This article examines three narrative formats which Israeli journalists use to describe their tours in Palestinian refugee camps. The article aims to suggest possibilities for reporting patterns, carefully framing a sense of urgency, which attempt to form a right measure of proximity and distance from the sufferers which might motivate audiences into action. The discussion focuses on three narratives, one literary and the other an article which was published in a popular Israeli journal, both unique in their deliberate emphasis on writing style and their reflection of the ongoing tension between the reporters’ professional, creative and national identities. The third format is a testimony, given by the narrator in Ari Folman’s animated film Waltz with Bashir (2008). The film ends with a few minutes of documented events, filmed at Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon in 1982. While all three narratives use direct showing, personal testimonies and a variety of written, illustrated and photographed portraits, the written narratives focus on the reporters’ central role and on the Israeli readers, while Waltz with Bashir challenges the possible feeling of guilt on the Israeli side and invokes the viewer’s human empathy through a direct encounter with personal comments and shocking images.
Waltz with Bashir, in its final minutes, seems to fall within this trap of showing the modern condition of the world at its worst, the trauma of human suffering, as something that can be contained and distilled down to the most dramatic, visceral document of the massacre possible—the archival video clip—which somehow can satisfactorily sum up the truth of that calamity. In this way, the film betrays the momentum toward a truly authentic representation of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, where the film was headed before its final, non-animated sequence. Folman’s assertion that his remembrance and rediscovered ability to know and take possession of the traumatic event would set him free from the amnesia he suffered, to say nothing of the trauma of those families left behind to mourn their dead, seems inaccurate and misguided.