Israel, Lebanon, and their Relations on Film

By Oren Barak
Submitted to Session P4902 (Reconsidering Israeli-Lebanese Relations, 2017 Annual Meeting
Intl Rltns/Aff
Israel; Lebanon; The Levant;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Since the Israeli-Arab War of 1967, Israeli-Lebanese relations have become increasingly volatile, culminating in Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Israel's occupation of parts of Lebanon in the period 1985-2000, and the War between Israel and Hizbullah (or the Second Lebanon War) in 2006. This paper asks how Israel, Lebanon, and the two states' changing relations are represented in several films produced in Israel and in Lebanon in recent decades. On the Israeli side, it will discuss two "waves" of films dealing with Israel's experience in Lebanon: The first "wave" took place in the mid-1980s, during and in the wake of Israel's invasion, and consists of films such as Ricochet (1986), Time for Cherries (1990), Cup Final (1991), and several official and unofficial documentaries. The second "wave" of Israeli films on Israel's experience in Lebanon occurred in the first decade of the 21st century, following the Second Palestinian Intifada (or the al-Aqsa Intifada) and the 2006 War. It includes films such as Beaufort (2007), Waltz with Bashir (2008), Lebanon (2009), Battle of the Undead (2013), and others. On the Lebanese side, the paper will discuss a number of films produced before and after the 2006 war, including The Kite (Le cerf-volant, 2003) and Under the Bombs (2007). Underpinning the discussion of these films are several theoretically grounded assumptions about the relationship between popular culture and politics: First, popular culture reflects wide-held societal values and perceptions, including the perception of the "self", the "other" and the relationship between them. As such, popular culture is an excellent venue for exploring these values and perceptions. Second, popular culture, and especially films (when they attract large audiences, as did some of the above films), can shape public attitudes, and it is thus an imperative to explore these films in addition to other sources (archival materials, memoirs, media reports, etc.). In addition to employing relevant theories from political science, International Relations, sociology and cultural studies, as well as the films themselves, the paper will draw on previous analyses of these films, which, despite their importance, have rarely asked how these films have represented – and possibly affected – Lebanese-Israeli relations.