chapter  7
16 Pages

Otherwise Occupied: The Israeli-Palestinian Confl ict in the Francophone Cinema

WithLINCOLN Z. SHLENSKY

An argument advanced in the mid-1970s by Jean-Luc Godard in his provocative essay fi lm Ici et ailleurs is that Europe and its historically romanticized or demonized Others, such as the Palestinians, are linked-as he puts it, “chained”—together by the images they produce of and for one another. The problem, as the fi lm indicates, is that the makers and consumers of these images fail to recognize that such fantasized constructions of the Other tend to conceal disavowed representations of themselves. Implicating his own earlier representational praxis, Godard suggests that Europe’s fascination with, and projection onto, the Other reveals a narcissistic belief in its own capacity for objectivity; it is this Western fantasy of detachment that forecloses critical self-scrutiny and, even more importantly for Godard in his Dziga Vertov Group years, the possibility of revolutionary action informed by active political engagement with ideas that seem to come from “elsewhere.” More than thirty years have passed since Godard and his collaborator, Anne-Marie Miéville, made Ici et ailleurs, but arguably public discourse and the visual media rely ever more heavily on the distancing effect of screen memories-visual shortcuts that seal off here and now from there and then-to truncate critical historical analysis and cultural selfrefl ection. In the Francophone context, it is instructive to return to the example chosen by Godard to illustrate his point. For France, and more generally for Francophone Europe, the outbreak of the Palestinian Second Intifada has reactivated a set of social confl icts whose historical and geopolitical connection to the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict is only indirect, but whose ramifi cations in the media and the public sphere indicate a complex symbolic linkage between Middle Eastern politics and Francophone culture. This linkage remains largely unarticulated, and its meaning veiled, in Francophone public discourse and particularly in the visual media, where screen memories and graphic snapshots of historically disjointed événements often substitute for analysis.