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When Anja Niedringhaus went to Gaza

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Anja Niedringhaus photo, al Bureij refugee camp, Gaza, Jan. 2009

Anja Niedringhaus photo, Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza, Jan. 2009

When I heard the news that AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed in Afghanistan two days ago, I thought of one split second in her life. Niedringhaus made what I always thought was the most important image of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in 2008-2009, above.

We first picked the photograph up in February 2009 (after Philip Rizk spotted it). This is the info we had:

From the Jabaliya refugee camp. The sign in the foreground is for the “martyr” Ahed Qaddas, killed by the Israelis. The boy holding his head is Mohammed Kutkut. January 24. Two other boys in the class were also killed.

I was so moved by the storytelling and poetry of Niedringhaus’s photograph that I told Adam I just wanted to run it every day: It said more about civilian deaths than 100,000 human rights reports, more than anything we could write about the slaughter. It said more about Palestinian refugees than any of the innumerable texts on the matter.

That spring I wrote to Niedringhaus to ask her for an interview. I wanted to know how she’d made the shot, and more about the story.

She threw cold water on that idea in a hurry:

Phil,
I think you need to stop using that image as the AP has the copyright and you just can’t use it without facing legal actions. As a result of that I can’t facilitate your work by being interviewed.
If everybody will just use our pictures for free we would not be able anymore to produce independent photo journalism. That might sound harsh, but in these times where everybody thinks they can take what they want, its impossible for us to just think you are ‘ borrowing’ the images.

I’m sure you will understand that.

with my best regards,

Anja Niedringhaus

I wanted to write her back that I’ve had a lot of my work ripped off, it’s the nature of the business now, my income was then 0, and I just wanted to celebrate her work. But I sensed she would come right back at me fiercely, so I dropped it. How can you not respect such a straightforward answer?

I’m violating her request and publishing the picture now because it seems the best way to honor her. Niedringhaus had a big soul. It’s all in that photo. A lot of the photos I’ve seen of hers in the last few days display her storytelling about war’s horror, and some of her editors’ sentimentality too– but is there a better, starker picture of the face of war in all the world than this one? (And yes, this was her fate too.)

Here’s more about Niedringhaus, to fill in the picture. David Guttenfelder, an AP colleague, relates:

I honestly don’t think that the AP could have covered [the Iraq] war without her influence. Our entire staff was raised in her image. I’m sure that even now, when they go out the door with their cameras they ask themselves “What would Anja do?”..

Guttenfelder would not have been surprised by Niedringhaus’s response to me.

She really set the bar when it comes to no-nonsense integrity, ethics, even morality. She expected everyone around her to be as unshakable. If you had Anja’s respect, then that was saying something hugely important about you and your work.

philweiss
About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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48 Responses

  1. just
    just on April 6, 2014, 11:52 am

    That picture is so haunting. And you are right when you write this:

    ” It said more about civilian deaths than 100,000 human rights reports, more than anything we could write about the slaughter. It said more about Palestinian refugees than any of the innumerable texts on the matter.”

    RIP to a really amazing photojournalist.

  2. PeaceThroughJustice
    PeaceThroughJustice on April 6, 2014, 11:59 am

    There’s a good piece on Niedringhaus at the always interesting BagNewsNotes–
    http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2014/04/remembering-anja-niedringhaus-she-was-ironictoo/
    Be sure to follow through to the short interview with her at–
    http://irak.arte.tv/en/images-of-iraq/anja-niedringhaus/

  3. on April 6, 2014, 1:17 pm

    I am very sad about Anja. She was a very brave lady with amazing integrity and tenacity.

  4. James Canning
    James Canning on April 6, 2014, 1:34 pm

    How very sad she was murdered in Afghanistan.

  5. Marshall
    Marshall on April 6, 2014, 1:43 pm

    It’s a great photo, but can’t you just pay the licensing fee, especially now that she’s dead? What is the cost?

