Reality TV: An Experiment – But on Who?
Noam Yoran researches culture and barbarism. He writes and teaches
writing on television at the University of Tel Aviv.
Tenants of an Experiement: Glikson neighbourhood in Kiryat-Gat
Zvi Elhyani is an architect, lecturer and researcher of Israeli
architecture and space.
Zionism is Not a Project
Dr. Boaz Neumann is a historian and teaches history at Tel Aviv University.
Neumann’s principal field of research is the history and philosophy of
The Art of Israeli Homeland Security
Dr. Neve Gordon is a senior lecturer and head of the Politics and Government
Department at Ben Gurion University. His areas of research include political
thought, human rights, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Joshua Simon is a curator and co-editor of Maayan, a poetry and art
magazine and the editor of Maarvon magazine, a new magazine about cinema.
An action by the group Public Movement will accompany the conference.
Free entrance with advanced booking – 03-5568792.
It is recommended to arrive early to see the exhibition.
Evil to the Core
A New Project from the Israeli Center for Digital Art
03.11.2009 – 16.01.2010
Opening on 31.10.2009 @ 20:00
This exceptional project follows some of the key experiments that were
conducted in the field of social psychology between 1961 to 1971, which
deal with obedience to authority, individual responsibility and social
responsibility. The exhibition will take place in parallel with the 60th
anniversary of the signing of the four Geneva treaties and in collaboration
with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
In the exhibition are a mix of art works and Israeli and international
documentary films dealing with socialization, obedience, power, authority,
and resistance, and by way of which arises another commonality – three
fundamental methodologies: simulation, experiment, and reenactment. The
points of entry in the research leading up to the exhibition are the
experiments in social psychology of the 1960s and 70s in the United States:
Stanley Milgram’s “Obedience” experiment and Philip Zimbardo’s
“Stanford Prison Experiment,” both investigated the measure of obedience to
authority in cases where participants were instructed to implement
actions contrary to their principles and conscience. These same
experiments are still taught today in the field of psychology.
The exhibition wishes to raise questions on obedience, disobedience,
conformism and social responsibility by way of the works and films exhibited
Participating artists: Rod Dickinson, Artur Zmijewski, David Tartakover,
David Reeb, Amir Yatziv, and Noam Gelbart
52/50, Uri Bar-On
Enraged, Eyal Itskovits
To See If I’m Smiling, Tamar Yarom
Machsomim, Yoav Shamir
Z32, Avi Mograbi
Films in the Exhibition:
Eye of the Storm, ABC News
Total Isolation, BBC Horizon
The Human Behavior Experiment, Jigsaw Productions
Obedience, Stanley Milgram Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo
Curators: Ran Kasmy Ilan and Galit Eilat
The exhibition is a collaboration with the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel
and their Program for International Humanitarian Law.
Rod Dickinson’s visit Supported by BI ARTS (British Israeli
arts training scheme), an initiative of the British Council,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Evil to the Core
Galit Eilat and Ran Kasmy Ilan
The year 1961 marked the entry of the voice of the repressed
Israeli “other” into the heart of the local discourse upon the
opening of the Eichmann Trial at Israel’s Congress Center in Jerusalem.
This formative event presented to the Israeli public, for the first time,
the voices of the survivors who served as witnesses. Later on,
Hannah Arendt would write in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem about
Eichmann’s testimony: “It was as though in those last minutes
he was summing up the lesson that this long course in human wickedness
had taught us—the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality
In the very same year of the Eichmann Trial, Stanley Milgram conducted his
famous experiment in social psychology, “Obedience to Authority,” 
at Yale’s Department of Psychology. He wanted to prove the argument that
collaborators with the Nazi extermination program were “merely following
The experiment explored the influence of authority on human subjects and
the limit to which those subjects were prepared to obey an authoritative
figure who instructed them to perform acts contrary to their values.
The first series of experiments indicated that 65% of the participants
agreed to administer seemingly real electric shocks of increasing intensity,
from 15 to 450 volts, to another individual only because a figure of
authority had instructed them to do so.
While some voiced objection to the instruction and the act, none of
the participants stopped the experiment before reaching 300 volts.
The exhibition “Evil to the Core” addresses issues pertaining to docility
and obedience to authority, conformism, social responsibility, disobedience,
and non-conformism in general, and in Israeli society specifically.
The exhibition combines different materials, works of art, and documentary
films exploring socialization, obedience, power, authority, and resistance.
Three major methods run through them: simulation, experimentation, and
reconstruction or reenactment, which may be regarded as methods shaping
the reality of the present.
