Daniel Mann, anti-Israel Israeli Academic Recruited to King’s College London to Espouse anti-Israel Agenda


Editorial Note

IAM reported before on anti-Israel Israeli academics such as Prof. Eyal Weizman and Dr. Hagar Kotef, who deliberately obfuscate the Palestinian war against Israel.

They are now joined by Dr. Daniel Mann, a King’s College London research fellow.

Daniel Mann’s bookOccupying Habits: Everyday Media as Warfare in Israel-Palestine was published by I.B.Tauris this year. According to Mann, Israel and the IDF have been able to “increase their oppression and colonial violence against Palestinian civilians.” The book is about the IDF’s media technology. According to a Palestinian book reviewer

the book is showing how “The defensive stance which the Israeli colonial state has so successfully disseminated is also entrenched within Israeli society.” As Mann notes: “The model of the defense self that kills the other.” According to the reviewer, “Other forms of impunity which exist within Israel include the use of sniper teams, as well as public lynching of Palestinian civilians by Israeli settler-colonists.” The reviewer sums up decrying the “limited understanding we can have of media technology in Israel, unless its use is analyzed from within the colonial framework.”

The book’s chapters are as follows: Introduction; Domestic inspectors: The First Gulf War and the militarization of the home; The death of a cameraman: The al-Aqsa Intifada and the demise of the military film units; The split wall: Homes to return to and homes to destroy; Saving face: Between uniformity and isolation; The Azaria Case: The selective enforcement of the visual; The regime of the self: Between the one and the many; Conclusion.

Mann was born in the USA and went to the Film School at Tel Aviv University. He completed his Ph.D. thesis at Goldsmiths, University of London, on “image warfare and the integration of media into armed conflict.” Using his “deep knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and reality.” 

Mann has collaborated with the notoriously anti-Israel Israeli activist Eyal Weizman’s Forensic Architecture in an investigation titled “Killing in Umm al-Hiran” (2017).

Mann’s book is based on his Ph.D. thesis. He researched the Israeli Defence Forces’ archives. He discovered that the “expansion of media technology has actually created a form of impunity for the military and the state, while desensitizing Israeli soldiers and the settler population in the process.” The reviewer wrote that Mann’s “desensitization” is “intertwined” with the writing of Hagar Kotef, as she discussed in her book, The Colonising Self Or, Home and Homelessness in Israel/Palestine. Mann refers to it in his treatise “to show how the colonial experience is attached to violence, while also detached from the consequences which the Palestinian victims suffer.” In particular, “the IDF’s violence against Palestinian civilians. Building upon Kotef’s research, Mann writes how the home rooted in colonial violence sanctifies life for the colonizers and vilifies, as well as constructs a site of violence, the homes of Palestinians.” Mann writes that “media technologies were incorporated into the very fabric of the occupation.” 

His Ph.D. advisors at Goldsmiths were Profs. Susan Schuppli and Pasi Valiaho. Susan Schuppli’s books include JUSTice: Cold Rights in a Warming World (monograph in-progress), Singing Ice: Ladakhi folk songs about mountains, glaciers, rivers, and steams, a book project with Morup Namgyal, Faiza Ahmad Khan, Radha Pandey, Jigmet Anjmo, British Council / Delhi India, 2022 “Learning from Ice: Notes from the Field by Susan Schuppli.” Fieldwork for Future Ecologies / Radical Practice for Art and Art-based Research. Eds. Bridget Crone, Sam Nightingale, Polly Stanton, Onomatopee 225, Eindhoven, 2022.

Pasi Valiaho’s books include Projecting Spirits: Speculation, Providence, and Early Modern Optical Media (Stanford University Press, 2022; in press), Biopolitical Screens: Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain (MIT Press, 2014), Mapping the Moving Image: Gesture, Thought, and Cinema circa 1900 (Amsterdam University Press, 2010).

As can be seen, none of his supervisors has any expertise in Israel Studies or similar. But Schoppli is the board chair of Eyal Weizman’s Forensic Architecture.

Mann has “received guidance from Eyal Weizman,” as he wrote in the introduction, and added, “I also feel greatly indebted to the SOAS Palestine Studies series editors Dina Matar and Adam Hanieh for their trust in the project.”

In his book, Mann states that “In the last three decades of documentation, “both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian activists has routinely exposed grave abuses of state power, such as illegal arrests or unlawful killings. The increasingly visible use of excessive military force by the IDF has posed a new problem for it and Israeli society at large: violent incidents have been photographed and filmed, providing representations of punishing acts performed by Israeli soldiers.”

In other words, when speaking of Israel, the author considers it violent, abusive, and unlawful—thus hinting that he possibly sees the Palestinians’ attacks against Israel as lawful. 

According to the author, the IDF’s approach to media coverage was an “integration of visual media into their strategies of public relations and propaganda… media technologies were incorporated into the very fabric of the occupation.”

This should come as no surprise because Mann is one of a growing number of scholars engaged in what Harvard University recently described as “advocacy writing.” Unlike standard research, advocacy writing is designed to provide academic legitimacy to a pre-selected ideological platform, in this case, the permanent victimhood of Palestinians. Blaming Israel only requires an intellectual sleight of hand: Palestinians are not responsible for any decisions their leadership has made over time: Rejecting the 1947 UN Partition Plan, squashing the Oslo peace process through a violent Intifada sponsored by Iran, and the repeated missile assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip, a territory run with singular brutality by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the latter a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Islamist regime in Iran. Little wonder that Mann’s book does not mention the thousands of Israelis killed and wounded after the Oslo peace agreement in 1993. To contextualize the conflict would have meant acknowledging that the Palestinians are at fault.

Advocacy writing does not serve the Palestinian case, nor does it help to understand the changes that the Abraham Accords triggered in the Middle East. Israel is now a core partner in this new anti-Iranian, pro-Western alliance. 

Rather than recruiting more anti-Israeli activists, King’s College London should follow the example of Harvard and repudiate activist writing. 



