Documenting Israel/Palestine and Future Directions

Through the school’s Arabic Cinema Club, I recently attended their event Documenting Israel/Palestine: Settlements, Peace & a Solution which featured the video work of JustVision’s documentary “Home Front“and conversations with members of OneVoice.

“Home Front” documented a very local issue taking place in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in which Israeli settlers moved into a residence that was built by Palestinians. This comes about because the Israeli government refused to grant living permits to the Palestinians, thus clearing the way for settlers.

I found the grassroots work of OneVoice really intriguing, especially in light of today’s conversation, because they seek to counter the stereotypical views of Israelis and Palestinians that are spread throughout their respective media. That is, not all Israelis are militaristic and determined to occupy Palestine and not all Palestinians are intent upon bombing Israel which are some of the predominant views received from mainstream broadcasts.

From the readings I was interested to note two unique challenges that are looming for future video advocacy. On the one hand as Soenke Zehle relates in his “Interventionist Media in Times of Crisis”

“It is in this context, sketched all-too-briefly, that I have come to wonder – a question I have, not an assumption I am making – whether the various ‘subversive’ concepts of autonomous, interventionist and tactical media also depend on the assumption of a strong state, and whether there is a need to examine the (constitutive) assumption that such interventions are part of a counter-imperial dynamic of multitudinal self-organization.” (38)

“Having lost its subversive innocence in the gruesome, unexpected literality that characterized the mediaorchestrated genocide in Rwanda, it seems to me now that it is the idea of interventionist media itself that is called into question. And one way to approach something like a rethinking of this idea is to acknowledge that state failure, and the deterritorialization of violence that this implies, is indeed a permanent feature of the post-colonial era.” (38)

with this apparent loss of state power, the question then becomes: to whom or what is this video documentation advocating? If the state which earlier would have been capable of remedying the situation no longer functions, how are we to understand interventionist media’s role? I think this is partially answered by the related challenge articulated by Sam Gregory in his “Cameras Everywhere: Ubiquitous Video Documentation of Human Rights, New Forms of Video Adocacy, and Considerations of Safety, Security, Dignity and Consent.”

As was also evident in the Technology Review articles, the media captured during the Arab Spring, especially in Egypt, wasn’t primarily used for reporting to some body of authority. Rather it was a way to galvanize support and disseminate evidence to the people themselves. At least in this respect, I think one answer to Zehle’s concern is that now video should be directed toward the very people who can collectively affect change.

This still leaves unanswered questions about the ethical use of such ubiquitous video, but I think some of the measures suggested by Gregory such as facial blurring are good early steps in conceptualizing how to proactively protect innocents from the misuse of such media.

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Categories: Reflective Posts

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