Life and death amid the ruins of conflict

Portfolios — 15 photos

Russian freelance photographer Sergey Ponomarev has spent the last two years covering events in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine. His award-winning work has been regularly featured in The New York Times and French weekly Paris Match. He began his career with Associated Press in Moscow in 2003, initially focusing on Russian society and culture before covering the 2006 conflict between Israel and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah group, and later, in 2011, the Libyan revolution. A freelance since 2012, the 34-year-old has continued his reporting of conflict zones, from the civil war in Syria, from Gaza and Israel during the 2014 Israeli offensive in Gaza codenamed ‘Protective Edge’, and the Ukraine, during both the uprising that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and the subsequent pro-Russian separatist conflict in the east of the country. A collection of his work is currently being showcased in Paris, at the Galerie Iconoclastes (see details bottom of page) in an exhibition on until June 9th. Mediapart presents here below a selection of 15 compelling and often disturbing photos from those on display, and which vividly illustrate both the horrors of war and the staggering capacity of peoples to retrieve a semblance of normality amid surrounding turmoil.

The mystery of the 'disappeared' of Gaza

International — Report

The International Committee of the Red Cross calls it “a major problem”, while the United Nations says it has no idea of the numbers involved. The one thing that is certain is that at least hundreds of families in Gaza are still looking for relatives who have disappeared without trace following the 50-day Israeli offensive that began in July. For some, the answer may lie beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings that still litter the land. But there is also speculation that other missing Palestinians may be detained in Israel, or have met death as they fled by sea to Europe. Mediapart’s Middle East and North Africa affairs correspondent Pierre Puchot reports from Gaza on an enduring mystery that has become something of a taboo.

French minister: 'Why I banned Gaza protests'

France — Interview

In an interview with Mediapart the French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has justified his controversial decision to ban a number of planned protests over the Israeli war against Gaza. In doing so Cazeneuve insisted that it was his decision to ban those demonstrations, and not that of the president François Hollande or prime minister Manuel Valls. The interior minister insisted his ministry had “concrete evidence” that synagogues and Jewish businesses were going to be singled out in those protests. During the interview Cazeneuve also said he had often joined marches in the Palestinian cause in the past and “would have done so again” had he not been in office. Fabrice Arfi, Louise Fessard and Mediapart's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel report.

'I'm only in the dock because I'm a Muslim'


The arrest and conviction of protesters following pro-Palestinian and pro-Gaza demonstrations in Paris have led to accusations of judicial double standards. Critics claim that young non-white Muslims have been singled out for punishment by the police and courts. Here Mediapart highlights the case of a young man called Mohamed who was convicted after intervening when his younger brother was stopped by police officers following a pro-Gaza protest on July 13th. Though his sentence was reduced on appeal, Mohamed still insists he did nothing wrong and says he was only arrested because he is a Muslim who supports the Palestinian cause. Thomas Saint-Cricq reports.

France condemns Gaza 'slaughter'

International — Link

French foreign minister directed strong criticism against Israel's for its 'slaughter of civilians' in the continuing offensive in Gaza.

Thousands join pro-Palestinian rallies in France

France — Link

March in Paris attracted up to 20,000 with demonstrations too in Marseille and Lyon as protestors voiced anger at French stance over Israel. 

The Israelis who refuse to bear arms

Portfolios — 22 photos

Throughout their schooling Israeli youngsters get regular visits from members of the military who explain the importance of the army in society. Today around half of Israelis are conscripted into the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) from the age of 18, with men serving three years and women two. Those who are excluded include Arab Israelis – who make up 18% of the population – and until now the majority of ultra-Orthodox Jews (8% of the population) who are allowed to pursue their religious studies, though a recent new law will mean these citizens, too, can be drafted. Other citizens may not be conscripted because they are deemed physically or mentally unfit. In addition there are those who refuse to join the IDF – so-called refuseniks – because they are conscientious objectors, pacifists or they simply refuse to fight in the occupied territories. In rare cases some youngsters who refuse military service are granted exemption. So far in 2014 more than 100 Israeli teenagers have signed a declaration that they will not serve in the army, mainly because of their opposition to Israel's “military occupation of Palestinian territories”. They could face jail later this year; at least one has already been sentenced to 20 days in prison. In this report photographer Martin Barzilai has photographed and spoken with Israelis from different age groups who have refused to bear arms; a refusal that earned many of them jail time. The original interviews were carried out in 2009, though some have been updated to reflect current events in the Gaza. → See also: 'Why I refused to serve my Israeli army division in Gaza'.

Paris hosts first pro-Israel rally since start of Gaza offensive

France — Link

Heavily-policed event attracted up to 6,000 people in front of the Israeli embassy in the French capital amid rising inter-communal tensions.

France considers ban on radical Jewish group

France — Link

Interior ministry 'analysing' its options against the Ligue de Défense Juive, accused of provoking pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris area.

Palestine: Mr President, you are leading France astray

International — Opinion

From his alignment with the Israeli far-right to the banning of demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and the suggestion that this show of solidarity is in fact anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism, French President François Hollande has lost his way, writes Mediapart editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel. In this opinion article presented as an open letter to the head of state, he argues that Hollande has adopted a position of incoherence and hypocrisy that will bring him no political gain and which ignores the lessons of history.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris defy ban

France — Link

The protest against Israel's offensive in Gaza, banned over security fears, drew several thousands before hooded youths clashed with police. 

France places new ban on Paris Gaza protest this weekend

International — Link

A planned protest march through Paris against Israeli offensive in Gaza on Saturday is banned over security fears.

Exclusive: 'Why I refused to serve my Israeli army division in Gaza'

International — Interview

The Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza, codenamed ‘Protective Edge’ in English and in which to date more than 750 Palestinians and 33 Israelis have lost their lives, deepened in horror on Thursday when at least 15 people were killed and 200 wounded in an attack upon a United Nations-run school used as a shelter from the fighting. While the gruesome toll has caused loud international outcry, less reported is the movement of desertion among Israeli military reservists who refuse what they believe is an unjust war. Mediapart's special correspondent in Israel, Pierre Puchot, has obtained a frank and exclusive interview with one of these so-called 'refuseniks', who this week fled his call-up to join an armoured division headed for Gaza.

Paris suburb pro-Palestinian rally rioters jailed

France — Link

Three men were jailed and another received a suspended sentence for their part in riots that erupted on Sunday in Sarcelles.

French minister slams 'anti-Semitic' riots during pro-Palestinian rallies

International — Link

Interior minister says 'intolerable' attacks at the weekend on synagogue and kosher shop 'is quite simply anti-Semitic and racist'.