Rona Sela, a researcher of visual history and a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, first began studying the history and culture of Zionist and Israeli photography more than 20 years ago.
Her goal was to uncover photographs that preceded the establishment of the state of Israel. In her research, she found visual archives of propagandist Zionist photography that shaped a specific and deliberate history of Israel.
Rona Sela: So the question under discussion is how a state, the one in power, controls the other, the colonised – not only geographically, but also its knowledge, history, past and culture, as well as controlling the way the conflict is shaped visually. As I’ve said in previous interviews, in the same way Israel demands the return of treasures looted by the Nazis, understanding their significance, Israel has to return looted archives to the Palestinians. It’s their culture, their history, their heritage, and their property.
Second, as an Israeli, I believe that Israelis have to know about this regime of control of knowledge, history and culture. They have to understand this mechanism of silencing, which has two main aspects: first, the seizure of Palestinian archives and material; second, their concealment and control – censorship, access prohibition, limitations, etc – in Israeli archives.
Third, Israelis have to learn, know, and respect Palestinian history. Israeli society denies Palestinian historiography. How can we live together without knowing the history, culture, language and heritage of the other? How can the conflict be resolved without understanding the roots of the conflict, the way the image of the conflict was constructed and the power relations behind it?