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Towards a common archive - Eye On Palestine Towards a common archive

Towards a common archive

Video Testimonies of Zionist Veterans of 1948 War. A media show curated by Eyal Sivan with Ilan Pappe

Composed of 5 visual media installations, “Towards a Common Archive – Video Testimonies of  Zionist Veterans of 1948 war” is both a documentary piece and an exhibition. This composite work was produced as a milestone in the development of two ongoing research and archival projects by filmmaker Eyal Sivan – Framing Perpetrators – and – Common Archive, Palestine 1948. Reflecting on a visual interrogation of perpetrators testimonies as primary actors/witnesses of acts of killing, population displacement, and forced exile, “Towards a Common Archive – Video Testimonies of Zionist Veterans of 1948 war” evolves as a spatial and online visual media show and proposes an experimental production laboratory and archive.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the NGO Zochrot and the ongoing research project “A Common Archive, 1948 Palestine” by filmmaker Eyal Sivan (School of Arts and Digital Industries, University of East London) and Historian Professor Ilan Pappe (European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter), supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).


The visual media Exhibition “Towards a Common Archive – Video Testimonies of Zionist Fighters in 1948 war” is part of Framing Perpetrators Eyal Sivan’s ongoing research project. Framing Perpetrators is simuntaniusly a spatial and online visual media show and an experimental production laboratory.

As such it questions the absence of the perpetrator’s figure-testimony in the [documentary] moving image tradition, in order to rethink perpetrators’ regimes of justification and representation of crime, suffering, oppression and political evil, beyond geographies, cultures, political regimes, historical events and faith.

This focus on the perpetrator figure led to the development of the present research project Common Archive – Palestine 1948, in collaboration with historian professor Ilan Pappe (University of Exeter UK). The project’s goal is to create an audio-visual online archive of interviews with and footage of Zionist soldiers and commanders involved in expelling and uprooting 700,000 Palestinian refugees in 1947-49,  in order to establish a Jewish State. These will be then cross referenced with testimonies by Palestinian refugees and with other visual historical data (maps, photos, etc…

Initiatives to record the victims’ oral history accounts have flourished amongst the Palestinians, but witness accounts from the perpetrators as such have been the missing link. Thus, Sivan and Pappe have laid the foundations for the constitution of an archive enabling the confrontation of narratives so as to challenge and transcend the binary oppositions that constrain the structure of traditional archives as such, e.g. victims/perpetrators, dominating/dominated, male/female, manager/employee, colonizer/colonized in order to establish the conditions for a true understanding of any conflict and furthermore of potentially bridging conflicts.

This framework has enabled the emergence of the proposed visual media exhibition, “Towards a Common Archive – Video Testimonies of Zionist Fighters in 1948 war”. Both a documentary piece and an exhibition, this composite creation aims to structure several fragments of an ongoing project, which I consider both timely and a pressing issue.

“Towards a Common Archive – Video Testimonies of Zionist Fighters in 1948 war” is a visual questioning of the witness and her/his status through the testimonies of Zionist veterans who participated in the events that led to the Palestinian Exodus. But who is the primary witness in acts of killing, population displacement, and forced exile? Over the years, I have come to think that the primary witness is the  perpetrator. To this question, one can add another: how is any archive or memory  of past crimes and historical traumas ever possible if the perpetrators are not questioned qua perpetrators?

The following media exhibition combines some of the already collected Israeli veteran testimonies, with other moving image material related to the Israeli  national consciousness and the perception of the “Nakba” among second and third generation Israelis, after the 1948 war.

As an Israeli filmmaker myself, my purpose has been to develop a framework for  collective self-reflection through visual and sound spaces, providing the audience with the full potential to draw connections between those speaking, the facts, and  the system of ethnic cleansing that is revealed through the repetitive acts by Jewish Israeli war veterans. Believing that Arts and media practices can play a crucial role in implementing strategies and attempts to deal with the past and confront the perpetrators, the exhibition has been developed as an audio-visual tool making this mechanism accessible to a wider public.

One of the major pieces of the exhibition has come in the form of a recorded demo of the web platform imagined and developed in the context the Common Archive, Palestine 1948 project. A tool to store the testimonies and link them with one another and with Palestinian testimonies, this “mapping” of 1948 (represented in the exhibition by a map locating the events that are recounted) represents in itself, the attempt to build a Common archive, overcoming the duality of dominating/ dominated.

It is difficult to summarize here what is at stake: the idea is not only to vindicate the Palestinian testimonies; our aim is also to contribute to emergence of a new paradigm in documentary cinema and visual arts criticism: the study of perpetrators and the collection of a body of work emphasising the significance of the perpetrator as a historical actor and narrator. This has become all the more pressing an issue, as the figure of the perpetrator is currently at the centre of a vast shift in academic and audiovisual practice.

Eyal Sivan is a Paris based documentary filmmaker and scholar. His cinematographic body of work  was shown and awarded various prizes in prestigious festivals. Beside worldwide
theatrical releases and TV broadcasts, Sivan’s films are regularly exhibit in major art shows around the world. He publishes and lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, documentary filmmaking and ethics, political crimes and representation, etc. In the last years Sivan was Reader [associate professor] in media production at the school of Arts and Digital Industries [ADI], at the University of East London [UEL] were he was co-leading the MA program in Film, video and new media. He is teaching at the Master in Film at the Netherlands Film Academy in Amsterdam and he is member of the editorial board of the Paris based publishing house La Fabrique. He is honorary fellow at Exeter University UK.

Ilan Pappe is one of Israel’s new historians. After spending eight years at the University of Haifa as a senior lecturer in political science and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinians and Israeli Studies in Haifa, Pappe moved to UK to become a fellow at the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. He also is the director of
the European Centre for Palestine Studies and the co-director of the Centre for Ethno-Political Studies.


The exhibition is free and is located at the KVS_Atrium, underneath the KVS_Bol (Brussels)

A selection of the testimonies will be shown on big screen on Wednesday April 2nd at 18h at the KVS_Bol

The exhibition runs from 31/03 until 05/04 and is open from 16h till 22h