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Historical Memory and Political Violence by Gary Crowdus [Cineaste]


If a competition were held to determine Israel’s most controversial filmmaker, a number of names would surely be in the running— including Avi Mograbi, Amos Gitai, and Simone Bitton—but the odds-on favorite would be Eyal Sivan. As the documentary filmmaker has readily acknowledged, “For every person who loves me there are ten who hate me; for every person who supports me there are ten who accuse me.” Over the last twenty-five years, Sivan has made more than a dozen films exploring the abuse of historical memory, in particular the memory of Jewish persecution and its use to justify current Israeli government policy. As Sivan has described his position, “I am not anti- Jewish or anti-Israel; I am anti-Zionist.” By that, as his films demonstrate, Sivan means that it is not Judaism or even the Israeli national identity that he opposes but Zionism, a colonialist plan for an exclusively Jewish state, which involves the disenfranchisement and even ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population and the expropriation of their land in pursuit of the biblical promise of a “Greater Israel.”