  6. lonely rico
    lonely rico on April 6, 2014, 2:00 pm

    A strong photo. Thanks for running it.
    Off topic – I don’t know how to contact Philip Weiss other than here, to draw his attention to an interesting Jonathan Cook article published in Al-Jazeera last week (March 29) “Israel to consider war crimes case”.
    Also available at his site.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on April 6, 2014, 2:42 pm

    RE: “Niedringhaus made what I always thought was the most important image of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in 2008-2009, above.” ~ Weiss

    OTHER EXAMPLES OF NIEDRINGHAUS’ SUPERB PHOTOS – https://www.google.com/search?q=Anja+Niedringhaus&safe=off&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=6p5BU4WvAuTNsQTv74GgBg&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=2045&bih=1417&dpr=0.67

  8. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson on April 6, 2014, 7:07 pm

    Very sorry to hear about this very sad loss.

    On the subject of posting the photograph, there comes a point, in my opinion, when a certain kind of image belongs to the world, and to history, not to mention to the actual subjects of the image, more than to any corporation. I understand people need to get paid, but there are things more important than getting paid sometimes. I personally can’t imagine wanting to hide an image like that behind a paywall. I would want it shouted from the rooftops.

    Different strokes, I guess.

    • David Doppler
      David Doppler on April 6, 2014, 7:46 pm

      Pamela, the image no doubt belonged to her employer, so she may have been jeopardizing or at least abusing her employment relationship to promote [via an interview], an unauthorized display of the photo. So I wouldn’t read her “wanting” into feeling obligated to respect her employer’s rights.

    • matimilstein
      matimilstein on April 9, 2014, 5:15 pm

      Hey Pamela. I’m surprised by your thoughts on this. Would you mind if a complete stranger distributed for free PDFs of your book online? People’s work – be they books or photographs or videos – belongs to them, not to the world. Copyright law is neither vague nor subject to revision in accordance with some sort of subjective, amorphous greater good.

      I’m shocked that Philip Weiss stole Anja’s photo in 2009 and refused to remove it when she most graciously requested that this be done – in accordance with both law and professional ethics and standards. But I’m more shocked that, once Anja was killed, Weiss chose to again steal her photograph because it seemed to him “the best way to honor her.” And then to proudly show off to his internet audience for stealing (again) the work of a woman now unable to object (again) because she is dead?

      I didn’t realize people could sink so low…

      • lonely rico
        lonely rico on April 9, 2014, 7:48 pm

        @ matimilstein

        I’m shocked that Philip Weiss stole Anja’s photo …

        I feel re-assured by your position, clearly for the rule of law.
        Were you equally shocked by the massacre in Gaza ? Men, women, and children burned and destroyed in a paroxysm of murder and cruelty ?
        I would guess so because of your clear defense of morality as evidenced above.
        Philip Weiss decided not to avert his eyes, not for his own gain, even risking censure and disapproval.
        And you ?

      • matimilstein
        matimilstein on April 9, 2014, 11:00 pm

        @lonely rico: “Were you equally shocked by the massacre in Gaza?”

        Of course. Much, much more in fact. But I see no need to compare apples and oranges. A massacre of thousands and the theft of a photograph are two different cases that bear no similarity whatsoever and there is thus no reason to seek to draw an equivalency or parallel between them.

      • Pamela Olson
        Pamela Olson on April 10, 2014, 9:44 am

        Mati, when it comes to my work in particular, my main goal is to let as many people read it as possible. The story belongs to the world more than it does to me. If I thought distributing it online for free would result in the widest distribution, I would. But something like that wouldn’t make it into libraries, university classrooms, and bookstore travel sections, nor result in interviews, reviews, etc.

        I’m still not making much money at all, and I’ve given away literally thousands of copies for free, both paperback and digital. (Which has the added benefit of creating exposure, reviews, and word-of-mouth.) If I died, I would want people to distribute my work as widely as possible, however possible. It’s a story that I think needs to be told. That’s the main reason I wrote it.