Amir Yatziv’s Detroit consists of a map which the artist found in a military
training area, a video piece, and photographs. The title of the installation
was borrowed from the IDF’s training area near Ze’elim in the country’s
southern region. Is it accidental that an IDF training area was named after
the American city of Detroit, once a bustling metropolis, and now a ghost
town of sorts? “Detroit” is a 1:1 simulation of a Palestinian city of
identical area. The simulation generates an alternative reality (at times
sterile) which conceals the true reality. The fictive reality becomes
a source for rich, luring stimuli, that may often overshadow the actual
experience of reality, as in the case of movie towns, Disneyland, or
“war games” held at the highest echelons of the military system.
In the video work accompanying the installation, Yatziv presents the
architectural plans of the Israeli “Detroit” to various urban planners,
asking them to analyze the city for him. They all express varying
measures of discontent with the city plan, but none realizes that
it is a city constructed for the sole purpose of simulation.
The mosque architect is baffled by the fact that such a tall mosque
was erected for a city of such scale, whereas another urban planner
wonders why, in this new city, no road was paved to facilitate vehicular
traffic between the commercial center and the residential neighborhoods.
The training city “Detroit” was intended to prepare soldiers for combat
in a built-up area. It resembles a Muslim quarter, thus meeting the users’
needs in a simulation which would furnish them with a fantasy of
an Arab city.
The essence of this city is replaced by its fictive image.
“Detroit” even contains live targets.
A private company supplies extras with an “Eastern” look to play
the Palestinians in the simulation. Is “Detroit” a simulation that went out
of control during the operation in Gaza? The Gazan “Detroit” is devoid of
flowering gardens; the city’s residents are mere extras, and the houses
contain no books or any other sign of life. The simulation prepares the
fighter for “better” confrontation in real time, striving to neutralize
the element of surprise in battle by exercising which dulls the shock of
encounter with the real. The simulation enables distant confrontation,
based on previous experiences, and not on the initial encounter in the
battlefield; at the same time, it might establish automatic patterns of
action and cause numbness.2
On April 4, 1968, Jane Elliott, a third grade teacher in Iowa, USA,
turned on her television set to discover that Martin Luther King had
There, in her living room, she decided to teach her 8-year old pupils
a lesson in racism. The very next day, Tuesday April 5, she held the first
experiment in racism in her classroom: she declared her blue-eyed pupils
superior to the rest, bestowing upon them privileges at the expense of
the others. Blue-eyed and brown-eyed pupils were disallowed to drink
from the same drinking fountains. The latter were asked to wear a special
collar around their necks denoting their inferiority. The blue-eyed
students became almost automatically haughty, bossy, and cruel toward
their brown-eyed peers. The next day, the roles were reversed—the
brown-eyed pupils became the superior, whereas the blue-eyed became an
Elliott, whose experiment is documented in the film The Eye of the Storm
(director: William Peters) screened in the exhibition, conceived of
a simulation which corresponds with the reality by which American society
(like many other societies) chooses to compartmentalize itself according
to racist-ethnic terms.
In order to illustrate to her pupils to what extent such division is, in fact,
based on prejudice and ignorance, she made them experience a process of
re-socialization by means of a game of role reversal between privileged and
inferior. In each of the experiment’s two days the pupils played different
roles, learning first hand about the feelings of privileged versus
underprivileged, experiencing the dehumanization generated by such a system.
The film documenting Elliott’s work (the exercise was subsequently developed
for use with different groups, other than primary school children, and even
repeated with adults) proves that ethnic, or any other division which allows
for oppression of the other, requires little time to produce social structures and
patterns. Ethnic and national divisions create affiliation groups based on
physical or other relations of likeness, isolating or pushing aside groups
which do not meet the parameters defining the group. This process is
accompanied by either bestowal or denial of privileges and by domination via
denial or erasure of the other’s rights.
In 2002 the Israeli government established the Immigration Administration,
now better known as the “Oz Unit.” The Administration was allotted a
considerable budget, field units, and motor vehicles. Labor migrants
call the unit “Fifty Two Fifty” since the Unit’s cars’ license plates
always begin with 52 and end with 50. Uri Bar-On, director of 52/50,
decided to focus on the violence perpetrated by the Oz Unit policemen
during their operations to capture illegal labor migrants.
For the production of the film Bar-On harnessed students from the Department
of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, and purchased several
video cameras. He set up a call center to collect reports about police
raids, and transfer the information to the film crews on site. Days
and nights Bar-On went with student teams to follow the activities of the
Immigration Police. His film crews documented Oz Unit raids on apartments
and mobile homes in which migrants live, as well as their arrests on
the street. They documented the immigrants’ stories about the policemen’s
violence towards them. The film shows, among other things, how the Immigration
Police often detain foreign nationals and harasses them merely
because of their foreign appearances. This was the case with a
doctor in the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical
Center who was arrested together with an Israeli who tried to protect her
from the violence of the Unit’s cops.
