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Tel Aviv University
[TAU & CRFJ] A BIASED CONFERENCE ENTITLED “THE DYNAMICS OF IMAGES IN THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT”

 A conference entitled The Dynamics of Images in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict  featuring Gideon Levy etc., was hosted jointly by the French Research Center in Jerusalem and by Tel Aviv University on November 7 and 8, 2011.  At this conference, Dr. Daniel Dor of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Zohar Kamft of Hebrew University, Prof. Ilan Greilsammer of Bar Ilan University and Dr. Yael Munk of the Open University gave presentations that promoted post-Zionist arguments.  IAM covered their talks. 

Dor, who spoke about “Politics, Ideology, and Discourse Analysis: the Israeli Coverage of the Conflict,” has a long record of post-Zionist activities.  He signed a petition supporting students who refuse to serve in the IDF.    Between 2004 and 2007, Dor served as the chairman and academic supervisor of Keshev: the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel.   According to NGO Monitor, Keshev participated in the Israel Apartheid Week at SOAS in 2008, where its executive director, Yitzhar Be’er, gave a talk on “Media and Normalizing Israeli Apartheid.”   

In a book entitled All the News that Fits: the Israeli media and the Second Palestinian Uprising, Dor argued that since the beginning of the Second Intifada, the Israeli media “provided their readers and viewers with a one-sided, partial, censored and biased picture of reality - a picture which seemingly supported the new hegemonic narrative, but hardly corresponded with events as they unfolded in reality.”   According to Jan Voelkel’s review of Dor’s book The Suppression of Guilt: the Israeli Media and the Re-Occupation of the West Bank,” this supposedly “new hegemonic narrative” portrayed in the Israeli media following the Second Intifada constituted a “refusal to accept any guilt for what happened in the Palestinian territories.”  Indeed, Dor came close to accepting the Palestinian "narrative" pertaining to an alleged massacre of civilians in Jenin.  

Dor’s made good use of critical scholarship to blame Israel, instead of Arafat, for the outbreak of the Second Intifada.  According to Dor, the critical discourse methodology “allows you to show … that what the reporters actually brought to their newspapers in nine out of ten cases … had other ideas about what happened than the Israeli street.”   While Dor acknowledged that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak blamed the Second Intifada on Arafat, he nevertheless claimed that this was not the real picture regarding what happened, for there were “reports from nine reporters saying A and one reporter saying B.”   Dor claimed that the average Israeli editor took the report from “that one reporter coming from the Prime Minister,” put that headline “on the front page,” while “shoving all of the other materials … into back pages.”     

Dor conveniently ignored a large body of evidence pointing to the fact that Arafat chose to follow up on his refusal to sign the agreement with violence.  Indeed, according to Palestine Media WatchPA Communications Minister Imad Al-Faluji declared at a rally in 2000, “Whoever thinks that the Intifada started because of the hated Sharon visit to the Temple Mount is mistaken.  This Intifada was already planned since the President returned from the recent talks at Camp David.”   In other words, in response to a very generous peace offer by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak that would have granted the Palestinians a state in Gaza, most of the West Bank, and part of Jerusalem, Arafat planned a violent Intifada that claimed  thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives.  Dennis Ross, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton and the CIA director George Tenet blamed the collapse of the peace process on Yasser Arafat, not Israel. 

Following Dor, Dr. Zohar Kamft spoke about “Rituals of Apology in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”  Kampf's bias was on display throughout the lecture.   He implied that Israel is a violator of international law who needs to take responsibility for the “Nakba,” in addition to a series of other alleged transgressions.   Nor does Kampf question the correctness of Edward Said's assertion the Palestinians were a “relatively innocent people,” very much like the Jews of Vichy France.  In reality, the two cases are radically different.  The Palestinians defied the 1947 UN Partition  Proposal and  with the help of Arab states, started a war which they lost.  Kampf’s apparent reluctance to acknowledge this fact is part of the post-Zionist campaign to portray the Palestinians as innocent victims of unprovoked Israeli belligerence. For the same reason, Kamft does not mention that Fatah and its affiliates in the PLO as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad need to take responsibility and apologize for the terror attacks against Israeli civilians.  In this biased world-view,  Israel needs to be condemned for "only" expressing sorrow when a Palestinian civilian is killed during actions against terrorist groups that seek shelter and cover amongst the civilian population.

In the following panel, Prof. Ilan Greilsammer gave a talk entitled “New Historians and Political Commitment.”  He asserted that  “contrary to other national minorities, what you call the Jewish people after the emancipation was extremely inorganic," adding that this was quite a stretch of imagination on the part  the Zionist movement for “such a group or population to be united one day into a single nation.”   He implied that Yemenite Jews, Shoah survivors, and assorted Jewish groups that currently make up Israel did not have much in common and that the concept of Jewish peoplehood was in fact “created” by the Zionist movement.  Greilsammer claimed that the “central idea of Ben-Gurion … was to relentlessly fuse all of these peoples into a nation.   How do you do that?”   In his view, Ben-Gurion's solution was to promote a “national myth.”  Preempting criticism that “every nation has a national myth,” that a national myth “has to be based on a certain amount of historical truth,” and that national myths are usually manipulated, Greilsammer proceeded to show that somehow, the Zionists went beyond the acceptable boundaries of such manipulations. To prove this point, Greilsammer cited the story of Masada, which he claims “has no place at all in the Jewish religion."   It was never considered by rabbinical authorities to be a positive story.   On the contrary, the fact that the defenders committed collective suicide in order not to be taken by the Romans was considered extremely negative as suicide is shunned in the Jewish tradition.   But” Zionist leaders transformed it into Jewish heroism.”   Greilsammer used Tel Chai as another example of the alleged Zionist manipulation.  Like many  revisionist historians, he denies that Trumpeldor stated “it is good to die for our country.”  He also claims that Zionists "converted" the Chanukkah and Purim stories to serve the “national meaning of modern heroism.”   Widely publicized, these stories became part of the “ideological orientation of the state.” 


