In collaboration with KU Leuven / Leuven University Press, Aleppo and Galeries.

“I was born in the early 1960’s, and for years took for granted the existence of the state of Israel. My political consciousness was formed by the 1967 occupation, the injustices it led to and the urgent need to reflect on them. As a young leftist, I was raised to believe that 1948 was a distant disaster, irreversible and less acute than the endless injustices that resulted from the 1967 occupation. Years of research on citizenship and photography made it clear that the occupation was part of the Israeli political regime, and that reconstructing its schema should start in 1948”.

Is it possible to break the deadlock of the present and imagine a different future through a revisiting of the past? The theoretical and curatorial work of Ariella Azoulay is grounded in an exploration of this possibility: using the events that occured between 1947 and 1950 as a prism, she proposes a civil perspective on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, one that turns away from the framework imposed by the paradigm of an unavoidable and irreversible national conflict. It is a perspective that encompasses all the inhabitants of the territory, both Jews and Arabs, which allows to reconstruct the collision between them as a product of the war. The violence inflicted on the Palestinians positioned them as the enemy of the very people with whom they had previously shared their lives, which gave way to two distinct narratives – one culminating in the creation of the state of Israel, the other situating the nakba as the constitutive event of Palestinian identity – both of which are oblivious to the origins of this division. In order to reconstruct this past, Azoulay has created an archive of photographs that have been preserved by the same regime that has previously made great efforts to erase its traces, setting limits on what can be seen and what makes sense. But an image is always more and less than itself: it can not be reduced to the intention that has produced it, nor to the meanings that it supposedly reveals or conceals. The work of Azoulay consists of undoing the dominant connection between these images that speak and the discourse that keeps them silent, by making them speak in another way, linking them with eyewitness accounts, diaries, memoirs, minutes and memoranda. In proposing to think in civil terms about a place steeped in hopelessness, she tries to open up a new horizon of civil living for both citizens and those denied citizenship, as inevitable partners in a reality they are invited to imagine anew.

This Dissent! session takes as starting point a selection of films, chosen by Ariella Azoulay, that deal with the impact of the events of 1948 on Palestinians and Jews. Documenting something that goes beyond the suffering of the victims and the glory of the victors, transcending more conventional expectations to either expose details of the catastrophe or veil it from view, these films enable spectators to witness a variety of forms of Jewish-Palestinian co-existence to which the event of 1948 put an end. These films will be shown on 15 December and 18 December.

Kasem Hawal - Return to Haifa
1982, 84', colour, Arabic spoken, English subtitles.

Return to Haifa is based on Kanafani’s novel the plot of which takes place in 1967, when Palestinian refugees living in the newly occupied territories had an opportunity to visit the places from which they had been expelled in 1948. Saeed and Safiyya, a Palestinian couple expelled from Haifa in 1948, visit the home that had been their own. Miriam, a Holocaust survivor and now a Jewish Israeli citizen who lives in their house, lets them in. She moved there with her husband shortly after the Palestinian couple had been uprooted. The Palestinian couple returns to Haifa hoping to discover something about their baby, Khaldun, whom they had left at home that April morning in 1948, not realizing that neither of them would be able to return. The abandoned baby had been adopted by Miriam and her husband who gave him a Hebrew name – Dov, now a soldier in the Israeli army. This tragic encounter depicted by the movie emblematizes the Nakba’s being not only the tragedy of the Palestinian people but also of the Israeli Jews who cannot escape confronting this past and becoming accountable for it.


Michel Khleifi - Ma’loul Celebrates its Destruction
1984, 30', colour, Arabic spoken, English subtitles.

Ma’aloul, located 6 kilometers from Nazareth was destroyed in 1948 and its residents were not allowed to return but rather declared by the State “present absentees,” not allowed to have their property back, just as were Palestinians expelled out of the country. This movie makes even more explicit the assumption that the history of Israel cannot be narrated without acknowledging the Nakba, the expulsion of Palestinians and their dispossession. The movie these internally displaced Palestinians’ testimonies about the destruction of their village Ma’aloul and their dispossession and the curricula taught in a history lesson in Arab schools, compelled by the state to teach the Zionist version of the events.

DISSENT ! is an initiative of Argos, Auguste Orts and Courtisane, in the framework of the research project “Figures of Dissent” (KASK/Hogent), with support of VG.

Related events

  • Mon 15.12.2014
    19:00 - 21:00
  • Practical info

    Galerie de la Reine 28 Koninginnegalerij
    1000 Brussels

  • Artists