        I get that other people need to protect their career and income so they can continue doing what they’re doing. And lord knows I wish I was paid even minimum wage for the hours I put in. But this photo speaks to something larger than one woman’s career, as distinguished and important as it was. And in this case in particular (posting it on Mondoweiss), I would guess the loss to her income and that of the AP is negligible. In fact, the exposure may be a net positive for both them and her. And it’s a photo that deserves to be seen as widely as possible.

        Just an opinion, from someone who’s admittedly not very career-minded.

  9. rpickar
    rpickar on April 6, 2014, 10:29 pm

    I read the NY Times story and something doesnt smell right. I need to know more about the Afghan police commander who killed Anja and why he did it. Was he undercover Taliban? Story is missing information.

  10. wondering jew
    wondering jew on April 7, 2014, 6:12 am

    First regarding this sad photo and the sad plight of the Palestinians in Gaza. We approach Passover, the story of which in Exodus (Ezra or Moses version not Leon Uris) tells of Pharoah who hardened his heart. In the course of the conflict and in the course of interacting with the people here in the comments section I at times harden my heart. but this photo clarifies that such hardening is not the path.

    (The two state solution would involve both the West Bank and Gaza, but the one state solution, as in the annexation of territories and giving the residents the vote, by the nature of the withdrawal from Gaza, would not involve Gaza.)

    (Off topic: If this is a war of ideas, Simon Schama’s Story of the Jews, ought to be mentioned, if not discussed. Its take on Zionism is simplistic: If Herzl saw the future, which he did, he must have been right. Maybe there is not much to say about this, but if this is the war of ideas, a mention of a major PBS series would be appropriate.)

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/story-jews/video/video-4/

    • talknic
      talknic on April 7, 2014, 6:44 am

      yonah fredman

      “If Herzl saw the future, which he did, he must have been right”

      He saw a rogue state in breach of hundreds of resolutions? WOW!! Herzl was a megalomaniac who wasn’t even from the region, could have in his life time immigrated to Palestine, achieved citizenship, settled and bought land anywhere in the Jewish people’s historical homeland. He didn’t bother.

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew on April 7, 2014, 10:09 pm

        talknic- The program to which I linked was about the situation in Vienna rather than the situation in Palestine/Israel. The future Herzl saw was the sad future for the Jews of Europe. There is no question that Herzl saw the danger to the Jews in Europe clearly, but did not conceive of the complications of the post colonial world order that now is upon us.

      • talknic
        talknic on April 7, 2014, 10:41 pm

        @ yonah fredman “There is no question that Herzl saw the danger to the Jews in Europe clearly “
        Seems rather stupid to have stayed in Europe!

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew on April 7, 2014, 11:22 pm

        talknic- You are simpleminded.

      • talknic
        talknic on April 8, 2014, 12:36 am

        @ yonah fredman “talknic- You are simpleminded”

        Insults are cute and typical of Zionist propagandists who have nothing left to scrape from the bottom of their Hasbarrow.

        If it was so dangerous for Jews in Europe, why didn’t Herzl and the rest of the Zionist Federation go to Palestine before WWI and operate from the Jewish People’s Historic homeland?

    • puppies
      puppies on April 7, 2014, 9:27 am

      @Friedman – A clueless and arrogant Zionist.
      “the one state solution, as in the annexation of territories and giving the residents the vote, by the nature of the withdrawal from Gaza, would not involve Gaza.)”

      What annexation? If a solution, a one-state solution starts with a total de-zionizing of the racist state. It does not “give” the vote. All Palestinians at that moment have the vote; if all invaders have it is an open question. As for the “nature of the withdrawal from Gaza” there is no withdrawal; Gaza is an Azraeli concentration camp for which retribution must be exacted.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 7, 2014, 7:07 pm

        Surely Israel in fact withdrew from the Gaza Strip, Puppies.

