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Identity Politics on the Israeli Screen

Yosefa Loshitzky
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    Identity Politics on the Israeli Screen
    Book Description:

    The struggle to forge a collective national identity at the expense of competing plural identities has preoccupied Israeli society since the founding of the state of Israel. In this book, Yosefa Loshitzky explores how major Israeli films of the 1980s and 1990s have contributed significantly to the process of identity formation by reflecting, projecting, and constructing debates around Israeli national identity.

    Loshitzky focuses on three major foundational sites of the struggle over Israeli identity: the Holocaust, the question of the Orient, and the so-called (in an ironic historical twist of the "Jewish question") Palestinian question. The films she discusses raise fundamental questions about the identity of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their children (the "second generation"), Jewish immigrants from Muslim countries or Mizrahim (particularly the second generation of Israeli Mizrahim), and Palestinians. Recognizing that victimhood marks all the identities represented in the films under discussion, Loshitzky does not treat each identity group as a separate and coherent entity, but rather attempts to see the conflation, interplay, and conflict among them.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79794-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Hybrid Victims
    (pp. xi-xx)

    A transition from a “politics of ideas” to a “politics of identity” is perhaps the major change that Israeli society has experienced in recent years.¹ Sociologists, historians, political scientists, cultural critics, journalists, political commentators, and public intellectuals all offer different interpretations of this shift including reasons for its periodization. When exactly did this change occur? Was it the result of a single dramatic event or an inevitable by-product of the long and painful process of building a new society? Or perhaps it is just a normal manifestation of an identity crisis that Israel is undergoing fifty years after its establishment....

  5. CHAPTER ONE Screening the Birth of a Nation: Exodus Revisited
    (pp. 1-14)

    His masculine naked torso bathed in moonlight and gently wrapped in white soft foam created by the light waves of the Mediterranean Sea, a necklace with a big star of David adorning his neck—this is how Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman), the protagonist of Otto Preminger’sExodus(1960), first “penetrates” the film spectator’s space of desire. This sensual image of male beauty, a doppelgänger to Sandro Botticelli’sBirth of Venus, has engraved, for many years to come, for world audiences at large and the American in particular, the definite and ultimate image of the birth of the “new Jew.”...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Surviving the Survivors: The Second Generation
    (pp. 15-31)

    This chapter is an elaboration of the political and cultural manifestations of the “mythic link” suggested between the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. The chapter examines the space that the Holocaust occupies in Israel’s public life and historical consciousness. In particular it examines the sociocultural phenomenon of the second generation, thus providing a prelude to chapter 3, which closely analyzes three trauma-saturated documentaries made by second-generation filmmakers.

    The memory of the Holocaust and its victims has always been a locus of controversy in the Israeli public sphere. As Israeli historian of the Holocaust Yechiam Weitz observes,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Postmemory Cinema: Second-Generation Israelis Screen the Holocaust
    (pp. 32-71)

    The recent tendency in Israel to privatize and ethnicize the memory of the Holocaust is most evident in the wave of documentaries on the Holocaust made by Israeli second-generation filmmakers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The films presented in this chapter—Orna Ben Dor’sBecause of That War(1988), Asher Tlalim’sDon’t Touch My Holocaust(1994), and Tzipi Reibenbach’sChoice and Destiny(1993)—were selected because they represent this tendency as well as the changing attitudes in Israeli society toward the Holocaust and the survivors.

    Ben Dor and Reibenbach are both daughters of survivors, while Tlalim is an...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Shchur: The Orient Within
    (pp. 72-89)

    Every once in a while, a film or literary work arrives on the cultural landscape and sparks debates on significant issues of history, representation, and national identity, the ramifications of which extend far beyond the boundaries of the individual work in question. Recent examples from the international scene include Salman Rushdie’sSatanic Verses(1988) and Steven Spielberg’sSchindler’s List(1994). Within the Israeli national space, such polemics surrounded works like Amos Oz’sMy Michael(1967) and Sammy Michael’sVictoria(1993). Amore recent example is the experimental filmShchur(1994), written by Hanna Azulay Hasfari and directed by her husband Shmuel...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE In the Land of Oz: Orientalist Discourse in My Michael
    (pp. 90-111)

    The writing of Amos Oz’s novelMy Michaelwas completed, as noted in the Hebrew edition, in May 1967, a month before the outbreak of the 1967 war.My Michaelwas the best-selling novel of the 1968–69 period, and its extraordinary success, as well as the heated controversy it elicited, was due, as Amos Elon observes, to much more than “pure literary merit.” ¹ ThatMy Michaelscandalized some reviewers who blamed it for being politically subversive suggests, as Elon points out, that Oz touched a raw nerve.² This chapter examines the defining features of this “raw nerve” by...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Forbidden Love in the Holy Land: Transgressing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    (pp. 112-153)

    Israeli new historian Ilan Pappe claims that “most Israeli filmmakers . . . feel the need to use the sexual and romantic bridge as a way to understand the other side. Most of the films that courageously deal with Arab-Jewish relationships choose the medium of a love story, which is usually tragic (for example inHamsin, The LoverandOn a Narrow Bridge).” According to Pappe, this need is “a way to avoid and evade rational recognition of the arguments and feelings of the other side. Nevertheless, these films reflect impressive progress relative to the films made before 1967, in...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Day After: The Sexual Economy of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    (pp. 154-168)

    The framing of many of the stories of forbidden love in the Israeli genre is based on legends or famous themes and tales borrowed from Greek mythology. The use of the Romeo and Juliet story is most evident inHamsinandThe Lover. The murder scene ofHamsinuses the mythological bull (the Minotaur of Greek mythology) to signify the cathartic release of libidinal energies. The Keis and Laila legend, which according to some scholars is the origin of the Romeo and Juliet story, is the inspiration forOn a Narrow Bridge. The Andromeda legend constitutes the organizing principle of...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 169-172)

    In his first poetry collectionKinat HamMhager(The Immigrant’s Lament, 1995) Moroccan-born poet Moshe Ben Harosh, who immigrated to Israel with his parents in 1972, describes his sense of alienation from Israel. He writes that, since his immigration to Israel:

    I feel lonely

    in Israeli society

    and even more of a stranger

    with my diaspora family

    or with the diaspora Jews

    and with my family in Israel

    I even developed a chronic estrangement

    from myself.¹

    In this poem the immigrant—theolehwho arrives in Israel by ascending (aliya), according to the Zionist terminology, and exits the land by descending...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 173-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-226)