Dan Walsh has spent decades amassing the largest archive of Palestine posters, all of which have been scanned and made available online at the Palestine Poster Project Archives. Walsh’s collection includes the earliest known Palestine poster – a 1898 French tourism poster of Bethlehem – all the way to the recent posters produced by supporters of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Already numbering over 10,000, the collection grows every year with posters donated from around the world: any poster in any language from any time period and any source with the word Palestine is added whether Zionist posters produced by the Yishuv or the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Over the following months, Palestine Square will focus on many of these posters as they relate to the history of Palestine since 1948. This week we look at the history and contemporary adaptation of the most well-known poster of Palestine: “Visit Palestine”.
History: Visit Palestine
Franz Kraus was an Austrian-born graphic designer who emigrated to Palestine in 1934. Prior to his emigration, the Jewish Kraus faced an increasingly hostile environment in 1930’s Europe and left Berlin (where he worked as a graphic designer for a publisher) in 1933 and spent a year in Barcelona, where he wed his wide Anni and designed film posters for Hollywood studios. Through a family relative, Franz and Anni secured visas to Palestine and sailed from Marseilles to Jaffa. They settled in Tel Aviv and, in time, Kraus arguable pioneered the advertising industry in Israel. As a young man in 1920’s Vienna, his interest in Zionism was sparked; partly through the speeches of Chaim Weizmann (later first president of Israel) and Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Of all his graphic designs, Kraus, who passed away in Tel Aviv in 1998, is remembered for his 1936 “Visit Palestine” poster.
Unlike pre-1948 Zionist posters extolling Jewish settlement in Palestine and glamorizing Jewish nationalism, Kraus’ poster is seemingly devoid of any political aspirations. It does not claim Palestine as the land of any people or decree what should be done on its soil, but, rather, appears akin to a standard travel postcard. Moreover, instead of Jewish symbols, the Islamic Dome of the Rock is the focus. But Kraus’ poster was, indeed, a Zionist poster and distributed by the Zionist organization Tourist Association of Palestine. Kraus knew his audience: for the Western world, Palestine was associated with the ancestral Jewish homeland. Kraus’ idea of “Palestine” was axiomatically linked with the Zionist state-building project. And his poster inspired similar designs promoted by the tourism office of the Jewish Agency:
Decades later, however, the poster’s anodyne design and center-stage “Palestine” have been revived and re-imagined primarily by Palestinians and pro-Palestinian solidarity activists.
The irony of utilizing a Zionist poster for the purpose of staking Palestinian identity and attachment to the land is lost on very few. In a great sense, we’ve come full circle: Palestinians and Israelis are wielded to the same land and the history of one people cannot be detached from the other. The Zionist experience was shaped by its contact with Palestinians and modern Palestinian history and identity has been irreversible impacted by Zionism. And, for some, Palestinian adaptation of Kraus’ image reflects the fact that Palestinians are not opposed to a Jewish presence in historic Palestine, but object to a nationalist manifestation that’s inimical to the Palestinians.
Whatever else it may be, Kraus’ legacy now includes an extraordinary collection of posters inspired by the original. Below we sample some of these images:
Director and artist Amer Shomali designed the poster below as part of the Imagining Apartheid campaign (2009).
The High Life
Palestinian visual artist Larissa Sansour re-imagined Kraus’ poster for her short film Nation Estate (2013) depicting a future Palestinian state reduced to a high rise project. Sansour’s illustration is rooted in the present reality of a Palestinian Authority – the would-be Palestinian state – governing an archipelago of Palestinian cities and towns surrounded by Israeli settlements and under the control of the Israeli army.
Belgian artist Colin Junius also played with the very real reality of a disappearing Palestine (2014), which, contrary to what MSNBC might want to believe, is occurring everyday due to Israeli colonization.
From one artist to another, Wiz reconfigured Banksy’s famous Israeli separation barrier graffiti. Below Wiz (2013) followed by Banksy’s original:
Since 1967, Israel has uprooted over 800,000 Palestinian olive trees to make way for illegal settlements, military zones, settler roads and its separation barrier. Toronto-based Indian artist Meera Sethi has replaced the olive tree – the preeminent symbol of Palestine – with an excavator to illustrate Israel’s rapacious destruction of Palestinian livelihood (2010).
The image was often been adapted to promote Palestine-related events:
War on Gaza
Street artist ABCnt designed the following posters in 2014.
The same year, Gaza-born artists and twin brothers Ahmed and Mohamed Abu Nasser (artist names Tarzan and Arab, respectively) similarly marked the summer 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza.
Israeli artists have also made use of Kraus’ image. David Portal designed the following poster in 2005 as part of the 57 X 57 collection marking Israel’s 57th anniversary.
Hebrew translation (text on the orange/field)
Come on, extending a hand of peace
And good neighborliness to all the neighboring states
And their peoples and calling on them for cooperation
And help with the Arab nations, independent in their lands
The state of Israel is ready to contribute a portion …
(blue text next to Visit/Is It)
Line from the Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernichovsky (d. 1943)
“They say there is a land, where is the land….”
Translation courtesy of Kimberly Katz and Orit Bashkin via the Palestine Poster Project Archives.
The comedy troupe Jerusalem (Despair) Syndrome also remixed the poster for a 2014 stand-up comedy show. The poster reverses the tree, stages the Dome of the Rock amidst the city’s urbanization, and includes the separation barrier (center left) along the Old City’s historic Ottoman walls.
One-State Vision … Reality
Palestinian and Israeli artistic duo Osama Zatar and Tal Adler designed the OneState poster (2011). Its minimal modification reflects their broader OneState project promoting a one-state vision:
Further Reading: “Visit Palestine”: A Brief Study of Palestine Posters
by Rochelle Davis and Dan Walsh.