Challenging the Israeli Occupation through Testimony and Confession: The Case of Anti-Denial Movements Machsom Watch and Breaking the Silence

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sara HELMAN, Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel
This article analyzes the repertoires of contention and discourse of two Israeli anti-denial movements, Breaking the Silence and Machsomwatch.  Through confession and testimony, both SMOs demand that Israeli society acknowledge its 'problematic present,' which includes human rights violations in the Palestinian Occupied Territories in a situation of ongoing ethno-national conflict, and insist that it take responsibility for this reality and act against it.  It is based on the interpretative analyses of both SMOs reports. Reports are analyzed as narratives in the context of Israel's national identity and its main motives which are also constitutive of a culture of collective denial

The article compares the testimonial practices of Machsomwatch to testimonies of women in Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, and the confessions of Breaking the Silence veterans to those displayed in Truth and Reconciliation commissions as well as confessions of veterans during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Confession and testimony are usually analyzed as blazing the path to a new and inclusive national identity (as was the case in South Africa). In the case of Israel, however, their adoption and mobilization destabilizes national identity and turns it into a field of contention.