Slaves of Memory
Film and discussion with the director, Eyal Sivan
Sept. 21: 2002
Film Directors Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan were in Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam together, while visiting Israel to produce a joint film dealing with the subject of the 1947 line of partition. While here, they were happy to oblige us in showing two of their previous films and to stay for a discussion.
Eyal Sivan's film, "Izkor: Slaves of Memory", deals with the period of the spring cycle of religious and secular holidays and memorials in Israel and the relationship between collective memory and cultural identity. The film also deals with denial, or what we choose to forget. Due to its implied criticism of the Israeli educational establishment, the Ministry of Education and Culture forbids public screenings of the film in Israel.
About forty people, most of whom were residents of the village, came to watch the film (which it is forbidden to screen before public audiences or via television). After the film we conducted a discussion in the presence of the director.
Among the Jewish Israeli members of the audience the film invoked mixed reactions. We ourselves went through this process in school year after year, and it left its impressions upon us.
One of the participants remarked that the film spoke to him as a teacher in the educational framework of NSWAS who has to deal with these holidays and remembrance days each year together with the rest of the Jewish and Palestinian teachers at the school.
Another teacher in the audience remarked that despite the program dictated by the Education Ministry, the NSWAS School brings the narratives of both peoples when relating to the events commemorated in the Israeli national days and the "Nakba" (the Palestinian Disaster).
Eyal (the director) said that he wished to convey in the film that "the ceremonies are tools to create a feeling of being victims. The victim is always good and his deeds are justified. When we speak of memory I always ask myself what has been forgotten and why we build a narrative constructed only upon tragedy and choose events that emphasize the feeling of being the victim."
In Eyal's opinion, it is necessary to break the framework of Zionist thinking which justifies the oppression of the Palestinian people and negates their right to return here, while justifying right of return for Jews. He said that in this way Zionism both denies Palestinian narrative, while refuses to admit to this denial.
One of the participants said that although he agreed with most of what Eyal said, he did not see why he denied the right of Jews to be here.
Eyal remarked that in making the film he only wished to raise a discussion of these subjects in Israeli society.
"We are at the end of the era of ideologies, and only Zionism still embraces collective thinking. All kinds of collective thinking are totalitarian."
Another Jewish participant said that the attempt to negate Zionism automatically closes a door for the majority of Jews, "since it meets them in the place of their paranoia. Just as in South Africa, the impressions left by apartheid affect the society today, and an abused child so often becomes an abusive father, a cycle is constructed. Zionism builds the necessity to continue to be the victim in order to justify the existence of Zionism, and we therefore destroy the ability to change."
A Palestinian participant claimed that it isn't collective thinking that is to blame, but the uses to which it is put. She said that her people now needs collective thinking in order to build their own narrative and in order to build a nation.
Eyal concluded with the statement, "Eventually we will need to build together a common narrative."