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Brilliant Punitive Raids

or The Twisted Scenario of an Assassination

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This work tells the story of a brutal yet hitherto little-known event in the complex history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Brilliant Punitive Raids springs from the fascination with the as equally adored as detested PLO leader Khalil al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad, and his assassination in 1988 in Tunis. The attack on his life instantly made Abu Jihad into a martyr and hero, however, in the Western world his life and death did not become part of the collective memory and the so-called canon of history.

 

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In earlier works I staged realities, creating an archetypical image, condensing as it were a variety of similar stories, often with urgent political subject matter, into one image. In Brilliant Punitive Raids I worked the other way round: presenting different sides and different perspectives to one story starting from an absent image.

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The absence of media appearances of both Abu Jihad and the attack inspired to create these images. With the use of filmic and imagery – and with a degree of freedom and imagination – I reconstructed and staged the event leading up to the assassination, frame by frame. However, Brilliant Punitive Raids is not intended as a historically correct reconstruction of events. Rather, the sequence of still photos zooms in on the personal experience of the Israeli soldiers involved, even evoking sympathy, and the unsettling contradiction between their make-believe play of two people in love and the cold-blooded killing of a man.

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Shot on location in Tunis and Tel Aviv

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The work “Brilliant Punitive Raids” is an installation and consists of three parts.

1. Film (one channel HD, color, sound, 10 minutes)

2. Photographics works

3. A publication in two formats

Publication part one. Six perspectives on the live and death of Abu Jihad + Juul Hondius interview by Christel Vesters

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Abu Jihad in his garden (Sidi Bou Saïd)

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Columnist Yoel Marcus commented on the events in 1988, in the newspaper Haaretz:

The Abu Jihad operation may make us feel good, may be good for our egos, but it does not in itself really address the weighty problems this country should be struggling with. The killing of Abu Jihad is a symbolic illustration of what is happening to us. It was an operation made for a nostalgia movie about the good old days of brilliant punitive raids – because it does not advance us one inch towards a solution of the problems that have produced this or that “Abu”.

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Research archive of images of Khalil al-Wazir alias Abu Jihad and a coincidental media personality with some similarities