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Tel Aviv University
[TAU, Minerva Humanities] Ariella Azoulay: "Israel's creation was a catastrophe for both Jews and Palestinians"

Dr. Ariella Azoulay

TAU Minerva Humanities Center

Email: rellyaz@netvision.net.il

Editorial Note:

Ariella Azoulay (TAU) has been a subject of IAM posts before, most recently for comparing the fate of Palestinians to that of Jews during the Holocaust. She is a fellow at the Minerva Humanities Center at TAU and now an assistant professor of comparative literature and modern culture and media in Middle East Studies at Brown University.

Azoulay's "creative" manipulation of pictures and texts has been on display on other occasions, including a lecture at the prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. In an hour long, somewhat rambling speech, titled "Potential History", Azoulay delivered her usual damning critique of all things Israeli, bolstered by an array of manipulated images. But, apparently buoyed by the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and mass protest in Europe, she was ready to declare the coming of a new age, when "potential history" will be born, when "all those on both sides who opposed Partition would be unified."

In order to expedite such "end time" scenario, Azoulay urges the Israelis to take a number of steps. First, past history needs to be rewritten to make clear that Jews were only a tiny minority in Palestine - only six percent- and did not deserve a state of their own. Second, the term Palestine rather than Israel should be used. Third, Jews must start the process of "forgiveness" by acknowledging that they made Palestinians into refugees by violence.

After distributing a brochure with the appropriate images to the audience, Azoulay presented the global context of her "potential history." She declared that the globe "belongs to nobody, which means everybody, and the UN has divided it into nation-states," adding that nation-states are not necessary. Indeed, the goal should be to disperse power of "good people everywhere;" this can be achieved by social-networks that restore information that was removed from consciousness, from the public space. Azoulay, an ardent feminist, made it clear that women would play a prominently role in her imagined utopia.

The audio-tape of the lecture ended before the Q&A session; one can only guess that the Spanish audience must have been bewildered by Azoulay's strange performance.

It is equally puzzling that she is now on the faculty of Brown University, known as a center of serious scholarship. The only plausible explanation is that the appointment is related to her high profile trashing of Israel. If this is indeed the case, Azoulay follows a well established trend whereby radical Israeli academics with dubious publishing records are "rewarded" with plush visiting position or permanent employment abroad.


Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)




Ariella Azoulay (Tel Aviv, 1962) teaches visual culture and contemporary philosophy in the Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies program at Israel's Bar-Ilan University. Her numerous publications in Hebrew and English include Death's Showcase: The Power of Image in Contemporary Democracy (MIT Press, 2001, winner of the Infinity Award for Writing, International Center for Photography), Once Upon A Time: Photography Following Walter Benjamin (Bar-Ilan University Press, 2006) and The Civil Contract of Photography (MIT Press, 2008), which examines the relationship between photography and citizenship and the spectator's civil responsibility in disaster contexts. She has also curated exhibitions and written and directed several films.



Summary by IAM

”On Photography and Potential History”

“Israel’s creation was a catastrophe for both Jews and Arabs!”

Ariella Azoulay—Director of Tel Aviv University’s “Photo-Lexic Research Group at the Minerva Humanities Center”—spoke on October 25, 2012 to Independent Studies Program students at MACBA [Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona].

She claimed the United Nations artificially created Israel, a ceremonial event that perpetuated the power of this global organization “to impose sovereign nation-states” upon two peoples who had both been citizens, sharing power to solve local problems. This “forgotten history” from archives created in the 1940’s illustrates how radically the lexicon has been altered by the Jews; they have convinced Israelis that they must kill Palestinians before the Palestinians kill them…and the Jewish State.

Using photography and a film-clip to illustrate the region’s “potential history,” she lamented how violence has subverted the interests of those who simply wish to live peacefully. She claimed this problem is actually part of a larger phenomenon—illustrated by the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements—whereby powerless people are challenging authorities who seek to perpetuate the results of colonialism which, in “Palestine/Israel” stems back to the 1920’s, when European powers artificially divided the land.

She motivated her listeners to eschew passivity, for “spectators” are actually participating in “violence” against the Palestinians, whom “the Jews” either rule by controlling the occupied territories or have banished to Refugee Camps. Counting herself as a descendant of such “perpetrators,” she claimed the narrative had been corrupted by a new lexicon.

Similar to the refrain heard during the Passover Seder that “We were all freed from Egyptian bondage,” she averred that both Jews and Arabs are victims of the “Nakba” that has falsely been portrayed as a “ceremonial moment” when Israel was born. And she decried the violence that yielded forced-relocation of Palestinians and the abrogation of contracts that had resolved claims on the level of “He stole my pig!”

She explained her formulation thusly: If you do not do work about the past, you will perpetuate the terms and perspectives by the powers-that-be.” We must “reconstruct what civil power created, lest mistakes be recreated.” Declining to term this goal “revolutionary” that would justify use of a guillotine—as occurred in France—she called for “reorganization of the space in which we live.” Indeed, she would want to live in such a country, in which refugees no longer existed.

Her version of a revised history included claims that all conflicts were resolved without the need for external powers to impose their will upon civil society; Jews and Arabs worked together in hospitals, dined together in restaurants, resided together nonviolently. Partition was imposed upon a land that had not been divided artificially by fences, by Jews who, in 1948, were a tiny minority occupying only 6% of the land. She refuses to use “testimony” or analysis of “human-rights” to educate people, for she does not claim to be a historian.

Rather, the “Potential History” she advocates would supplant conflict—perpetrated by Jews on Jews—whereby such events as the Deir Yassin massacre remain unrectified. The violence was also visited upon the Palestinians in ways that people have failed to acknowledge, recalling that Ramallah had been a beautiful city before it was completely emptied of its Palestinian Residents. She aspired to achieve “secondary gain” by condemning the fact that a photograph of a Jewish delegation visiting Arabs only included men, for she would want to empower women.

Overall, she wants the police—who may ring protestors in Seoul, London, and Israel—to be enticed to join efforts to transform the narrative. She feels everyone should engage in “forgiveness”—a moment when everyone laments evictions of people from their homes—and pursues the “promise” that transforms public statements into a new reality, a “potential history” that reverses how “law” was forcibly created. “Palestinians must change the rules-of-game” so that they can “gain control of the land they already occupy.” It is “impossible to kick-out 750.000 residents to start a new country,” for this precludes “possibility for other endpoints to emerge.”

Summarized by Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D., F.A.C.P.

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    1.  It is important to point out to Azoulay
     From Jacob Amir, M.D., Sent in 03-03-2013
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