Post-World War II Holocaust studies, followed by genocide, trauma, and postcolonial studies, set the triangulation of perpetrator, victim, and bystander at the heart of their discussion of both the ethical legacy of the Holocaust and the aftermath of other twentieth-century catastrophes. Aiming at the constitution of an appropriate instrument to deal with transitional justice issues, during the 1990s the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) interwove these subject positions, thereby attesting to a major transformation in post-genocide reconciliation processes, though not altering their basic foundation. Other theorizations, especially of the perpetrator, for example, expanded the scale of sociological characterization of the triangulation or confronted its call for interpellation and identification (most prominently in the fields of criminology and literature, respectively), but further reflected the same triadic foundation. The exploratory opposition between subject position and action provoked by Gudehus in his ‘Some Remarks on the Label, Field, and Heuristics of Perpetrator Research’ (in this issue) follows the twentieth century’s legacy as well. Undoubtedly, opposing epistemology (subject position) and ontology (the action-able), as his essay suggests, contributes to our renewed efforts to comprehend perpetratorhood, recently kindled by the initiation of the Journal of Perpetrator Research and its pioneering editorial. However, I suggest that while adhering to the twentieth-century legacies – from Hilberg’s triad to Primo Levi’s ‘Gray Zone’ – it is necessary to comprehend perpetratorhood in light of the shift from the victim era, defined as such by the seminal works of Felman and Laub and particularly Wieviorka, to the perpetrator era.
The aim of this article is to present the major ethical turn in Israeli documentary cinema during the past decade (2004-2016). This corpus, which shifts between the Holocaust and the Nakba, between Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Occupation, manifests an ethical transformation in the representation of self-other relations. Unraveling the social-cultural mechanism by which the occupier automatically becomes the victim, even when s/he has committed an injustice, is the indisputable contribution of Israeli documentary cinema to triggering cinematic and public nonconsensual discourse, laying the groundwork for what I term ‘Blood Relations’ films. These films – such as Nissim Mosek’s Citizen Nawi (2007), Shlomi Eldar’s Precious Life (2010), Naomi Lev’s Ameer Got His Gun (2011), Erez Laufer’s One Day after the Peace (2012), Noa Ben Hagay’s Blood Relation (2010), Nurit Kedar and Yaron Shany’s Life Sentences (2013), Anat Zuria’s The Lesson (2013), and Nadav Schirman’s The Green Prince (2014) – lead to an inter-ethnic reconciliation that subverts ethnic binarism and calls for fluidity in self-other subject positions. Intifada documentary cinema and especially the Blood Relations films constitute, thus, a new epistemology, one that stands in radical opposition to the continued failure of Israeli society (and fiction films) towards the Other and Otherness. To characterize the Blood Relations' agonistic reconciliation, I suggest connecting the discourse of ethics in the context of democracy and human rights (e.g., Alain Badiou, Chantal Mouffe) with the discourse of care ethics in the context of national, global, and militaristic processes (e.g., Joan Tronto, Fiona Robinson). Blood Relations films show to what extent the self and the Other, and mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, are reliant on one another and bound to each other. In so doing, they strive for an ethical paradigm that promotes the similarity between the self and the Other and a sense of shared humanity.
This chapter proposes an analysis of Rithy Panh's documentaries, S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine (2003), Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (2012) and, to a lesser degree, The Missing Picture (2013), as so-called ‘perpetrator documentaries’ — that is, documentaries that focus on the figure of the perpetrator, while unravelling the long-time enigma of the ‘ordinary man turned perpetrator’. It suggests that the survivor–perpetrator encounter staged at the heart of S21 and Duch is a major characteristic of Panh's perpetrator documentary cinema, aiming at undermining the perpetrator's ideology of extermination and reconstituting the human condition. It also describes the cinematic strategies through which these three post-genocide documentaries constitute a cinematic ‘archive of truth’. Identifying the major tropes that most potently mobilise this archive examines the role of Panh's perpetrator documentaries as a transgenerational site, one that confronts the post-1979 generation with the double enigma: of the ‘ordinary perpetrator’ and self-genocide. In the midst of Cambodia's struggle over the post-Khmer Rouge national narrative, Panh, the survivor, has put forward a new episteme with which Cambodia's collective post-traumatic memory should be re-established.
