David Tartakover, who was awarded the 2002 Israel Prize Laureate for Design, has developed a solid international reputation apparently unhindered by his political outspokenness. His posters reveal a wide range of influences, including Israeli popular culture and politics, current events, and ancient history. His reprint of this 1930s poster opens up a fascinating window into the thinking behind early Zionist propaganda efforts.
Visit Palestine was originally designed by Franz Kraus and published by the Tourist Association of Palestine, a Zionist development agency. We see the vast walled city of Jerusalem: trim parks, green gardens, urban dwellings, and a central landmark, the Dome of the Rock mosque.
With this one poster pulled out of the Zionist attic, three core myths are debunked. The first myth is that Palestine had ever been a land without people. Obviously someone lived in these houses and someone tended these gardens. The second myth is that Palestine was a vast desert awaiting cultivation. The resplendent tree in the foreground suggests that the land surrounding Jerusalem was much more than barren desert. The third myth is that there never was a Palestine. Of course there was a Palestine, and here it is, called by name in a Zionist-published poster.
During the early days of the Israel-building process, Zionist strategists had to simultaneously project different and sometimes conflicting images of Israel to different audiences in order to draw the critical mass and range of support the young movement desperately needed. Visit Palestine is just one out of a whole pre-independence category of posters referred to as the recruit Zion genre.
Tartakover reprinted this poster in 1995 as a way of celebrating the optimism generated by the Oslo Peace Accords. Made available through the Tel Aviv Museum, it was a hot item among Israelis and — ironically — among Palestinians, too. Unauthorized reprintings have extended its distribution, and it has been posted in homes, shops, and offices all over the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinians, in effect, are taking advantage of the ironies embodied in the provenance of Visit Palestine to thumb their noses at the Israeli government that for decades claimed there had never been such a place. Theoretically, any Zionist poster that featured the word “Palestine” in the caption would be similarly popular among Palestinians.
Visit Palestine is celebrated by the Palestinians for, among other things, the breach it represents in Israel’s famously well-managed corporate information model. Indeed, the poster demonstrates that Zionism is not immune to the laws of irony: carefully crafted slogans and propaganda that worked well when narrowcast in the 1930s tend to embarrass the Zionist cause when broadcast seventy years later.
Palestinians also see the poster as a testament to the hubris of Zionism. Its proponents published the poster to accelerate the rebirth of the Jewish state, an operation had been planned and organized down to the number of hours a new colonist would have to work in order to acquire land for a home. But the Zionists never saw the Palestinians. They failed to predict that the people they were intent on displacing would organize and resist.
Visit Palestine also raises an important concern about Zionist hasbara (Hebrew: Israel advocacy, solidarity in the U.S.), which has been a key source of information shaping world opinion about Israel. What might be said about the quality of that information, when this early poster from the Zionist movement conveys inaccurate or at least misleading ideas?
One final point needs to be made regarding this poster. It, and the others that make up the recruit Zion genre, were crafted under the direction of various Zionist development agencies. They were centrally produced via commercial contracts with ad agencies, public relations firms, advertising specialists, graphic designers, printers, and marketing professionals. This is very different from Palestine solidarity posters, which have been created by dispersed individuals and groups operating spontaneously and autonomously. This difference is critical and deserves deeper study.© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.
Questions for A New
1) Why did the Zionists want to draw tourists to Palestine?
2) Is Visit Palestine an example of deceptive recruiting? Are there parallels in American immigration history?
3) Why has there been dispute over when and whether “Palestine” was a name for a place?
Please send us your questions and comments (English only please!)
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