At the end of last month I went to an event at the Photographer’s Gallery, where the grandson (and namesake) of the Armenian Gazan photographer Kegham Djeghalian (1915-1981) took us through what is left of the archive of Studio Kegham.
Finally, something shifts. The ruling by the International Court of Justice is said by public international lawyers to be a game changer. For starters, the vocabulary has been reset. Out with the references to ‘self-defence’, bandied around as an excuse for the inexcusable; in with the cogently argued case that the US and UK’s greatest ally in the Middle East is committing genocide.
In the accounts coming out of the Gaza Strip, as well as evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, people tell of the persistence of a sense of community, of kindness and hospitality, of people sharing food, providing assistance and opening their doors to others: a five-seater car fleeing south with 21 people in it, stopping to pick up an old man walking crying in the street.
My first action on waking is to look at my phone. Press the green WhatsApp icon and hope for two blue ticks. One grey tick is a precursor of death. Two grey ticks are arguably worse. They mean that communications have been live, but your friend may not be.
Questions of how the Arab world should be depicted, by whom, in what language, and for what purpose, came up in several discussions I took part in over recent months. The debate is fraught, and prone to curtail writers’ freedoms as much as open up new ground. It is best engaged with in what Ahdaf Soueif has described as the ‘mezzaterra’ between East and West which, thankfully, is less of a no man’s land than it used to be.