Impossible Witness: Israeli Visuality, Palestinian Testimony and the Gaza War

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2012-07-01

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Abstract

This article studies Israeli news coverage (chiefly via newspapers and television) of the Gaza war of 2008-2009, with a focus on what the national media withheld from its consuming publics - namely, depiction of the extent of Israeli-inflicted violence upon Gazan people and infrastructure. At the core of this article is a study of an anomalous instance of Palestinian testimonial which was broadcast live on Israeli national television - this in an Israeli media context in which Palestinian eyewitness accounts were largely occluded from public view. How, the article asks, are we to make sense of this scene of televised Palestinian trauma and the enormous attention it garnered among Israeli publics? The author's reading detours through the work of Israeli cultural theorist Ariella Azoulay with her insistence that the study of images and visuality in the Israeli context be attentive to the inextricable interplay between ways of seeing and national ideologies. In conclusion, the author proffers a reading which folds this scene of televised testimonial back into the hegemonic Israeli field of perception. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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10.1080/14797585.2012.647749

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Stein, RL (2012). Impossible Witness: Israeli Visuality, Palestinian Testimony and the Gaza War. Journal for Cultural Research, 16(2-3). pp. 135–153. 10.1080/14797585.2012.647749 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6688.

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Scholars@Duke

Stein

Rebecca L. Stein

Professor of Cultural Anthropology

My research studies linkages between cultural and political processes in Israel in relation to its military occupation and the history of Palestinian dispossession. I am the author of Screen Shots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2021) on the politics of military occupation in the age of the global smartphone camera; Digital Militarism: Israel's Occupation in the Social Media Age (with Adi Kuntsman), on the militarization of social media in Israel; Itineraries in Conflict: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Political Lives of Tourism (Duke University Press, 2008) which considers the relationship between tourism, mobility politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the co-editor of Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture (Duke University Press, 2005) with Ted Swedenburg and The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005 with Joel Beinin (Stanford University Press, 2006). 

My most recent work has been a multi-book project about the ways that new communication technologies are meditating the everyday Israeli relationship to its military occupation -- including changing practices and logics of military 'counterinsurgency',  the everyday terms of soldiering, the Israeli civilian relationship to Palestinians under occupation, and the human rights work and anti-occupation activism. My first book within this project --Digital Militarism: Israel's Occupation in the Social Media Age (with Adi Kuntsman) -- studied the place of social media within this equation. My forthcoming book -- Screen Shots: State Violence on Camera in Israel and Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2021) considers the roles of digital photographic technologies and camera investments, with a focus on the multiple communities and institutions, across political divides, who have integrated networked image-making into their political toolbox: Palestinian and Israeli human rights workers and activists, Palestinian civilians living under occupation, the Israeli military, and the Jewish settler population.  All believed that the technological innovations of the digital age would deliver their images – and therein, their political message -- with greater fidelity (closer, faster, truer).  Most would be let down.  Screen Shots focuses on episodes of glitch and lapse in photographic practices, on curatorial and circulatory failures, arguing that the analytics of failure shines a new light on the changing terms of military occupation in the digital age, while pushing back against the recalcitrant techo-optimism that still frames much scholarship in this area. This project has been supported by grants from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Palestinian American Research Council, and the Trent Foundation.

Portions of this scholarship have appeared in Current AnthropologyCritical Inquiry, Anthropological Quarterly, Middle East Report, and the London Review of Books. My work on Israeli cultural politics has appeared in such journals as Public Culture, Social TextThe International Journal of Middle East Studies,Theory and Event, Journal of Palestine Studies, GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies and Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 




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