Occupying Habits: Everyday Media as Warfare in Israel-Palestine

Front Cover

Daniel Mann

I.B. Tauris, 2021 – Arab-Israeli conflict – 208 pages

0 Reviews

“Beginning from the early 2000s, constant and pervasive documentation using mobile phone cameras by both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian activists has routinely exposed grave abuses of state power, such as illegal arrests or unlawful killings. Two decades on, the Israeli authorities have not only learned to cope with the deluge of images, they have in fact appropriated everyday habits of communication in flexible and innovative ways. This book explores the impact that mobile phone cameras and social media have had on Israel’s security regime. Daniel Mann shows that although visual media poses a threat to Israel’s modus operandi in the West Bank and Gaza, it is also paving the way for new modes of surveillance and control that are becoming ubiquitous. By examining photos, film and footage – and identifying the individuals that created them – the book reveals how Israel has expanded its capacity to shape the narrative of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories and how it delegates the responsibility of image production and distribution to soldiers and civilians. In doing so, everyday media practises are becoming part of Israel’s arsenal of weapons for military ends. The book argues that this is a radical remodelling of its modes of governance and a reconfiguration of the stakes of political action, showing the growing function of media shaping warfare.”


https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20220626-occupying-habits-everyday-media-as-warfare-in-israel-palestine/Occupying Habits. Everyday Media as Warfare in Israel-Palestine

Book Author(s) : Daniel Mann
Published Date : February 2022
Publisher : I.B. Tauris
ISBN-13 : 9780755633906

Ramona Wadi

June 26, 2022 at 10:13 am

“Sovereignty is made out of a patchwork, weaved together from institutions, private companies, and most significantly technology itself, which dictates certain behaviour and habits.” Israel’s security narrative has become heavily reliant on media technology, as Daniel Mann’s book “Occupying Habits: Everyday Media as Warfare in Israel-Palestine” (I.B.Tauris, 2022) shows. Drawing upon the Israeli Defence Forces’s archives, the author discovers that the expansion of media technology has actually created a form of impunity for the military and the state, while desensitising Israeli soldiers and the settler population in the process.

The desensitisation which Mann writes about is intertwined with the perception of home and violence, which in Israel are synonymous and which Hagar Kotef discussed in her book, “The Colonising Self Or, Home and Homelessness in Israel/Palestine” and which the author refers to in his treatise to show how the colonial experience is attached to violence, while also detached from the consequences which the Palestinian victims suffer. The home is also the place where Israelis can view through media technology and in a detached manner, the IDF’s violence against Palestinian civilians. Building upon Kotef’s research, Mann writes how the home rooted in colonial violence sanctifies life for the colonisers and vilifies, as well as constructs a site of violence, the homes of Palestinians.

Mann writes, “the more media technologies were incorporated into the very fabric of the occupation, the less evidence I could find of its application by the IDF.” The increasing use of social media has expanded Israel’s control and as a result, the way Israel’s military occupation is portrayed, or promoted, depending on who is behind the lens, has also altered. With such alterations, Israel and the IDF have been able to increase their oppression and colonial violence against Palestinian civilians, and create alternative options when it comes to deciding or declining accountability and responsibility.

While media technology can record the state’s abusive power, it can also be incorporated into the state’s apparatus, as Israel and the IDF did, creating a new form of warfare that is manipulative and also strengthens the state’s narrative of security threats.#

Spacing Debt. Obligations, Violence, and Endurance in Ramallah, Palestine

The author notes that the IDF’s film unit traces its roots back to 1948, its role changing through decades from accompanying combatants to taking the role of journalists in recent decades, when the military started reassessing the role of media technology and media coverage. Mann writes of how phone companies play a role in structuring the IDF’s media technology, noting that Motorola had signed a $100 million contract with the IDF. “The central role of cellular companies strengthened the know between private communication companies and surveillance,” Mann writes. As media technology use increased in Israel by 2006, the IDF had to content with the singular use of social media by its soldiers as well, thus opening a possibility of liability for both state and institution. “Individuating soldieries through the exposure of their faces, therefore, constitute an inherent threat to this collective authority.”

On one hand, the author notes, such liability could, possibly, contribute to evidence of Israeli military violence against Palestinian civilians as a result of the soldiers’ individual use of social media and posting. However, the IDF has also emphasised the singular use of media technology to differentiate between the soldier posting acts of violence and the institution itself. “The IDF can afford the admission of a singular violent act in order to spare the system itself.” Additionally, instances where individual soldiers’ violence was recorded and disseminated on social media rarely sparked the majority’s outrage within Israel, as happened in the case of Elor Azaria, where only 30 per cent of the Israeli public condemned the extrajudicial killing of a Palestinian civilian.

The defensive stance which the Israeli colonial state has so successfully disseminated is also entrenched within Israeli society, as Mann notes: “The model of the defence self that kills the other.”

Other forms of impunity which exist within Israel include the use of sniper teams, as well as public lynching of Palestinian civilians by Israeli settler-colonists. “When violence takes place out in the open, in front of the cameras, it hides in plain sight,” Mann writes. Even if the culprits are identified, the crowd is still protected through the same impunity which the IDF generates for itself when a soldier is identified and his action described as a singular violent act with allegedly no links to the IDF or the Israeli state itself.

In his introduction, Mann notes that Israel has constantly blurred the lines between the military and civil society. The widespread use of media technology has enabled the IDF to make use of the ambiguity which enables the state the strengthen its survival – by transferring responsibility solely upon the individual, the state’s institutions are permanently safeguarded. It is the obfuscation which the book seeks to delve into, which in turn also exposes the limited understanding we can have of media technology in Israel, unless its use is analysed from within the colonial framework.


Home Alone: Weaponising Habitual Media

My PhD research examines how state and military actors in Israel embrace digital media technologies to activate citizens and soldiers as mediators between civil society and state authority. Based on materials gathered from social media platforms and military archives in Israel, the dissertation documents and conceptualises the role of media practices and images in shaping governance. The study gives particular attention to the technological and social circumstances that led the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to incorporate and utilise vernacular media in its day-to-day and tactical military activities.

I argue that the threat of hyper-visibility introduced by mobile phone cameras and social media applications have had a profound impact on military policy; and that the spread of new media persuaded the IDF that ubiquitous personal use of social media technologies by citizens and soldiers presented new possibilities for shaping state sovereignty in the complex set of challenges faced by the Israeli military and civil society. Starting in the early 1990s policy makers in the Israeli army began to sense that with the rise of social media the army was losing control of the circulation of still photographs and moving images. This phenomenon fits into a larger global picture of structural changes in information circulation. Media scholars have argued that the permeation of distribution networks and digital media into mundane patterns of life destabilises vertical structures of power. For the Israeli military, by 2017 the omnipresence of social media changed the relationship between the military command and the individual, generating new configurations of power and influence. The hierarchical exercise of authority predicated upon official media outlets was upended, creating a decentralised, diffused ‘soft power’. In this new dynamic, the modes of suppressing individuality within an institutionalised military collective were adjusted significantly, actively taking advantage of decentralised use of digital media. Against the backdrop of what has been described as technological determinism, my study contends that the overwhelming influence of militarism on civilian life has been significantly reorganised by media practices and online image circulation.