Since early in this decade, Israeli cinema has witnessed the emergence of a new religious wave that presents mainly ultra-Orthodox Jewish culture. Its emergence is influenced by the global rise of religious politics in the post-9/11 era and the subsequent global war on terror, but most of all, by the major forces at work in the Israeli milieu – the heated divide between religious belief and the secular worldview, the threat of a large and growing Orthodox population, socio-political trends to the right, the increasing influence of the settler movement as a powerful social and political force, and the specific socio-political complexity of the second Intifada period. Narrative religious cinema made during the second Intifada does not deal with the extreme and highly influential figure of religious national-Zionism, the settler; instead, it represents the minority figure of the ultra-Orthodox Jew as its ultimate other. This displacement sets the ultra-Orthodox as a benign substitute through which multiculturalist and religious conflicts and left-right clashes might be negotiated. In fact, narrative cinema critically celebrates the ultra-Orthodox otherness as harmless entertainment for both secular and national-religious Zionist audiences. In this climate of intensified repression, a number of documentaries, all by women directors, though not dealing with the settler, present the intolerance and oppressive violence prevalent in ultra-Orthodox culture. By calling attention to the political dimension of fundamentalism, largely hidden in narrative films, these documentaries grasp the distinctiveness of Jewish fundamentalism in the socio-structural sphere rather than in the realm of ideas. Negotiating the different facets and body-lines of the ultra-Orthodox male (and female) stands at the core of films like Black Bus and Gevald. By mobilizing a discussion of pre-modern vs. modern forms of fundamentalism, these documentaries protest, on one hand, the modesty revolution set against women and, on the other, the extreme violence aimed at the (secular and religious) GLBT community. Analyzing this wave in a highly debated socio-political climate therefore reawakens classic questions regarding access to and visibility of marginal groups in documentary cinema, as well as current questions along the lines of multi-religiousness, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation.
The essay examines a certain shift in the politics of the body/corpse as an outcome of the “new” war. Perspectives on suicide-attack-induced trauma are compared via an analysis of the 2003 Israeli documentary No. 17 (representing here an entire corpus); video recordings taken of suicide bombers before their missions; and the Palestinian narrative film Paradise Now (2005). Among the interrelated issues discussed are the ethics of the gaze; the phenomenology of suicide attacks; our willingness to become contaminated by the corpse as indicating our willingness to accept the other; and the distinction between discourses oriented towards the other and those which preclude such orientation. By proposing the body/corpse relationship as the basis for a new “materialistic” discourse, the essay contests the predominance of “memory discourse” in trauma studies.
Morag, Raya (2013) "Abjection, Ethics, and Otherness: Israeli Documentary Cinema in the Age of the Second Intifada," Mikan 13 October: 5-30. (Hebrew).
An analysis of films depicting the relationship between the Occupation and terror in Israeli and in Palestinian queer cinema produced during – and after – the second Intifada (2000-2008) reveals a complex picture. Both corpora deal with the post-traumatic queering of race and nationality. However, while the Israeli films (The Bubble by Eytan Fox and Gevald by Netalie Braun) focus on the Western urban gay and lesbian scene infiltrated by terror, the Palestinian film (Diary of a Male Whore by Tawfik Abu Wael) focuses on the post-traumatic memory of expulsion and loss of home. These constructs – together with socio-religious differences between the two cultures and their film industries – have ramifications on how queer sexualities are represented. A close textual analysis of these three examples offers a rethinking of cultural concepts (e.g., gay-ization, the permeable body, masturbation, gay shame-pride-humiliation, gaze and scopic economics, kinging), as well as of memory; trauma; and post-trauma, as a way to reflect on queering the terror.
An introduction is presented in which the editor discusses articles on topics related to Israeli documentary following the second intifada including the depiction of ethics in Israeli films, films dealing with sexual violence against women, and Jewish and Zionist history.
