Guez, Dor. Pre-Israeli Orientalism: A Photographic Portrait. Tel Aviv: Resling, 2015 (in Hebrew).
This book explores the complexity of expression of Orientalist perceptions as it formed during the first three decades of the 20th century among the first waves of immigration. Photographs of the period, presenting the Jewish immigrants with oriental clothing and accessories, are impressed by the yearning to assimilate in the East and belong to an authentic native source an aspiration maintained but for a moment, until its collapse in the aftermath of the 1929 riots. Immigrants wanted to experience the east as a “reality” with which they were familiar prior to their arrival. Their experience was thus painted by the initial experience of representation. It was as if they walked into a carefully staged photograph, confined by its frame and its codes of interpretation. The immigrants arrived in the East, after “seeing” it countless times, envisioning it as an ancient homeland with which they that can easily renewed their ties.
The book focuses in particular photograph of Abraham Soskin, “Tel Aviv’s photographer.” It presents a comparative discussion of orientalist photographs of other Jewish photographers and photographs of local and European photographers of the era. The Pre-Israeli Orientalist gaze, as reflected in these photographs, is characterized by an ambivalent attitude to the East and the indigenous Palestinians. Members of the Zionist movements left Europe that marked them as Orientals and the Semitic race, and sought to adopt here local identity markers. At the same time, by referring to this identity they sought to establish their western superiority through the adoption of colonial and Eurocentric practices – thus gaining a sense of superiority that was deprived of them in Europe.
The photos studied in this book reveal the overt fantasy of Zionism while forming a the “New Jew.” Today they might stir curiosity, surprise, amusement or revulsion and even ethical and ideological rejections. These reactions raise questions concerning contemporary culture as much as they concern the culture of that time. They indicate that this is a particularly suitable platform for a multifaceted discussion on the formation of Zionist consciousness in contemporary contexts.
Dr. Dor Guez was born in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. He is the founder of the Christian Palestinian Archive and serves as the chair of the Department of Photography at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. As a scholar and an artist who displays his work in Israel and abroad, he focuses on the link between cultural discourse and national, political, and social reality in the Middle East, while examining the role of contemporary art in the composition process of historical narratives.