  ‘The Glow that Illuminates and the Glare that Obscures’ Habitual Media As Warfare In Israel And Palestine 

Hebrew Studies 

Public Talks 

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 

The depth of Israeli military control and surveillance of the West Bank, together with the routine use of mobile phone cameras and social media by both civilians and soldiers, have turned the Occupied Palestinian Territories into a highly visible stretch of land. Alongside traditional forms of state surveillance, the rapid circulation of images online exposes the abuses of state power. In light of this, how does the military itself respond to preserve its structural invisibility and control? After decades of trying to censor any compromising or scandalous images, Israel finally embraced the overwhelming flood of images and online data. Instead of containing it, the levees of censorship have been lifted and the overabundance of visual evidence is used to obscure and over-saturate the public image of the security regime. In light of the co-option of everyday media practices into warfare, this talk asks how the Israeli military has come to rely on vernacular media in its routine monitoring and control of the West Bank. Dr. Daniel Mann is a postdoctoral fellow at the Film Studies Department at King’s College London. Mann completed his doctoral degree at the Media and Communications Department at Goldsmiths College, where he was also a member of the Centre for Research Architecture. His writing has been published with Media, Culture & Society, Visual Cultures Journal and World Records. Mann is also a filmmaker. His films were screened at festival and venues such the Berlin Film Festival, the Rotterdam Film Festival and the Institute for Contemporary Art, London. Tuesday 29th of January 2019, 5:15 to 7:00 pm Common Room, FAMES, Cambridge, CB3 9DA


Doc’s Kingdom

22 August 2018  · 

Welcome to Doc’s Kingdom!

Daniel Mann (1983) was born in the USA and went to Film School at Tel Aviv University. He is completing his PhD thesis at Goldsmiths on image warfare and the integration of media into armed conflict. Investigating the notion of habit both visually and conceptually, his work revolves around the embedding and embodying of media technologies into life within conflict zones. The visuality produced by everyday practices and its political (re)appropriation is at the core of his general inquiry. Mann’s films and writing seek to redefine the politics of images through the entanglement of representations, users, media practices and the automated operation of data. With deep knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and reality, Mann has also made films in collaboration with Sasha Litvintseva (“Salarium”, 2018), Sirah Foighel Brutmann and Eitan Efrat (“Complex”, 2009). He has collaborated with Forensic Architecture in the investigation “Killing in Umm al-Hiran” (2017).


‘I Am Spartacus’: individualising visual media and warfare

Daniel Mann

First Published March 16, 2018 Research Article


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The constant presence of cameras and social media has become a given during day-to-day military activities in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Such technologies shift the focus of warfare onto the individual, and in particular onto the faces of soldiers and Palestinians caught on camera. Due to the habitual use of mobile phones and social media by both soldiers and civilians, the face is singled out as a new battleground, where political action is substituted for individual responsibility. On one hand, the co-option of personal social media into armed conflict enables state actors to zero in on the faces and identities of Palestinian dissidents and alleged terrorists. On the other hand, the faces of Israeli soldiers are also captured and circulated on social media as digital images, posing a new threat to state authority, which depends on remaining faceless. Images of IDF soldiers’ faces, once recorded and shared, figuratively strip off the improvised masks they often wear to hide their identity and preserve their impunity. In Israel and Palestine, where everyday social media habits have become inseparable from routines of security and armed conflict, the image of a soldier’s face individualises his or her actions and demands accountability.


camouflagedigital imagesdistributed networksfacial recognitionindividualisationmilitary occupationsocial mediasurveillancevernacular media


By command of His Most Merciful Excellency, your lives are to be spared. Slaves you were and slaves you remain. But the terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set-aside on the single condition that you identify the body or the living person of the slave called Spartacus.


I’m Spartacus!


I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus!

(Spartacus, 1960, Stanley Kubrick)

In August 2015, a Palestinian activist filmed a routine arrest carried out by Israeli soldiers in the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. Almost immediately, videos of the incident were circulated widely on social media platforms. One such video shows a masked soldier chasing down the 12-year-old Mohammad Tamimi, who has allegedly thrown a rock towards a nearby patrol. The soldier is wearing a balaclava to cover his face (Figure 1). He grabs and tries to detain the boy, who gasps for air under the weight of the soldier’s body. Unwilling to abort the arrest, the masked soldier struggles with the Palestinian activists surrounding him, warning them against intervening. The activists ignore his warnings. They reach into the entanglement of limbs and eventually tear off the soldier’s mask to reveal his face to the camera lens. The soldier suddenly looks bewildered like an actor who has lost his costume in the midst of a scene. The lifting of the mask, and the revelation of his face, is a tipping point, beyond which the mission cannot continue.

Figure 1. The attempted arrest of Mohammad Tamimi. Available at: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/arrested-for-making-the-occupation-look-bad-1.5629119 (accessed 1 October 2017).

The incident in Nabi Saleh was not an isolated event. On a number of occasions in 2015, Israeli soldiers (IDF) and Israeli law enforcement officers were seen or photographed wearing masks of various kinds, which were often improvised during regular security exercises in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. ‘A new phenomenon: Policemen in Jerusalem wear masks in concern of being exposed on Facebook’, one newspaper headline ran (Eli, 2015). Media commentators suggested that due to the omnipresence of cameras, both border police and soldiers were becoming worried that their faces could end up on social media and that, as a result, they might become targets for Palestinian reprisal. ‘It’s not an official instruction’, one policeman explained. ‘[M]asks were usually worn only by special units for particular operations, but today it’s essential for everyone’ (Eli, 2015). But such comments divert the attention from a more pressing problem: the circulation of images of faces can potentially expose legally questionable military procedures. Once a camera captures the faces of a soldier engaged in such a procedure, his or her image is likely to circulate virally on social media and to force the soldier to confront the social and legal implications of his or her actions. What, in such a situation, does the hidden face have to hide? And why does its uncovering seem to pose a new threat to the Israeli military regime? How does the face – unlike the body – undermine authority?

In this article, I argue that the human face has emerged as a new site of politics driven by the use of social media in warfare. While IDF soldiers have begun to hide their faces, the Israeli government has begun to track down the faces of Palestinians on social media platforms with increasing urgency. In 2015, the Israeli government and the IDF updated their surveillance tactics in accordance with growing social media usage. Supplementing their own advanced facial recognition technologies, the IDF began to exploit social media extensively to facilitate preemption strategies, including arrests of Palestinians. At the same time, Facebook has gradually become an online forum for public adjudication: videos of IDF soldiers and Israeli police officers killing or attempting to kill Palestinians are frequently uploaded to social media platforms for public discussion. Israeli leaders, meanwhile, have been quick to accuse social media of inciting violence.