This essay proposes a new paradigm for cinema trauma studies: the trauma of the perpetrator. Recognizing a current shift in interest from trauma suffered by victims to that suffered by perpetrators, it seeks to break the repression of the abhorrent figure of the perpetrator in cinema and psychoanalysis literature. This new paradigm is driven by the emergence of a new wave of Israeli documentaries such as Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir, Tamar Yarom's To See If I'm Smiling, and Avi Mograbi's Z32, one that for the first time includes female IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) veterans. Israeli cinema, attached on one side to the legacy of the Holocaust and on the other to the Israeli occupation, proves a highly relevant case for probing the limits of both types of traumas. Taking as a point of departure the distinction between testimony given by the victim and confession made by the perpetrator, the paper addresses the questions of whether the trauma of the perpetrator indeed exists; how we might understand the somatic and epistemological conditions of guilt; how we should define the perpetrator's trauma in contrast to the victim's; and whether this cinematic trend indeed paves the way for Israelis to assume responsibility for their deeds. Analyzing the characteristics of perpetrator trauma defined as crises (of evidence, disclosure, gender, audience, narrativization) finally leads to a preliminary reflection on the possible relevance of this model for analyzing related new-war films in twenty-first-century world cinema.
All rights are reserved by the Camera Obscura Journal. Morag, Raya (2012) “Perpetrator Trauma and Current Israeli Documentary Cinema,” Camera Obscura 80 27.2: 93-133.
An analysis of films depicting interracial sex between men in Israeli and in Palestinian cinema, which were produced during and after the second Intifada (2000-2008), reveals a complex picture. Both corpora deal with the post-traumatic intersection of race and nationality with gender and sexuality. The paper examines two examples: Eytan Fox’s Israeli film, The Bubble, and Tawfik Abu Wael’s short Palestinian film, Diary of a Male Whore. While the Israeli film focuses on interracial sex infiltrated by terror within the urban Western gay scene, the Palestinian film focuses on interracial sex within the post-traumatic memory of expulsion and loss of home.
These constructs – together with socio-religious differences between the two cultures and their film industries – have ramifications on how (homo)sexualities are represented. Homosexual Palestinian and Israeli cinema during and after the second Intifada (as presented in Bubble and Diary) suggests a complex network of interracial sexual relations. This paper, therefore, offers a rethinking of cultural concepts (e.g., gay-ization, the permeable body, masturbation, gay shame-pride-humiliation, gaze and scopic economics), as well as of memory, trauma, and post-trauma
Morag, Raya. 2011. “Post-Trauma, Sexuality And the Occupation: Palestinian and Israeli Cinema during the second Intifada" (Hebrew).Theory and Criticism 38-39: 211 - 234.
An exploration of the concept of ‘post-queer’ through reinterpreting New German Cinema (NGC) as post-traumatic cinema processing the trauma of the defeat of the Third Reich, reveals the singular complexity of the conflict between the corpus and Nazi Germany's past. An intricate process associated with (post)queerness and masculinity takes place in the transfer between generations in NGC. At one end of the axis is the convoluted body, genderlessness and non-queer a-sexuality of Kaspar, the protagonist of Herzog's The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser; on the other is the ruptured body and anti-queer transsexuality of Elvira in Fassbinder's In a Year of Thirteen Moons. A re-reading of paradigmatic psychoanalytic studies pertaining to Hitler's image that analyzes it as a queer imago, and a close reading of these two paradigmatic filming embodiments, will shed new light on the entire corpus. In this paper, I contend that NGC acknowledges the trauma of the defeat and at the same time subverts fascist-Nazi aesthetics and ideology. Thus, un-queering the Hitlerian imago becomes the morally preferred subject position of the defeated perpetrator.