      • puppies
        puppies on April 8, 2014, 10:36 am

        @Canning – “Surely Israel in fact withdrew from the Gaza Strip, Puppies.”
        m
        Who is controlling air, water, borders, sea, food, and who is using it as a shooting range? Get lost. First learn about the phrase “in fact”.
        Let’s try something: Let’s leave you alone, unarmed, with one inmate of the Gaza concentration camp. Try telling her the same.
        Propaganda agents like you seem to be especially welcome to this web site, by the way.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 8, 2014, 2:15 pm

        @Puppies – – My point is that Israel has not annexed the Gaza Strip and it is highly unlikely Israel could be forced to annex the Gaza Strip. Yes, of course, Gaza is a giant outdoor prison, and Israeli soldiers sometimes seem to kill people in the Gaza Strip for the fun of it.

      • puppies
        puppies on April 8, 2014, 4:26 pm

        @Caning – and my point is that if you told me you just had been appointed God the Father, I would be faulty if I just repeated it as fact. Same goes for your repeating that Azriel “Surely… in fact withdrew” from Gaza.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 8, 2014, 6:08 pm

        @Puppies- – Israeli troops were WITHDRAWN from Gaza.

      • just
        just on April 8, 2014, 6:54 pm

        James Canning– why do the IOF practice murder/mayhem/harassment/terrorism so very freely in the Gaza Strip if they withdrew?

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 8, 2014, 7:45 pm

        @Just – – If you want to think nothing changed when Israel pulled its army out of the Gaza Strip, that of course is your prerogative.

    • seafoid
      seafoid on April 7, 2014, 10:03 am

      “(The two state solution would involve both the West Bank and Gaza, but the one state solution, as in the annexation of territories and giving the residents the vote, by the nature of the withdrawal from Gaza, would not involve Gaza.)”

      Says who ? YESHA means Yehuda, Shomron and ‘Azza

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 7, 2014, 1:33 pm

        I find it very hard to conceive any annexation of the Gaza Strip by Israel.

      • puppies
        puppies on April 7, 2014, 10:38 pm

        @Canning – no annexation is recognized but Gaza is already annexed as a concentration camp and human target shooting range. I suppose the Egyptian military is now also invited to take part in the training (for a fee payable to the Azraelis, of course.)

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 8, 2014, 1:32 pm

        Gaza Strip is in some ways a giant outdoor prison, controlled by Israel. With some help from Egypt.

      • seafoid
        seafoid on April 7, 2014, 11:06 pm

        Israel won’t decide . Gaza is not going to be separated – it’s an integral part of Greater Israel. There are mikvehs and ancient Jewish artefacts there too !

        That 2005 “disengagement’ was a crock of shit. Gaza is not off balance sheet.

      • lonely rico
        lonely rico on April 8, 2014, 4:37 pm

        @James Canning

        Gaza Strip is in some ways a giant outdoor prison

        Some ways ? Could you show some/any way it is NOT an open air prison, surrounded by cruel heavily armed screws.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 8, 2014, 6:10 pm

        One difference is that people living in Gaza to some extent can leave, should they choose to do so.

        I am in no way a fan of Israel’s treatment of Gaza.

      • annie
        annie on April 8, 2014, 6:24 pm

        people living in Gaza to some extent can leave, should they choose to do so. I am in no way a fan of Israel’s treatment of Gaza.

        really. you mean like sarah ali http://mondoweiss.net/2014/04/where-is-sarah-ali.html

        and what do these 2 sentences, how do they relate? you’re no way a fan of Israel’s treatment of Gaza and “Gaza to some extent can leave, should they choose to do so.”

        the ‘to some extent’ is the extent by which israel allows, not if gazan’s “choose to do so” (and israel withdraws their permits to return if they’re gone an amount of time israel deems too long). israel bombed their airport, seaport, tunnels and controls the borders (via egypt or otherwise). so what, pray tell, are you talking about?

        maybe you don’t know what the word blockade means.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 8, 2014, 6:38 pm

        @Annie – – Israel has been oppressive in its treatment of Gaza. But, living in Gaza is not the same thing as being confined to prison. Close, in some ways.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 8, 2014, 7:52 pm

        @Seafoid – – It would be fine with me if Israel annexed West Bank and Gaza, and gave all people same voting rights. It would lead to change of name of the country to Palestine. Fine with me. But not likely to happen, in my view.