As a result of the rapid co-option of vernacular media technologies and practices into the military routine, the collective appearance of Israeli soldiers is gradually being replaced by an individualised appearance. Images of the faces, I argue below, can be singled out as a new Achilles heel for a long-standing and highly media-conscious military regime. The state derives its power, in part, from the way its agents appear as a homogeneous whole and cohere into an undifferentiated group of representatives. Individualising soldiers through the exposure of their faces, therefore, constitutes an inherent threat to authority. The disclosure of images of the face undermines the military’s attempt to present its agents as abstract figures. Nicholas Mirzoeff (2011) argues that power relies on the ability to visualise a territory from the widest possible angle, while limiting its subjects’ capacity to see. In this way, the subjects of power are prevented from shaping a collective political identity. Authority remains faceless while framing the faces of those subjugated to it. The facemask is, thus, a shield against a gaze that threatens to fragment and divide the military’s homogeneous collective body and to penetrate the layers of impunity that protect the soldier as a representative of state authority.

Particularly in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where everyday life and habits are shaped by and inseparable from military and security routines, the face becomes a symptom of individualisation. The term ‘individualisation’ here refers to the rapid concentration of media attention on identifiable individuals. This process, accelerated by social media, is inextricably linked to two broader developments: first, the outsourcing of governance onto supra-national private companies such as Facebook, and second, the shifting of media focus from the collective to the individual (Beck and Beck-Gernshein, 2002Foucault, [1977] 1978Giddens, 1991Luhmann, 1996).

Furthermore, where every soldier and civilian is likely to be holding a mobile phone, and with more than 1700 security cameras installed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem alone, visibility is inevitable (Harel, 2017). Vast networks of video cameras have been installed to facilitate military rule in the West Bank and to capture the faces of Palestinians. Today, this system of surveillance is gradually being turned against the face of authority itself. In an unexpected boomerang effect, the technologies that were set up to govern and control are now being used by the colonised population itself to document the faces of soldiers.

The risks and political dynamics created by this constant visibility are shifting over time; rather than attempting to hide themselves entirely, today IDF soldiers are more concerned with keeping their faces shielded from the cameras and, hence, from the social media algorithms that disseminate and individualise their images. Thus, the soldier’s concealment of his face is not an attempt to hide from view altogether. Rather, the dichotomy of visibility and invisibility turns increasingly around the face itself. This dichotomy, therefore, must be redefined against a new political context that emphasises similitude and distinction – collectivity and individuality.

In the context of the Israeli occupation West Bank and the Gaza Strip, social media initially introduced a new threat to military practices before being adopted wholesale to extend the reach of the military itself. As I will argue, due to the military co-option of social media, the human face now constitutes a battlefield where collective groupings are atomised and personalised. The surface of the face lends itself to measurement and calculations that make it a central target for this kind of identification and individuation.

Examining photographs and videos that have gone viral on social media, I aim to make the often-invisible connection between disparate images tangible. The sources used here are compiled from available data shared on social media platforms – Facebook in particular. Following the connections made by social media algorithms can shed light on the ramifications of new media on the exercise of state power. By analysing photographs and videos produced and circulated by soldiers and civilians over the last 3 years, I attempt to rethink how such images function, both as representation–showing what happened at a particular place and time–and as information.

Looking back over the history of portrait photography, I contend that the photographic image of the face has long been torn between its representational mode and its biometric calculability; today, this split function has been renewed by social media and by facial recognition algorithms embedded into its operating systems (Belting, 2016Sekula, 1986). To focus on the face is to frame it as both an image and a vehicle for communication and information. Sigrid Weigel reminds us of the wider historical significance of portraits by considering both what the images represent and how the faces operate as media. As she explains, on one hand, ‘[T]he face has become a concentrated image of the human’; on the other, ‘emotional codes and cultural technologies show the history of the face as first and foremost a history of media’ (2015; 26 cited in Belting). The face is torn between its representational and medial values. For Emmanuel Levinas, the face is that which stands between the ‘I’ and the Other. The human face, in his view, forces a confrontation with the Other, ‘exceeding the idea of the other in me’: ‘the face of the Other at each moment destroys and overflows the plastic image it leaves me’ (Levinas, 1985: 50–51). For Levinas, the face is a conduit precisely because it refuses to be fossilised into a picture – what he referred to as a plastic image. Hans Belting, on the other hand, approaches the visual history of the face through its masked counterpart. The expressions of the living face reveal and proclaim as much as they conceal and deceive.

Whereas Levinas spoke of an unfathomable depth, Belting insists that the face is first and foremost a vehicle for an array of images, and an image in itself. ‘The concept of the face as mask is ambiguous because it is not merely a face that resembles a mask’, writes Belting, ‘but also a face that creates its own masks when we react to, or engage with, other faces’. (p. 5)

Theorists of visual media, meanwhile, have analysed the face as a surface subject to measurements and calculations. For Zach Blas, the face has become the target of numerous recording devices from CCTV cameras to mobile phones, which derive information from human bodies. Blas adopts Shoshana Magnet’s conception of the ‘Information Cage’ to depict the way the face is recorded and held captive in information networks. ‘The cage is always with us’, writes Blas (2016), ‘hovering over the surface of our bodies – softly and virtually – awaiting activation’ (p. 87).

Such perspectives encompassing the history of the portrait, as well as the face in contemporary visual cultures, together shed light on various tensions that surround images of faces on social media: between representation and quantification, depth and surface, and presence and absence. Such digital images both represent individuals and operate on them by activating automated protocols and algorithms through which the individual is singled out and disembodied. To understand the significance of faces caught on camera in the context of highly charged political and military conflicts, representation and quantification should be thought together, both supporting and contradicting each other. It is this duality that makes the face a unique target within the context of war and security.

Facing social media

War has always been a testing lab for new media. During the 2006 Israel–Lebanon War, the wide availability of mobile phones and digital cameras resulted in an unexpected surge of images taken by soldiers on the battlefield (Shavit, 2016). Soldiers, conscripts and reservists deployed in Lebanon took hundreds of photographs that collectively substituted the official photographs and videos released by public affairs officers. Before the Lebanon war, Miri Regev, the IDF spokesperson at the time, dismissed the importance of online images, claiming that ‘they pose no problem whatsoever to military conduct’ (Rid and Hecker, 2009: 82). Regev failed to recognise a paradigmatic shift, underestimating the unofficial channels soldiers would use to publicise their videos such as YouTube and Flickr. Together, these alternative channels painted a grim image of the IDF’s incompetence during the war.

