם לנו לעיניים
ארגוני זכויות אדם ישראליים בשטחים הכבושים מבעד לעין המצלמה

And You will Serve as Eyes for Us
Israeli Human Rights Organizations as Seen Trough the Camera's Eye



Right-wing Protesters Attack Art Talk in Jerusalem

WEST JERUSALEM — In retrospect, we were complacent. We thought that the opposition would fade away by the time of the event, or at most, the action would amount to a polite protest vigil. Even after seeing the distorted stories claiming that our event supported terrorism and called for the destruction of Israel we were relatively calm. We are accustomed to this language — the lies and distortions of the nationalist right in Israel.

But when invitations for a demonstration against our event started appearing on the Facebook pages of extremist organizations the management of the Hansen House hired six security guards and notified the police. The night of the event, Monday, November 10, there were roughly 50 people inside to attend our event, while others were left outside after the guards locked the gates as a safety precaution. When police arrived, they recognized some of the protesters — and they suspected things may turn violent — so the police officers stayed at the scene and called for backup.

Erev Rav is an independent journal of arts, culture, and society, edited by us. Established in early 2010 to advance the discourse on art, and to support a multicultural, democratic, and pluralistic discussion on culture. Working out of Hansen House, an art centre located in a former leper colony, we also organize numerous events, including video screenings, performances, and artist talks. “The Pain of the Archive” was an event we organized for both the launch of the book by Dr. Ruthie GinsburgAnd You Will Serve as Eyes for Us − Israeli Human Rights Organizations as Seen Through the Camera’s Eye, and the screening of excerpts of works by choreographer Arkadi Zaides: “Archive” and “Capture Practice.”

An hour before the event starts, protesters start gathering in front of the gates. Arkadi Zaides and Ruthie Ginsburg entered through a side door. A small group of people standing in the doorway of the hall demanded to enter. They are very aggressive, and the security guards recognize them as members of La Familia — a notoriously violent and racist football hooligan group. They told the guards that they came only to hear another opinion. One of them has a small megaphone. When the security decided against letting them in, they began to shout, curse the guests, and take pictures of those in attendance.

Meanwhile, outside protesters (which included members of other extreme right groups), guests, and police started to grow in numbers. There appeared to be some chaos at the gates of the compound, but we were locked in the hall and could not see what was happening outside. The security decided to secure the main gate, which left many of our guests stuck among the protesters.

We began the evening citing the title of Ariella Azoulay’s writing on Aïm Deüelle Lüski‘s work, ”A Brief History of Photography in Dark Days,” which raises the question of photography in these times and the need to challenge the mechanisms of visual clichés, while trying to generate other gazes and devices.

 talked about how to use photographic images in the Occupied Territories. What we appear to see in them and what is hidden, and therefore less discussed. She mentioned the multitude of cameras in conflict areas, which on the one hand helps expose the truth, but also makes any incident that was not documented not worthy of investigation.Ginsburg
 presented her research on the use of photographs by human rights organizations in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Five minutes later, the power failed — later we discover it wasn’t an accident. We improvised in the darkness, and found a way to connect the computer and projector to power, but not the lights. The rest of the evening was held largely in darkness, with the only light being the projected images on the screen, while we continued to hear the cursing and shouting from outside.

Zaides presented excerpts of his works that are based on documentary material filmed by Palestinian volunteers of the B’Tselem Camera Project. Zaides is a veteran at dealing with protesters. Recently, the Israeli Petach Tikva Museum was asked to remove one of his works from an exhibition.

In his work, Zaides traces the body language and movement of soldiers and settlers who are filmed by Palestinians. The connection between the adoption of the Palestinian perspective and the movements of the Israeli solders or settlers allow him to emphasize the physical reactions to which they resort to in various confrontational situations. Zaides wished to examine the somatic influence of the Israeli Occupation on the bodies of those administering it, while raising questions about his own involvement in the act.

With the exception of the electrical sabotage and shouts coming from outside, the talks proceeded with little interference for those of us in the hall. Suddenly we see people throwing stones at the windows. The police rushed to the location of disturbance, and discovered that the protesters appeared to have broken the security camera at the entrance.

The evening ended with questions from the audience, but the tension made it difficult to concentrate. Before leaving the room, a security officer instructed the audience to avoid conflicts and not to take any pictures. As they left our guests were cursed and taunted in a shocking way. Arkady and Ruthie stayed inside for an additional 20 minutes, and left only with a police escort that accompanied them to their car. Through the windows we saw protesters running down the street in all directions, we decided to leave later — and only after police reported that the protesters had dispersed. The right-wing Israelis yelled at the Jewish Israeli attendees all types of obscenities, including “You Nazis, we’ll make soaps out of you,” “You fucker, you leftists,” and “You need to go to Gaza.”

Later on we heard reports from friends and guests about harsh verbal and physical violence. A friend, who was stuck outside with the protesters, was punched in the stomach, and a woman was beaten with a flag pool on her head, but all are ok now. All the people I spoke to were very shaken by what happened.

Here in West Jerusalem the police protected us. A few protesters were arrested and released the following day, however we don’t believe the police filed a report. During the same period, in East Jerusalem, protests and riots by Palestinian youth continued, and the police continued to shoot tear gas and stink bombs at the protesters, while beatings and arrests were frequent. In Gush Etzion, a young woman was murdered by a Palestinian, and a security guard was stabbed on the light rail. The next morning the walls of the bilingual school, the only place in Jerusalem were Arab and Jewish children learn together (and some of our children and the children of our friends go there), were graffitied with “Death to the Arabs” slogans. Just another November day in Jerusalem.


The recipient of "The Vidal Angel Postdoctoral Fellowship for Research against Hate and Bigotry" of the Minerva Center for Human Rights at the Hebrew University in 2011-2012, was Dr. Ruthie Ginsburg. Guinsburg's study examined the relations between cultural practices such as art, dance or even religious ceremonies, to society narratives and memory.


In the acknowledgement to his book Israel's Occupation, Neve Gordon stated: "The idea for the book emerged as a result of my participation in the "Humanitarian Action in Catastrophe" group at Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, where Tal Arbel, Sari Hanafi, Ariel Handel, Michal Givoni, Shir Hever, Ruthie Ginsburg, Adi Ophir, and several others underscored the urgent need to theorize Israel's occupation and helped me to formulate some of my thoughts about the operation of power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip." p. xiii



History and Theory, Bezalel //   Issue No. 11 - Photography and the Political Arena, January 2009
Armed with a Mask: Comparative Gaze on Pictures from B'Tselem Project "Camera Distribution", to the Artwork of Erez Israeli
Ruthie Ginsburg 

This paper analyzes photographs of the B'Tselem (An Israeli Human rights organization) project in tandem with the artwork of Erez Israeli. On the basis of similar vision of images - masked faces - I explore two public spheres. The aim of presenting the visual images together is to show how production and presentation of the collective positive image is bound with its contradiction. The essay's analytic framework is the ongoing negotiation on the political character of the State through images in different spheres.

Click to enlarge

This only an abstract; the article's full text located at the Hebrew section of the Journal.

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