After labeling Masada, Tel Chai, Chanukkah and Purim as  “national myths,” Greilsammer goes on to discuss Israel’s War of Independence.     He claims that “the Israeli history of this war” speaks of the “victory of the very small” and reinforces nationalist sentiment in the “hearts of the Israeli people.”   However, “it included also problematic aspects, mainly the fact that during that war hundreds of thousands of Arabs never came back and became refugees,” resulting in a situation “which the Arabs call the Nakba.”   He asserted that “every one understands that the State of Israel was built on the ruins of the Arab presence in Palestine and that the Jewish state exists precisely thanks to the Palestinian tragedy, something which was maybe unavoidable, but appears to some people as injuring the heroic-mindedness.   Moreover, it was very well known that there had been cases of atrocities during this war, such as the famous case of Deir Yassin.”   Greilsammer claimed that Israelis needed to “find an explanation” for this “tragedy,” which would “preserve the purity of the Zionist dream.”   Thus, Israelis needed to establish that they “had no responsibility whatsoever for this Palestinian disaster.”   This led, according to Greilsammer, to the Israeli claim that the Palestinians fled due to requests from their own leadership so that the Arabs could clear the land for the  Jews.   Palestinians believed that upon fleeing  they would be able to return “a couple of weeks later.”   Of course, the Arabs lost the war so for this reason the Palestinians “never came back.”   According to Greilsammer, “such a narrative put total responsibility of the Nakba on the Arabs themselves and totally justified in the eyes of most Israelis the constant refusal of every Israeli government to take any blame for this tragedy and the decision to refuse to take back even a limited number of refugees.”


The following day, Yael Munk of the Open University spoke about “Breaking the Silence: Reflections on Israeli Soldiers’ Guilt and Responsibility.”   Munk has previously signed a petition calling upon the international community to intervene in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. She worked on her doctorate under the post-Zionist academic Judd Ne'eman. Munk started her talk by showing a short documentary depicting  IDF soldiers as child-killers.   In her view, "the unstable political situation of the State of Israel" has been at the center of Israeli films and documentaries whose goal it is help “Israeli soldiers [take] responsibility” and help Israelis to “come to terms with this psychological condition.”   She notes that movies like Beaufort, Waltz with Bashir, and others deal with issue of personal responsibility of Israeli troops.”   

Next Munk discussed “Breaking the Silence,” an organization that, according to NGO Monitor, has accused Israel of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, collected testimonies from Israeli soldiers during the Second Intifada geared towards delegitimizing Israel, and conducted regular  tours of Hebron where the group representatives highlighted  alleged IDF abuses.  During one such tour, which Israel Academia Monitor covered, “Breaking the Silence” taught a group of international students from Ben-Gurion University that Israel routinely stole Palestinian car keys, unjustifiably forced Palestinians out of their homes in order to aid the security of settlers and engaged in other arbitrary and menacing behavior.  Breaking the Silence members joined Jews for Justice for Palestinians in a flotilla that sought to break the Gaza Blockade.   As a result of such activities, Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz, “Breaking the Silence...has a clear political agenda, and can no longer be classed as a ‘human rights organization.’ Any organization whose website includes the claim by members to expose the ‘corruption which permeates the military system’ is not a neutral observer.”   Instead of speaking about the political biases and lack of objectivity of  Breaking the Silence, Munk asserted that the very name “Breaking the Silence” is traditionally used to describe victims of “rape and domestic violence” speaking out about their experiences.  She claimed that “Breaking the Silence,” “in adopting this title, subverts the connections between “home and nation” and thus invites others to look at their nations actions as “requisitioning of the nations’ own self.   The revolt against the crimes of their own nation,” according to Munk, should be read “as an anathema of the ethical-personal dimension over the national discourse.   It subverts the priorities of this discourse and reveals what was intended to be kept secret.”   Munk provided zero evidence of Israeli crimes beyond the testimonies based on hear-say evidence delivered in her documentary shown at the beginning of her lecture.      

 

Afterwards, Munk described the ideas behind the organization.   In 2003, the group hosted an exhibition in Tel Aviv which displayed photographs from “anonymous soldiers” from the “occupied Palestinian town of Hebron.   It invited Israeli citizens … to look at the other face of the occupation,” mostly of the “role of the Israeli soldier in carrying out the Israeli occupation policy.”   It showed “an insider’s perspective” for what every Israeli either directly or indirectly is “implicated.”    These photographs “brought Hebron to Tel Aviv” and “enlightened what should have intentionally been left obscured in the media’s coverage of the occupation.”   By doing so, according to Munk, Breaking the Silence took a side “in the image war of the Middle East and added an agent of memory.”   The exhibition traveled to other locations inside Israel and abroad.   These photographs soon emerged into video documentation.  They have become an “alternative source of information for new and unexpected kinds of audiences [that] competes with the official voice.”  Implying that Israel is a serious human right abuser, Munk claimed that Israelis need to  “confess their moral hesitations and regrets about acts carried out during the war.”   Munk stated that these soldiers believed that “by the very act of confession” of their engagement in “immoral acts of war,” they would be “granted moral recognition” which would “wash away the sins” and enable them to continue their lives afterwards.   “In other words,” charged Munk, “the act of confession enabled acknowledging guilt without taking into account personal responsibility.”   In her opinion, the redemptive capacity of  confession is matched by its role as a “political act of resistance explaining to the world and to their country that there is no good and evil but rather individuals manipulated in the name of law of their nation and this dilemma is important for the national and international archives of the generations to come.”  


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