At the same time, Hezbollah, Israel’s long-standing opponent in Lebanon, proved that its media strategy was superior. In comparison to the IDF, Hezbollah’s flexibility and spontaneity allowed it to disseminate more images and at a much faster pace. Hezbollah operated a YouTube channel followed by thousands of users, while the IDF relied on traditional strategies of communication. To avoid being spotted by the Israeli army, reporters for Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s broadcasting agency, disguised themselves as civilians, riding motorbikes and taking photos on the go.

During the military operation in the Gaza Strip in 2008, Israel shifted its attention to social media. When the operation began, the IDF was already armed with its own YouTube channel, embracing wholesale the hype of self-promotional slogans from social media textbooks. In their book ‘War 2.0’, Thomas Rid and Marc Hecker show how the IDF embraced social media as a platform for its public affairs, continuing to run its YouTube channel even when it enforced a comprehensive press ban (Rid and Hecker, 2009). Two weeks after the operation in Gaza was launched, more than 40 videos were already uploaded, some showing footage recorded from drones of targeted killings of Hamas officials. In the end, however, the IDF relied too heavily on the spectacle of advanced technology, which seemed proof of its own technological superiority, and its social media strategy failed to recognise the importance of the bottom-up, amateurish media practices of soldiers on the ground. As Rebecca Stein and Adi Kuntsman (2016) have shown, in addition to the military’s foray into social media, the 2008–2009 military operation was a moment of mass civilian engagement with new media technologies.

Only in the aftermath of the war did the IDF realise that Facebook had unleashed a new and popular way for combatants to share photos and videos on the ground, across all sites of conflict, including even the refugee camps within the Gaza Strip. Posting thousands of photographs on their personal Facebook pages, soldiers documented their deployment and activities in Gaza, exhibiting raids into houses, violent arrests, explosions and more than anything else–their own faces.

Coincidentally, in the same year, the German software company Betaface introduced an online facial recognition search engine called MyFaceID, which allows users to upload photos of faces and match them with others in the MyFaceID database. In Betaface’s words, MyFaceID allows you to ‘automatically process your photos, find all faces, help you tag them and let you search for similar people’ (Gates, 2011). The company was immediately contracted by Facebook, which began to actively encourage users to tag faces and names, and to search for resemblances between them. This shift turned the face into a pivotal site of identification, not only for governments and institutions attempting to monitor and control populations but also for social media users themselves. The face became a means of self-branding through which users could maintain and personalise their online personas. A new database of faces was in the making, fed by what Mark Andrejevic (2005) calls ‘lateral surveillance’, the two-fold process through which users follow and search for one another, while tagging and assisting the processes of identification.

While soldiers use social media for their own self-expression, their adoption of this technology also serves broader institutional aims. By tagging and naming pictures of themselves, IDF soldiers unknowingly maintain and feed the algorithms that connect geographic locations, identities and real bodies, making it increasingly easy for the algorithm to identify faces and link additional personal information. Social media turns IDF soldiers into constant contributors to a multifaceted database of images, which in the future might be used as incriminating evidence of military actions in the Occupied Territories.

In 2010, more than a year after the operation in Gaza, the head of information security for the IDF, Lieutenant Ami Weissberg, sent a warning to high-ranking commanders. The subject line read ‘regarding your own personal safety and the information you disclose on the Internet’. The letter contained a cautionary request against sharing images and data on social media: ‘Your pictures, together with additional personal information on social media, will allow the enemy to locate your home address’ (Buchbutt, 2010). The letter was strongly worded and expressed grave concerns about the circulation of images on social media and the ease with which the personal identities of soldiers can be extracted from them.

Anxiety about the use of new media was aggravated further when an anonymous source published a list of 200 Israeli soldiers who had participated in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. This came against the backdrop of the United Nation (UN) verdict on the war, declaring it a potential violation of international law. The list, which came to be known within the IDF as the ‘200 List’, included a compilation of selfies that had been shared on social media by the soldiers themselves or tagged by their friends. From these images, it was possible to trace the identities of the soldiers and to attach them to names, military units and even home addresses (The Guardian, 2010). An inversion of a typical ‘most wanted’ terrorist list, the 200 List was comprised of faces of alleged accomplices in a military campaign that took the lives of 1385 Palestinians, of which 960 were civilians (B’tselem, 2009). Combining photographs of soldiers taken during both family events and military operations, the list marked a shift in the traditional role of the mug shot in juridical and policing procedures. That is to say, given that image aggregation has been developed by state institutions to monitor governed populations, the 200 List showed that social media can flip the cameras onto the faces of soldiers and reverse the processes of control. Facebook algorithms, in allowing users to pin down specific individuals, briefly turned social media into an open-source counter-surveillance system, which could be used to identify those responsible for the outcomes of war.

In 2011, the year that saw the Arab Spring in Egypt propelled by Facebook users, Palestinian dissidents also used Facebook as a key instrument for investigating and demanding accountability for the unlawful actions of IDF soldiers. In December of that year, one of the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh ended with the violent killing of a Palestinian activist. A mobile phone documented an IDF soldier shooting a gas canister at 28-year-old Mustafa Tamimi and directly striking his head. A frame extracted from the video, showing the tip of a rifle poking out of a military jeep, caught the exact moment the IDF soldier fired the canister, milliseconds before it hit Tamimi. This frame, which included both the weapon and Tamimi, was the catalyst of a Facebook page titled ‘Who Killed Mustafa Tamimi?’, devoted to unveiling the identity of the rogue soldier. The Facebook campaign was initiated by residents of Nabi Saleh and Israeli activists, who together conducted an independent investigation into the unlawful killing of Tamimi (2013). While the soldier’s face was not exposed in the frame, the viral campaign allowed users to explore social media databases and to narrow down the number of soldiers who might have fired the deadly shot. Following a trail of links and hashtags, users eventually arrived at the perpetrator’s Facebook profile, where he openly boasted of his actions (Figure 2). The soldier, whose name was Aviram Boniel, actually facilitated the investigation by uploading numerous selfies from his profile, linking them to specific times and locations (Cohen, 2013). The identification of his face marked the success of the investigation, which had taken full advantage of the digital footprint left by the soldier’s habitual practices of photographing, tagging and sharing.