    • talknic
      talknic on April 8, 2014, 12:26 am

      @ yonah fredman “the one state solution, as in the annexation of territories and giving the residents the vote, by the nature of the withdrawal from Gaza, would not involve Gaza.”

      Will Israel (presuming that is the name of the ‘one state’ including the West Bank) stop blockading Gaza? Sign a peace treaty? Withdraw from all the non-Israeli territories surrounding the Gaza strip acquired by war by 1949/50? As a separate state, Gaza would have the right to “restore” its sovereignty http://wp.me/PDB7k-Y#Schwebel over the territories illegally acquired by Israel 1948/49 http://talknic.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/southern.gif

      • lonely rico
        lonely rico on April 8, 2014, 7:25 pm

        @James Canning

        people living in Gaza to some extent can leave, should they choose to do so

        Absurd. Israel crows the control it exercises.
        Why do you lie ? Nobody will read your foolishness.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on April 10, 2014, 3:44 pm

        Rico, if you think there is no coming and going from Gaza, even if limited substantially, you simply are mistaken.

    • kalithea
      kalithea on April 8, 2014, 1:57 am

      Your comments disgusts me. How can you milk the victim card in this context?? For gawds sake…let us morn this present tragedy!

      And there is no two-state solution; what you call a two-state is but the Palestinians getting royally screwed by a million rabid, crazy settlers keeping land that belongs to the Palestinians LEGALLY.

      Oh and you and the pharoah have more in common than you think! And spare me the exodus and other ancient history when your comrades are ethnically cleansing the Palestinian people!

  11. tidings
    tidings on April 7, 2014, 11:10 am

    In this photo there are three handwritten placards in memory of three dead boys. The first, as you pointed out Phil, is Ahed Qadas, the second is Osama Zaib and the third name is too blurred to read. The point is there were three who were killed. There are also three surviving (on that day, at least) friends and desk-buddies and they, not only Mohammed Kutkut, are desolate. Anja Niedringhaus photographed all six and by acknowledging them all we are also acknowledging her grand work.

    The writing in red at the top of each name says “martyr.”

  12. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson on April 7, 2014, 12:37 pm

    I’d like to point out, in case anyone is unaware, that “martyr” in the Palestinian context means anyone killed by the occupation — even a baby in her mother’s arms. I’m afraid some people will see that word and assume they were engaged in hostilities somehow. It’s an honorific meant to bestow some dignity on a (usually) completely senseless death.

    If the US were occupied and treated the way Palestinians are treated, slaughtered with no recourse, etc., I imagine we might also harken back to the days of Christian martyrs (known for their steadfastness and bravery in the face of oppression) and bestow the honorific on anyone killed in this manner.

  13. eljay
    eljay on April 7, 2014, 1:00 pm

    >> I’d like to point out, in case anyone is unaware, that “martyr” in the Palestinian context means anyone killed by the occupation …

    I suspect that to many (most?) Westerners the word “martyr” has a somewhat more menacing connotation, which plays nicely into the pro-Israel framing of Palestinians as “scary Aye-rabs”.

    >> If the US were occupied and treated the way Palestinians are treated … I imagine we might also harken back to the days of Christian martyrs … and bestow the honorific on anyone killed in this manner.

    No need to await that harkening: America already has the word “hero”, a word it has seriously de-valued through over-use.

    (Unlike “martyr”, the word “hero” isn’t scary…but it can be quite nauseating.)

  14. kalithea
    kalithea on April 8, 2014, 2:32 am

    So if an image can capture the depth of Palestinian suffering without the need for words; then bring on an onslaught of such images because the world needs to see the truth without hasbara sullying it. The beauty of the image is the unvarnished and undeniable truth. Zionists be warned: ultimately, the truth will not be trampled with excuses!

    Israel is a criminal state that should be prosecuted for all the suffering it caused to the Palestinian people. I pray for that day.

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