The Camera and the National Ethos : The ‘Battle of Jenin’ in Recent Palestinian Cinema

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Abstract

title: The Camera and the National Ethos: The ‘Battle of Jenin’ in Recent Palestinian Cinema

During the Al Aksa Intifada in 2002 the Israeli army launched operation ‘Defensive Shield’ in the West Bank. It invaded among other places the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin, where it encountered armed resistance from the residents. Throughout the 14 days of fighting the ensuing military cordon preventing access to media resulted in a frenzy of speculation about what was happening inside the camp. When the Israeli forces pulled out after the battle ended, conflicting accounts of the events especially regarding the number of Palestinian casualties and the extent of the demolition - were reported by the Israeli, Palestinian and international media.

The ‘discursive battle’ over the signification of the event, exposed, yet again, the processes that are at operation in the construction of national narratives and collective memories. Alongside the influx of reports in broadcast, printed and electronic media, six documentary films about the battle in Jenin were produced shortly after the event. Amongst which three documentaries by Palestinian citizens of Israel: Jenin, Jenin (Mohammad Bakri, 2002), Invasion (Nizar Hassan, 2003) and Arna’s Children (Juliano Mer-Hamis, 2003).

This article examines these three Palestinian documentaries in the context of documentary theory and in relation to the particular history of Palestinian cinema. I suggest a twofold reading of the films: not only as forms of political activism that provide ‘visible evidence’ of the historical and actual world, but also as ‘works of mourning’ (Renov, 2004). This approach sees the films as ‘sites’ through which dynamic processes of identity formation, cultural, political and social transformations are mediated and shaped under specific conditions of production and distribution. The films’ mode of representation reveals the ways in which they incorporate the events in Jenin 2002 into the Palestinian historical narrative. The emergence of these films by Palestinian directors, who are Israeli citizens, at this particular historical moment, reflects the shifts in identity positions of Palestinians in Israel since the
beginning of the Al-Aksa intifada, and the events of October 2000, and a growing need to strategically articulate the shifting political positions in the public sphere.
Translated title of the contributionThe Camera and the National Ethos : The ‘Battle of Jenin’ in Recent Palestinian Cinema
Original languageOther
Title of host publicationSouth Cinema Notebook No. 2: On Cinema, Destruction & Trauma
PublisherSapir College
Pages35-45
Number of pages10
Volume2
ISBN (Print)9789657171585
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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