Figure 2. The Facebook profile pictures of Aviram Boniel, the IDF soldier who Killed Tamimi, 2011. Tweet available at: https://twitter.com/richards1052/status/277544553471422464 (accessed 1 October 2017).

The Who Killed Mustafa Tamimi? Facebook campaign utilised social media algorithms to zero in on the individual behind the killing. Such algorithms accelerate the process of individualisation and maintain direct links between selfies and embodied subjects. Facial recognition technologies today are deeply embedded into social media platforms but too easily ignored. ‘Our media matter most when they seem not to matter at all’ (2016: 1), Wendy Chun reminds us, referring to the influx of media into everyday life, which brings with it constant self-identification: capturing, uploading, tagging, updating, sharing and linking. As a ubiquitous self-detection instrument, Facebook contributes to the splitting up and atomising of a military network into its individual agents, the soldiers themselves.

Facial recognition technologies use various techniques to convert the image of a face into a ‘facial template’. This template contains a condensed amount of data that can be compared to existing images stored in a database. The digitisation of the face is only one step within the multiple procedures performed by an algorithm: faces are detected in images and then extracted from the background, torn from their context, before being standardised to fit a given format. Using this condensed template as an index, facial recognition systems aim to link an image to a real and embodied person (1999: 253–263).

Facial recognition technologies are most often used in security and surveillance equipment by state actors. Today, not only public spaces are surveyed by a panoptic gaze but also everyday patterns of communication using mobile phone cameras and social media are automatically tracked and recorded. Still more importantly, whereas technologies of state surveillance often spark debate around privacy and extra-juridical actions, it is rarely taken into consideration that the ubiquity of social media proliferates the use of algorithms that capture, analyse and detect individuals in everyday life. And it is rarely taken into account that these procedures require the active participation of users, who willingly tag images and, thus, expand the databases which algorithms search and analyse.

Mass individualisation

Facial recognition technologies have historically depended on the ability to capture in photographs the data that identifies a face, while excluding the particular variations in facial expression that have such a significant role in face-to-face communication. In the 1960s, technologies of facial recognition were developed to address growing concerns around the problem of ‘disembodied identities’, a term used by Kelly A. Gates (2011) to refer to individuals that exist and circulate only as visual and textual representations, independently of real bodies. The ‘disembodiment of identities’ results from floods of images that detach embodied individuals from their physical presences, culminating in what Frederic Myers, as far back as 1886, coined ‘phantasms of the living’. ‘What men and women in the late nineteenth century faced with alarm’, writes John Durham Peters (1999), ‘is something we have had over a century to get used to: a superabundance of phantasms of the living appearing in various media’ (p. 141). Whereas such replicas are today embedded into the fabric of everyday life, social media platforms have intensified image circulation and with it the issue of how to reconnect images to individuals.

Facial recognition algorithms aim both to automate the procedure of connecting faces to identities and to allow the sharing of those identities across computer networks, leading to a regime of mass individualisation (Gates, 2011Tagg, 1988). The idea of ‘mass individualisation’, surely an oxymoron, points to a long-standing ambiguity in the photography of faces: on one hand, photographs of faces represent particular individuals; on the other, photography from its early days envisaged categories or types of human faces, sharing natural and physiognomic qualities. The term ‘mass identification’, originally coined by John Tagg, describes a technique of individuation, central to the emergence of a liberal form of governance in the 19th century, whereby individuals were converted into images. These images, in turn, could be meticulously examined one by one and categorised in filing systems and archives. Mass individuation names the procedure for subjecting entire populations to scrutiny, individuating each specific case according to pre-existing categories. This process is augmented by computerisation and the advent of networked databases. ‘Mass individuation is a modern governmental strategy for security provision and population management’, writes Kelly A. Gates, ‘[…] a social regulatory model that involves knowing in precise detail the identity of each member of the population in order to differentiate individuals according to variable levels of access, privilege and risk’ (2011; 15–16).

Social media and facial recognition algorithms represent the culmination of mass individualisation, which has expanded from state-controlled social regulation to omnipresent social media platforms. While facial recognition technologies were initially developed for military purposes, like many other technologies they are by now part of everyday communication. The habituation of facial recognition technologies implies that the detection of the face and the subsequent identification of the individual have been co-opted into a network that no longer distinguishes between military prerogatives and the habits of everyday communication. The embedding of facial recognition into everyday communication is facilitated predominantly by social media, which has become a new site of social regulation and governance, where users offer their personal information as a means of communicating with friends and other interested parties, while similarly partaking in the monitoring of other users online.

Hiding in photographs

The significance of the human face as a site of incriminating information is deeply rooted in the history of portrait photography, used as a tool for classification and identification. The notion that portrait photography can be used to produce vast archives of potential criminals and prevent unruly behaviour by individualising the collective dates back to scientific, medical and epistemological shifts during the mid-19th century. In parallel with these shifts, photography became adopted as a new instrument for scientific studies of the human body, and in particular the human face. The fundamental assumption underlying studies in physiognomy and phrenology was that faces, once compared, juxtaposed and superimposed, reveal similarities and likenesses from which categories of classification can be produced. These studies sought to demonstrate that the face not only marks the individuality of the person but also exposes natural connections that tie groups together through shared characteristics.

As Allan Sekula (1986) notes, ‘from 1860 photography produced a system of representation capable of functioning both honorifically and repressively’ (p. 6; emphasis in original). On one hand, Sekula (1986) argues, the photographic portrait is inseparable from a cultural tradition of portraiture in which the image of the face provides a ‘ceremonial presentation of the bourgeois self’ (p. 6). That is, photography marked the face as an icon of social class and familial heritage, which celebrated individuality. On the other hand, photographs also lent themselves to anatomical illustration. What connected these two modes of portraiture was not merely the face as a site of identity but the assumption that an image of a face can tip over from its socially individuating function to its mere indexical use for identification.

Already in the 1840s, photography was accepted as having juridical reliability. The use of photography for juridical purposes can be seen in the way it was used to categorise and archive populations on the basis of class types. In turning the new objectifying lens towards socially excluded and out-cast ‘types’, a new form of degenerate ‘social body’ was posited. The human face was arrested in order to ‘read’ criminal states of mind in its features. An archival process was undertaken to subordinate and territorialise faces into predefined social strata, categorising them by different criminal propensities (Sekula, 1986Tagg, 1988).

