In the midst of turmoil in the Middle East, a man stands to capture the conflict between Israel and Palestine through his own lens.
Invited by the 49ers for Israel organization at California State University, Long Beach, Gil Cohen Magen, a photojournalist for the international news agency Agence France-Presse, spent Thursday night discussing the conflict he captures on his camera.
“I’m in charge for the Israeli side, but I want to show my middle point of view and show the reality of what is happening,” Magen said. “But I have fellow photographers who are in charge from the Palestinian side and we’re friends. We help each other.”
Magen’s photography focuses mainly on covering the conflict between Palestine and Israel. With several of his pictures featured on the front pages of various major publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, Magen said he wants his work to show how this long-standing conflict affects both sides of the Gaza strip.
“People think that there is violence every day but that is not true,” Magen said. “We often live together. Everywhere you can find both sides who respect both sides.”
The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been occurring since the mid-20th century and is comprised of a mix of issues that involve conflicts over land, religion and politics. In recent times and especially in the college climate, there has been a surge of singular advocacy. On several college campuses in the past few years, there have been demonstrations of pro-Palestinian movements and anti-Israel sentiments.
On Friday, the Students for Quality Education organization held a Million Student March where students demanded justice for the Black Lives Matter movement and the Free Palestine movement. The Free Palestine movement is a movement demonstrated by many schools, but has turned into an anti-Israel movements on other college campuses.
During the Million Student March at City University of New York the same day, a few members of pro-Palestinian groups protesting against tuition increases began blaming education costs on Zionists.
In February of this year, several students at University of California, Berkeley, set up a replica of a security checkpoint, where student-portrayers of Palestinians were yelled at and thrown to the ground. The demonstration was meant to “call attention to the daily lives of Palestinians,” said UCB graduate student David McCleary in an article for the Daily Californian.
“People look at modern times, the past 400 years of history to judge the whole Palestine-Israel conflict,” said Esther Beron, a junior majoring in Jewish Studies. “We all started from the same source. It’s unfortunate that we cannot live with our neighbors in peace. Not necessarily as brothers and sisters, but at least in peace.”
These anti-Israel sentiments are what Magen said he is trying to counter through his photojournalism. While Magen said does not have an opinion on the conflict, he said that he wants to work with his agency to show that both sides of this conflict are affected and both are hurt.