Hagin, Boaz and Roy Wagner. “The Occupation-Image: A Deleuzian Analysis of Videos from the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.” Journal of Film and Video 66.4 (2014): 19-33.
b’tselem (hebrew for “in the image of” ), the Israeli information center for human rights in the occupied territories, is one of Israel’s most prominent human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Founded in 1989, its goal is to document and educate about human rights violations in the occupied territories, to combat denial among the Israeli public about what goes on in the territories, and to ensure that Israel’s government “protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law” (“About B’Tselem”).
In 2005, B’Tselem established a video department and added moving images to its human rights reports. In this article we look mainly at two groups of videos distributed by B’Tselem. One is the video reports by B’Tselem’s researchers, which document Israeli violations of the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and which B’Tselem has been making since 2005. The second is videos that were made as part of B’Tselem’s camera distribution project. Launched at the beginning of 2007, this project provides Palestinians with video cameras in order to document their lives under the occupation themselves (“B’Tselem’s Camera Project”). B’Tselem’s videos have been posted on its website (“Video”) and YouTube channel (“B’Tselem: Video”), and some of them have garnered considerable public interest, although they have received almost no attention within film studies. Some of the videos have been circulated by the Israeli and international media.
B’Tselem and the media frequently see these moving images as representations of facts that lie behind the images, coded in terms of human rights and national conflict. This is indeed the chief interest of NGOs such as B’Tselem as well as the police, the courts, and the media. In this article, we would like to put these issues in parentheses and argue that what the images show is not reducible to such an account.
The media discourse surrounding these videos has frequently focused on facts and on issues of objectivity and relations between the people involved, such as the ethics of depicting the suffering of others, self-representation, and the degree to which filmmakers can and should intervene in the lives and deaths of those they depict. According to the videos’ supporters, the media attention and public pressure have encouraged Israelis to raise questions about settlers in the occupied territories; impelled the Israeli police and military police to conduct investigations that might not have been opened based only on spoken or written testimony from Palestinians; and sometimes resulted in arrests and convictions. Moreover, according to B’Tselem and its advocates, the presence of cameras can be a powerful deterrent and has reduced settler and army violence while offering an empowering form of nonviolent resistance for Palestinians. Critics have asked whether B’Tselem gives a fair and impartial picture of events in the territories (and whether it is biased against Israel or even “anti-Semitic”); whether the making of the videos puts the Palestinian photographers, especially children, in danger; and whether the project has any long-term impact beyond the initial media interest.