The idea of a typology of human behaviour arose from the assumption that ideal or representative ‘types’ could be deduced from the physiological characteristics of individuals, as though by superimposing photographs upon one another, a new face emerges that combines all other faces, illuminating the generic image of the criminal. This technique was explored in the summer of 1877 by the Victorian biologist, anatomist and physician Francis Galton who presented his new findings in photography and portraiture to the British Anthropology Association (Gillham, 2001: 87). Galton began his research by collecting hundreds of photographs of prisoners. Through multiple exposures, he then developed a technique of superimposing one image upon another, creating a combination of multiple portraits consolidated into a single face; in this way, he created an ideal type that both concealed the individuals and revealed an imaginary typology. Galton (1879) first published his research in Nature in 1878, where he wrote,

The photographic process enables us to obtain with mechanical precision a generalised picture; one that represents no man in particular, but portrays an imaginary figure, possessing the average features of any given group of men. (p. 97)

One of Galton’s more zealous followers adapted this technique to produce an image of the ideal soldier. A Professor of Physiology at Harvard University in 1876, Henry Pickering Bowditch, was particularly interested in identifying resemblances among soldiers, merging the faces together to detect the ‘average soldier’ (Bowditch, 1894).1 The ideal-type soldier was deduced from this process, clearly identifiable in the resultant image and simultaneously hidden within it. This composite image supported the idea that soldiers were merely nodes that together formed the ideal face of authority. Put together, the soldiers projected an imaginary figure of authority, which then materialised as a singular generic face, belonging to no one and to everyone.

Bowditch’s experiment supports the view that the perfectly generic face is another kind of mask. It conceals individuality and as such plays a crucial military role in shielding individuals underneath a cloak of generality. Where bodies appear to be uniform, the soldier is partially hidden; this is a long-standing principle of military concealment based on uniformity among the men. In fact, military uniform itself forms a visual insignia that connects subjects together under the same banner; it is precisely this shared costume, or disguise, that allows the military to cohere as a whole. The word uniform is a derivation from the Latin uniformis, meaning ‘having only one form or shape’; the word is comprised of the una (one) and the forma (form), which merges the heterogeneous into one homogeneous entity by rendering the average image in the manner prescribed by Bowditch.

From the early 20th century, the uniformity of soldiers’ uniforms was inseparable from various techniques of concealment, which were developed as visual media became integrated into combat. How the soldier disappears was, thus, indivisible from the technologies that made him visible. In 1914, the French general and artist Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola coined the term ‘camouflage’ to refer to systematic dissimulation to avoid photographic detection (Shell, 2012). The better the enemy could see with the aid of optical technologies, the better and more precise camouflage needed to be. As Hanna Rose Shell emphasises, techniques of camouflage reveal much more than military tactics; they form part of political imagery and articulate indirectly what a given state wants to keep hidden. Military concealment always seeks to incorporate the enemy’s mechanised gaze and to envision the battle through its enemy’s eyes. While the extension of the human eye through visual technologies allowed armies to perceive the battlefield more clearly and to take control of it, such technologies at the same time exposed soldiers to the camera. In 1896, Abbott Thayer, an American portrait painter and one of the pioneers of camouflage, introduced the principle of ‘snapshot invisibility’. The idea took inspiration from how animals conceal themselves in a moment of danger; Thayer suggested that a camera’s snapshot presents exactly the same kind of danger to the combatant. With camouflage, he explained, the 20th-century soldier could find a way to ‘hide in photographs’ through an alteration in his or her dress, just as the primitive warier once hid in the undergrowth, and just as animals adapt to his or her natural environment (Shell, 2012: 64).

The conditions of visibility when policing dense urban areas are hardly similar to those of trench warfare; nevertheless, the historical origins of war camouflage shed light on how visual technologies dictate the way authority ‘appears’ in the eyes of others. The masked face is part of the history that links concealment both to the photographic medium and to the increased threshold of visibility that photography introduced. The resolution and proximity of visual technologies have radically increased, and as a result, the face has become a focal point of individuation and distinction. The history of camouflage reveals the conditions of visibility and invisibility, pointing to a desire to dissolve and disintegrate into the environment by shedding off personal traits. Camouflage was once used to mimic the environment; now the masked face is used to dissolve, not into the environment but into the group, that is, into the average face. Consequently, soldiers no longer hide their location or actions but their identities, not their existence but their individuality, not their bodies but their faces.

Camouflage is a phenomenological articulation of what the psychiatrist Roger Caillois (1984) called ‘depersonalization’. In his essay Mimicry and Psychasthenia, Caillois conceived of mimicry as a kind of blurring of the singularity of the individual by dissolving them into space. ‘From whatever side one approaches things’, he writes, ‘the ultimate problem turns out in the final analysis to be that of distinction […] Among distinctions there is assuredly none more clear-cut than that between the organism and its surroundings’ (54). In Callois’ view, distinctions are identified and delineated by a gaze that seeks to distinguish the body from its surroundings. Providing numerous examples from animal life, Caillois contends that mimicry allows animals to diminish the distinction between themselves and their environments, so that they begin to resemble the very spaces they inhabit. This ‘depersonalization by assimilation to space’, as Caillois puts it, requires the animal or the human being to eradicate the visual attributes that mark them out from their surroundings. Rather than defining camouflage in terms of exposure and concealment, Caillois proposes the alternative dichotomy of distinction and resemblance. The act of blending in, for him, requires the erasure of the self and what he calls the ‘pathological evacuation’ of identity. In Caillois’ terms, then, the act of hiding the face becomes an extension of military camouflage, the aim of which is not so much disappearance as the erasure of personality. As I have argued, visual technologies define the tactics of concealment. Accordingly, where the presence of the camera is a given, the line between visibility and invisibility increasingly hinges on markers of personal distinction, such as the human face.

Collective selfie

The ubiquity of mobile phones and social media, which increasingly substitute traditional forms of military reconnaissance, reintroduces the traditional notion of camouflage. The facemask enables the combatant to ‘depersonalise’ his or her appearance, and hence, hide his or her face from algorithms. In this way, the soldier protects his or her impunity through depersonalisation and uniformity.

The omnipresence of capture devices within conflict zones requires militaries to pursue new tactics of obfuscation. The word ‘obfuscation’, notes Helen Nissenbaum, suggests bewilderment and ambiguity; in this way, it differs from disappearance and erasure. ‘Obfuscation assumes that the signal can be spotted in some way and adds a plethora of related, similar, and pertinent signals – a crowd which an individual can mix, mingle, and, if only for a short time, hide’ (Nissenbaum, 2015: 47). To illustrate, Nissenbaum refers to one of the simplest and most memorable examples of obfuscation during a scene in the film Spartacus in which the rebel slaves are asked by Roman soldiers to identify their leader for crucifixion. As Spartacus is about to speak, one by one the others around him stand up and say, ‘I am Spartacus!’ until the entire crowd is on its feet (Nissenbaum, 2015: 21). By becoming identical, the rebels save the one true Spartacus from detection and crucifixion.

