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Identity Politics on the Israeli Screen

By Yosefa Loshitzky

Publication Year: 2001

The struggle to forge a collective national identity at the expense of competing plural identities has preoccupied Israeli society since the founding of the state of Israel. In this book, Yosefa Loshitzky explores how major Israeli films of the 1980s and 1990s have contributed significantly to the process of identity formation by reflecting, projecting, and constructing debates around Israeli national identity. Loshitzky focuses on three major foundational sites of the struggle over Israeli identity: the Holocaust, the question of the Orient, and the so-called (in an ironic historical twist of the "Jewish question") Palestinian question. The films she discusses raise fundamental questions about the identity of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their children (the "second generation"), Jewish immigrants from Muslim countries or Mizrahim (particularly the second generation of Israeli Mizrahim), and Palestinians. Recognizing that victimhood marks all the identities represented in the films under discussion, Loshitzky does not treat each identity group as a separate and coherent entity, but rather attempts to see the conflation, interplay, and conflict among them.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Cover Art

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pp. Cover-Cover

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Front matter: Title; Copyright;

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pp. 1-vi

To the memory of the thirteen Palestinians, citizens of the State of Israel, ...


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pp. vii-vii

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pp. ix-x

I wish to thank the following institutions for their financial support: the Authority for Research and Development at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and especially Shula Woltz and Ofer Kela, who were very helpful in obtaining and securing this support; The Levi Eshkol Institute for Economic, Social and Political Research, Faculty of Social Sciences at the...

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Introduction: Hybrid Victims

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pp. xi-xvii

A transition from a “politics of ideas” to a “politics of identity” is perhaps the major change that Israeli society has experienced in recent years.1 Sociologists, historians, political scientists, cultural critics, journalists, political commentators, and public intellectuals all offer different interpretations of this shift including reasons for its periodization. When exactly did this change occur? Was it the result of a single dramatic event or an inevitable by-product of the long and painful process of building a new society? Or perhaps ...

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Chapter One. Screening the Birth of a Nation: 'Exodus' Revisited

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pp. 1-14

His masculine naked torso bathed in moonlight and gently wrapped in white soft foam created by the light waves of the Mediterranean Sea, a necklace with a big star of David adorning his neck—this is how Ari Ben Canaan (PaulNewman), the protagonist of Otto Preminger’s Exodus (1960), first “penetrates” the film spectator’s space of desire. This sensual image of male beauty,...

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Chapter Two. Surviving the Survivors: The Second Generation

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pp. 15-31

This chapter is an elaboration of the political and cultural manifestations of the “mythic link” suggested between the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. The chapter examines the space that the Holocaust occupies in Israel’s public life and historical consciousness. In particular it examines the sociocultural phenomenon of the second generation, thus...

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Chapter Three. Postmemory Cinema: Second-Generation Israelis Screen the Holocaust

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pp. 32-71

The recent tendency in Israel to privatize and ethnicize the memory of the Holocaust is most evident in the wave of documentaries on the Holocaust made by Israeli second-generation filmmakers in the late 1980s and early1990s. The films presented in this chapter—Orna Ben Dor’s Because of That War (1988), Asher Tlalim’s Don’t Touch My Holocaust (1994), and ...

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Chapter Four. Shchur: The Orient Within

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pp. 72-89

Every once in a while, a film or literary work arrives on the cultural landscape and sparks debates on significant issues of history, representation, and national identity, the ramifications of which extend far beyond the boundaries of the individual work in question. Recent examples from the international scene include Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (1988) and Steven Spielberg’s...

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Chapter Five. In the Land of Oz: Orientalist Discourse in 'My Michael'

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pp. 90-111

The writing of Amos Oz’s novel My Michael was completed, as noted in the Hebrew edition, in May 1967, a month before the outbreak of the 1967 war. My Michael was the best-selling novel of the 1968–69 period, and its extraordinary success, as well as the heated controversy it elicited, was due, as Amos Elon observes, to much more than “pure literary merit.”1 That My Michael...

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Chapter Six. Forbidden Love in the Holy Land: Transgressing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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pp. 112-153

Israeli new historian Ilan Pappe claims that “most Israeli filmmakers ... feel the need to use the sexual and romantic bridge as a way to understand the other side. Most of the films that courageously deal with Arab-Jewish relationships choose the medium of a love story, which is usually tragic (for example in Hamsin, The Lover and On a Narrow Bridge).” According to ...

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Chapter Seven. The Day After: The Sexual Economy of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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pp. 154-168

The framing of many of the stories of forbidden love in the Israeli genre is based on legends or famous themes and tales borrowed from Greek mythology. The use of the Romeo and Juliet story is most evident in Hamsin and The Lover. The murder scene of Hamsin uses the mythological bull (the Minotaur of Greek mythology) to signify the cathartic release of libidinal energies. The...

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pp. 169-172

In his first poetry collection Kinat HamMhager (The Immigrant’s Lament, 1995) Moroccan-born poet Moshe Ben Harosh, who immigrated to Israel with his parents in 1972, describes his sense of alienation from Israel. He writes that, since his immigration to Israel: I feel lonely in Israeli society and even more of a stranger with my diaspora family or with the diaspora Jews ...


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pp. 173-214


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pp. 215-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797949
E-ISBN-10: 029279794X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292747234
Print-ISBN-10: 0292747233

Page Count: 246
Illustrations: 22 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2001

OCLC Number: 234084009
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Identity Politics on the Israeli Screen

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Motion pictures -- Israel -- History.
  • Jews in motion pictures.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in motion pictures.
  • Jewish-Arab relations in motion pictures.
  • Palestinian Arabs in motion pictures.
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