The introduction surveys the range of Israeli and Palestinian political dreams that were attached to digital photography in the first two decades of the twenty-first century, across political lines, from Palestinian activists to Israeli soldiers on duty in the occupied Palestinian territories. All were invested in the dream of digital cameras and networked visuality as political tools to serve their respective interests. All would be let down.
This chapter studies the migration of personal cameras and technologies into Israel military theaters at the turn of the twenty-first century and various forms of militarization to which these technologies and photographic practices were subject. The figure of the Israeli soldier-photographer was not new. But now, with portable digital cameras of various kinds becoming more affordable, soldier-photographers were becoming commonplace. Through a focus on the chief Israeli military operations of this period—the second Palestinian intifada and military crackdown on the West Bank, the 2006 war on Lebanon, and the 2008–2009 assault on the Gaza Strip—this chapter considers how personal technologies were employed to both cement and contest Israeli military rule.
This chapter studies the experiences of Palestinian videographers and camera-activists working in the occupied West Bank in the first decade of the twenty-first century (2000–2012), with a focus on videographers working with B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and its human rights camera project. Through ethnographic portraits, this chapter explores the ecosystem of Palestinian-produced eyewitness videography of Israeli state violence from point of capture in the West Bank to point of delivery in West Jerusalem, with a focus on the ways that Israeli military violence impeded the smooth movement and delivery of footage. Amidst the violence of military occupation, there was no guarantee that the footage would ever be circulated or seen.
This chapter studies the evolution of an Israeli fake news accusation directed against Palestinian-produced eyewitness video of Israeli state and settler violence. At the core of the chapter are the Israeli and pro-Israeli publics who leveraged the charge—including military spokespersons, Israeli settler media outlets, and pro-Israeli bloggers in the United States—with a focus on how this accusation moved from the Zionist social margins to the center, eventually adopted by the Israeli state. Fake news was a weapon employed to protect the Jewish state from its ostensible enemies, or so its proponents believed.
This chapter is an ethnographic study of videographic assessment in human rights contexts, focusing on the work of B'Tselem staff—chiefly, Israeli Jews—as they watched, verified, and brokered Palestinian footage of state and settler violence. At the core is the difficult labor involved, within the constrained terms of the Israeli political landscape, to bring Palestinian testimonials into mainstream Israeli visibility. Within the political constraints of the moment, the see-ability of this footage was always in doubt. Human rights workers labored to curate a visual field with the power to surpass these political limits, while aware of the vanishing odds of success.
This chapter studies the Israeli military's evolving media strategies during the first two decades of the twenty-first century. Through a study of key military operations in which military cameras were central—the invasion of the Jenin refugee camp (2002), the naval interception of the Mavi Marmara (2010), the Shalom Eisner affair (2012), and the 2014 war on the Gaza Strip—the chapter studies the perceived threat posed to the military by proliferating Palestinian personal cameras and the military policies developed in response. The military lamented that it was always "losing the media war" to its digitally savvy enemies. They sought a more perfect camera that might finally secure a military victory. The realization of this dream was perpetually deferred.
Framed by a study of the role of visual media in the first Palestinian uprising, the book concludes with a discussion of the advantage of studying media politics through the lens of failure, arguing that it can function as a decolonizing strategy. The chapter concludes in the concurrent moment, with a brief study of Israeli and Palestinian anti-occupation activists working in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.