One particular incident vividly exemplifies this conflict between similitude and distinction. In April of 2014, an IDF soldier was caught on camera, cocking his weapon and threatening to kill a young Palestinian man who refused to follow his orders while passing through a checkpoint in the Palestinian city of Hebron. The video, which clearly showed the soldier, whose name was David Adamov, grossly abusing his authority, was uploaded to YouTube and circulated on social media (Rotner, 2014). Following the public controversy that the video sparked, Adamov was arrested and tried in a military court. After the release of this video, IDF soldiers initiated a spontaneous Facebook campaign trying to justify Adamov’s behaviour. As part of this campaign, which slowly went viral, the soldiers released photos of themselves, all covering their faces (Figure 3). They also displayed a sign with the slogan ‘We are all David the Nahlawi’, deliberately and ironically echoing the title of the well-known Facebook page ‘We Are All Khaled Said’, which spearheaded the Egyptian revolution (‘Nahlawi’ refers to his military unit). The juxtaposition of the hidden faces and a slogan that directly articulated a speech act of identification aimed to construe the rogue soldier as a kind of ‘everyman’.

Figure 3. Soldiers joining the protest: We are all David Hanachlawi. Available at: http://actualic.co.il/%D7%97%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%97%D7%A8%D7%93%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%9E%D7%A6%D7%98%D7%A8%D7%A4%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%97%D7%90%D7%94-%D7%9B%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%A0%D7%95-%D7%A2%D7%9D-%D7%93%D7%95/ (accessed 1 October 2017).

By taking these self-portraits, which nonetheless hid their faces, the soldiers produced selfless selfies. The removal of the self from the selfie invokes, once again, Caillois’ notion of mimicry as a technique of self-evacuation. Implicitly, this gesture also expresses a refusal to be subjected to the individuating force of social media. If Facebook contributes to the mass individuation of its users, the repeated gesture of hiding the face aims at ‘de-individuation’ in order to counteract the algorithms that lock faces to individuals. The succession of concealed faces sought to pull Adamov back into the shadows of generality; although Adamov’s face was caught in the net of visual media, the campaign was intended to reinstate his impunity. ‘I am Adamov!’ says each soldier to save the real Adamov from crucifixion by algorithms.


The potential of social media to restrain state authority and empower Palestinians routinely subjected to advanced surveillance systems is turned inside-out. While soldiers hide their faces to maintain the unity of the military group, Israeli authorities capture and identify the faces of Palestinians, even before they are politically mobilised. After a decade of online activism during which social media has opened new windows for political mobilisation and counter-visualities, today this window appears to be quickly shutting down. State authorities are co-opting what initially posed a challenge to their seamless operation: social media and everyday practices are appropriated to cater for security needs, while individualisation is used as a weapon to single out activists from wider political groupings.

Unlike modern camouflage tactics, which protect the body of the soldier from both the cameras and gunfire, the erasure of the face is essentially an inoculation against accountability; it is a shield against ethical critique. Not being seen no longer means becoming invisible; rather, it means becoming indistinguishable from others. Soldiers themselves recognise that their faces have become sites of contestation due to the way images are circulated, analysed and identified on social media. These technologies, thoroughly embedded in everyday life, are now increasingly integrated into military routines and practice.

As I have argued, the image of the face is split by two contrasting readings. On one hand, portrait photographs are inextricably tied to the individuals they represent; on the other, the image of the face is a mere surface that lends itself to automated calculations and algorithms, which assimilates it along with additional data online. As such, the face defines what is at stake for state authority: a fine slicing and dissecting of the body politic into the sum of its individualised parts. In other words, the soldier’s personal use of media technologies and intimate engagement with social media decentralise and individualise authority. The image of the soldier’s face is the visual expression of this individualisation; the algorithms that distribute and identify such images deprive the soldier of an impunity rooted in the facelessness of sovereignty. The masked face preserves the uniformity and generality exemplified in Bowditch’s ‘average appearance’. But while Bowditch’s ideal face is the construct of national imagery, its equivalent today is the erasure of the face altogether, counteracting the individualising effects of social media to shield soldiers from accountability.

The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.


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Dead Lands
(Adamot Metot)

When Bashir watches Sylvester Stallone riding a horse in the desert, he sees much more than Rambo. In between the frames, he sees the Naqab desert in Palestine, a land once confiscated by Israel and turned into popular locations for epic Hollywood films. He sees his lost home. No doubt, Israel’s climate simulates the Afghan steppe. But it was another advantage that made Israel a ‘natural’ stand-in for oriental warzones. Declassified papers from the Israeli Military Archive reveal bureaucratic exchanges between Hollywood executives and military officers, containing pitches and lists of weapons to be used as props in the making of action films. Guns, tanks, aeroplanes and, above all, desert lands, regularly used by the army for training purposes, were offered as lucrative film locations. Back in 1987 Bashir has been hired to make special effects and explosion for the film Rambo. Today he returns to those same locations to gather evidence that may prove that this land is tribal land.


Daniel Mann – Israel


  • The Magic Mountain / 2020 / 68′
  • Salarium / 2018 / 43
  • Low Tide / 2017 / 80′
  • The Birdman / 2015 / 83′
  • Complex / 2010 / 9’

Daniel Mann


Genre : Documentary
Runtime (min) : 80′

Production country : Israel
Production company : Laila Films
Producer’s name : Itai Tamir

Project status : development
Estimated budget : 140 000 €
Acquired Budget : 10 000 €

Shooting countries : Israel, Palestine

Production company’s filmography:
Laila Films
– Abu Omar / Roy Krispel / 2021 / 90′
– Deads of Jaffa / Ram Loevy / 2019 / 96′
– Red Cow / Zivya Barkai / 2018 / 90′
– The Cake Maker / Ofir Raul Grizer / 2017 / 113′
– Low Tide / Daniel Mann / 2017 / 80′
– Above the Hill / Raphaël Nadjari / 2016 / 119′
– Closed Season / Franziska Schlotterer / 2012 / 100′
– Sharqiya / Ami Livne / 2012 / 85′
– Not in Tel Aviv / Nony Geffen / 2012 / 84′
– Policeman / Nadav Lapid / 2011 / 112′

 Camargo Foundation prize

FIDLab Project

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