Bernard, Anna. “Consuming Palestine: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in Metropolitan Popular Culture.” Journal for Cultural Research 16.2-3 (2012): 197-216. [Special Issue: Arab Cultural Studies]
In the last decade, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has assumed an exceptional prominence in metropolitan popular culture. This essay argues that the conflict’s popular stature cannot be explained solely in terms of the increased level of general interest in Middle East politics after 9/11. Instead, the conflict has a broader and more profound function: it provides a means for North American and European audiences to imagine a kind of political belief and political belonging that is seemingly more consequential, urgent, and “real” than their own political circumstances, and yet also reassuringly distant from them. Through readings of the Adam Sandler film You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008) and the “peace process” episodes of The West Wing (2004), this essay examines the ways in which metropolitan cultural production about Israel/Palestine uses the conflict to confirm and promote the idea that political belief is intrinsically identitarian. Yet at the same time, by producing fantasy solutions to the conflict, these productions ask viewers to believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not static and eternal, despite all the evidence our popular culture offers to the contrary. The very drive to produce fantasy solutions suggests that alongside all its other functions, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also makes us want to imagine political change and to envisage another kind of future.