Visualizing Palestine

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visualizing-palestineIn 2004, the International Criminal Court of Justice voted 14-1 that Israel’s wall in the occupied Palestinian West Bank was illegal, that it constituted defacto annexation and that it violated human rights law. Yet, almost 11 years after the decision, construction continues. Between 2000 and 2005, 67 Palestinian women were forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints; 54% of the babies died. The UN recommends a minimum of 100 litres of water a day, yet Israel controls all major water sources in the West Bank and allots each Palestinian only 70 litres of water a day.[1]

Viewed piece by piece, these facts can deliver quite the shock, but is challenging to see them in the context of a narrative of Palestinian life.

Ramzi Jaber, co-founder of Visualizing Impact, put it best when he said, “you don’t remember numbers or statistics. You remember stories.” The organization’s intent is to use technology and storytelling to transform challenging data into visually striking illustrations, while maintaining an honest, fact-driven narrative.[2]

It is here that the facts become memorable, relevant and authentic stories.

There is a vast amount of information on the daily lives of Palestinians – their living conditions, experiences and circumstances on the ground – but it largely remains outside the mainstream media. Without being presented in a form that can easily be understood, remembered and shared, these details are not heard internationally. What is needed is a way to see the every day experiences of people living in this region, a means of bringing the facts to life.

Visualizing Palestine is the first portfolio of Visualizing Impact, a non-profit that innovates at the intersection of technology, design and data science. Each image takes 6-8 weeks to finalize, from conception to promotion. Workshops, brainstorming and open exchanges turn the production into a social venture, an approach that extends beyond the organization.[3] Their activist and social justice orientation and emphasis on openness has led them to work in partnership with civil society actors, strengthening the impact of both parties. The infographics are then published under a Creative Commons license to facilitate their use as advocacy tools. [4]

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Jaber, a Palestinian born to West Bank parents, is joined by Joumana al-Jabri, a Syrian architect who grew up in Saudi Arabia. They are supported by a team of designers, data architects, technologists, communications specialists and researchers who work mainly out of Beirut, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan; and Toronto, Canada. An international team of contributors volunteer their time in-person and remotely, with funding from grants, donations and commissions.

They have created over 35 infographics, with topics ranging from ceasefire violations and military aid to the uprooting of Palestinian olive trees and the segregation of travel. They have been published in Huffington Post, The Guardian, the Irish Times, Al-Jazeera, Open Democracy and more, as journalistic resources to inform, change perceptions, correct the narrative about Palestine, and push individuals to take action. It allows people to have a clearer perspective into an immensely complex issue.

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The extent to which the Palestinian issue brings forward divisive and polarizing emotions is well recognized. That is why Visualizing Palestine’s dedication to verifiable facts and sources is all the more important. They have not had anyone bring forward facts that invalidate any of the statements made in their infographics. “We can’t tell the entire story in an infographic, but we can give a glimpse,” says Jaber. “We always strive to make sure that the stories are in context.”[5]

Facilitating awareness and moving forward a fact-based conversation is a step in the right direction.

Successes have allowed them to continue beyond Palestinian issues, with the recently started Visualizing Egypt and the intent to create Visualizing Syria. The organization won the Best Social Activism award in Deutche Welle’s 2014 The Bobs, which honours creative and brave online projects that champion human rights and freedom of expression on the internet.[6] Additional awards include the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction, and the Kantar Information is Beautiful Community Award, among others.

These are details and facts that need to be brought into the international conversation. For more information, or to see more of the infographics, visit the websites of Visualizing Palestine and Visualizing Impact.

 

[1] http://visualizingpalestine.org/

[2] http://www.dw.de/you-dont-remember-statistics-you-remember-stories/a-17675055

[3] http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/graphic-illustration-of-palestinian-concerns-1.1579952

[4] http://visualizingpalestine.org/

[5] http://www.dw.de/you-dont-remember-statistics-you-remember-stories/a-17675055

[6] http://thebobs.com/english/about/about-2/

 

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Rachel Pott

Rachel Pott

Rachel Pott is a writer, teacher and human rights advocate from Peterborough, Canada.

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