Last week, the picture of a Palestinian girl rescuing her books among the debris of what was presumably her home in Gaza traveled across the globe. In the midst of a furious flow of devastating photos, why did this still, silent-looking image gain so much attention?
As Robin Kirk notes, a picture that awakens our empathy is a hundred times more powerful than ravaging images of war. “Gore alone does not arouse compassion or even understanding. To the contrary, graphic violence usually pushes people away. People don’t take an interest in human rights abuses because of gore, but rather through an emotional connection with the human beings who suffer,” she says, quoting Susan Sontag’s analysis of war imagery in her book Regarding the Pain of Others.
That’s why this picture is more powerful than heartbreaking bloodshed. Because it has the power to connect to our humanity, to look at our eyes and illustrate what Gazans are thinking while living under shelling.
John Snow recently observed that those living in Gaza are mainly “the unbelievably young”, the average 17-year-olds. Relentless, hopeful and unwilling to let war halt their growth: these are the kids of Gaza.