The cover photo for Raz Yosef's Beyond Flesh: Queer Masculinities and Nationalism in Israeli Cinema shows a meticulously directed event of mourning performed by two models dressed as Israeli soldiers in a staged battle scene. One, who seems to be a medic of Mizrahi origin, holds the head of the other, dead, soldier, supposedly Ashkenazi, in a pietà-like pose while using a brush and palette to paint the scar on his half-naked body. The death scene depicts the major contradictions and deep ambivalences embedded in the Israeli cinematic militaristic-national ethos of maleness, traced by Yosef in this pioneering study. Yosef investigates the development of the culture of masculinity, sexuality, and nationality in Israeli cinema from the 1930s to the 1990s. He does so not through a chronological historical depiction but by exploring Israeli cinema's role in the creation of national identity and the complex ways the dialectics of heteronormativity versus queerness embodied in conflicts over race and ethnicity shape this identity. Yosef analyzes the Zionist dream of a new masculinity in Zionist films. Focusing on the Zionist body master narrative, he follows scholars such as Sander Gilman, Daniel Boyarin, and David Biale, who describe hundreds of years of European tradition "that associated the male Jew with disease, madness, degeneration, sexual perversity, and femininity" (17). The Zionist films prove the ambivalence that structures Zionist male body politics: Yosef suggests, "On the one hand, the Nazi is the racist emasculator and," referring to Boyarin's famous claim, "on the other hand, the Aryan male is the model for the Zionist hypermasculinity" (36). The Sabra (native-born Israeli) masculinity is therefore a counterimage not only to the old Jewish "feminine" physiognomy and mentality but, in what might be termed a complementary inversion, the fascist-Aryan body image. One striking characteristic of this Zionist fantasy is its "whiteness." Yosef follows Edward Said and Ella Shohat, among others, in inquiring of Zionism's Eurocentrism in Israeli cinema: "Zionist films linked the new Zionist manhood and body hygiene as a condition for 'racial' improvement and nation-building" (47). Accordingly, he claims, Zionist society reinforced and legitimized its nationalism through this whitened racism, based on the marginalization of both the external enemy, the Arab-Palestinian male, and the internal enemy, the Arab-Mizrahi Jew. Two of Yosef's major contributions are his exploration of the construction of the Mizrahi body and sexuality in mainstream Israeli cinema and his examination of the practices of resistance of Mizrahi filmmakers to Zionist-Ashkenazi manhood discourses. Through an attentive reading, he claims that while 1980s and 1990s films address questions of homophobia and gay subjectivity, they are marked by "disavowal of ethnicity in Ashkenazi gay sexual politics and the incorporation of Mizrahi men into stereotyping and sexual objectification" (143). Beyond Flesh analyzes the quintessential Israeliness embedded in the figure of the soldier in the military films of this period, which mark a crisis in Israeli male subjectivity that, according to Yosef, took place after the 1973 war and was aggravated by the war in Lebanon and the Intifada. This crisis is revealed in the films' representation of the disavowal of the soldier's submission to the Law of the Zionist Father, the soldier's seeking of pain and passivity as a way to act out queer identification with other soldiers, and the cinematic focus on the mutilation of the soldier. Discussing interracial sex, Yosef points out that as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became more violent, more films transgressed the taboo of interracial sex. Some of the films use these representations to critique the heteronormative national ideology and the identity politics of the Israeli gay community. The author emphasizes the colonial scene of conquest as saturated with fears of impotence, emasculation, and death, as well as sexual fantasies. Following Leo Bersani, the body becomes a battlefield in which anal sex is regarded as a form of warfare. Though Yosef neither raises the question of defining queerness nor suggests a final overall taxonomy, his book refers, as I see it, to three major performances of queerness that construct the evolution of national/sexual identity in Israeli cinema. First is the twofold queerness of the diasporic Jew: the queerness...
An analysis of films depicting interracial sex between men during the al-Aqsa Intifada reveals a complex picture. Eytan Fox’s Israeli film, The Bubble, deals with the love between a young Israeli and a young Palestinian, ending tragically when the Palestinian becomes a suicide terrorist. In Abu Wael’s Diary of a Male Whore, a Palestinian street hustler recalls his violent childhood while he is servicing an Israeli client. Israeli and Palestinian homo(sexual) cinema (2000–2008) requires a rethinking not only of cultural concepts revolving around the possible encounters between the I and the other (prostitution, masturbation, gay-ization, romance) and psychoanalytic interventions (denial, [...]