Apart from documentation of the Immigration Police violence, the film
endeavors to examine whether the camera’s presence and students’ presence
during the arrest of labor migrants will decrease the level of violence
used by the Immigration Police during these arrests.
In Machssomim, Yoav Shamir follows soldiers serving in the Occupied
Territories, entrusted with roadblock duty. As in the case of the Oz Unit,
here too there is an encounter with a different community, and the
soldier has the power to decide how the Palestinian’s day will begin or end.
The film documents the encounter of Israeli soldiers posted at various
checkpoints in the Occupied Territories with the Palestinian population
wishing to pass through these crossings and roadblocks between the
Palestinian Authority and Israel, and even between villages or towns within
the Palestinian Authority. Observation of the film underscores the
lack of clarity regarding the policy or position the soldiers are
supposed to exercise toward civilian population. There seems to
be no clear instruction what is allowed and what is forbidden at the
checkpoint, what language may be used, who is allowed to pass and why.
The film presents the confusion of some of the soldiers who are given
control over the lives of others, but do not know how to use that power.
At the same time, it also presents those who take the responsibility
given them too far, using it to exercise power and to humiliate those
requiring the services of passage through the checkpoint.
In both films the photographed subjects are aware of the camera’s presence,
yet we are not told whether this presence changed their behavior: whether
the Immigration cops exercised less power or whether the soldiers in the
checkpoint exercised greater discretion during their shift. The exposure to an
Israeli camera is exposure to the Israeli public which largely supports the
soldiers’ activity at the checkpoints or the activities of the Oz unit,
hence it does not cause the photographed subjects inner conflict.
Rod Dickinson’s works progress along the axis between simulation and
reconstruction, exploring ideas pertaining to belief and social control.
The works present events which were supposed to take place, yet ultimately
did not, or alternatively—events that have taken place. In the exhibition,
Dickinson presents The Milgram Re-enactment 2002 (in collaboration with
Graeme Edler and Steve Rushton) consisting of an installation reconstructing
Stanley Milgram’s laboratory in detail, alongside a video reenacting the
experiment with actors. The work offers viewers sensory confrontation by
virtue of the physical presence in the laboratory, which calls to mind
a return to a crime scene to study the evidence and experience them up close.
By means of the reconstruction the artist generates a system of
simulation as part of which the viewer can participate in the experience.
Milgram’s experiment is one of the most important and provocative ever to
be carried out in the field of social psychology, and it is still studied.
It was repeated once by Milgram himself, and several more times by
psychologists and social psychology laboratories, each time altering
one element of the experiment. In all cases the participants were told
that the experiment was a memory and learning test. They did not know
that they were taking part in an experiment about obedience.
The subjects were ostensibly given the choice between the roles of
teacher and learner; the latter was, in fact, an active partner to the
experiment and was let in on the secret. The teacher (subject) sat in one
room with the researcher; the latter wore a white smock
and observed from behind the teacher’s back. In front of the teacher
was a box with multiple switches (an electric shock machine), with the
voltage level marked above each switch. Even the marking of lethal
high voltage did not stop the majority of the participants from continuing.
Some ten years after Milgram’s experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment
Philip Zimbardo, Milgram’s classmate at the James Monroe High
School in the Bronx (class of 1950) was performed. The experiment studied
the participants’ confrontation with prison reality. Several offices in the
basement of Stanford University’s Psychology building were cleared, and
fitted with bars. Via a newspaper ad, male college students were recruited and
randomly divided into the roles of prisoners and guards. The former were
“arrested” by the local police and led blindfolded and handcuffed to
Zimbardo’s mock prison, where they were stripped naked, disinfected and
dressed in prisoners’ uniform by the “guards.” The latter were given warden
uniforms and full freedom to exercise authority. The experiment, which was
supposed to continue for a fortnight, went out of hand on the second day,
with the prisoners’ mutiny attempt, which was forcefully suppressed by
the prison guards.
It was terminated prematurely after six days, and was never reenacted
scientifically on ethical grounds.
In his video Repetition, artist Artur Zmijewski reenacts and
Zimbardo’s prison experiment. Zmijewski placed an advertisement in the
newspaper, offering readers to take part in an experiment for hourly pay.
The experiment continued for seven days, and as with Zimbardo’s prison
experiment, the participants were randomly selected to perform the roles
of prisoners or guards. Zmijewski, like Zimbardo, took upon himself the
role of superintendent of the temporary prison, wholly devoting himself to
his self-assumed role. In Zmijewski’s work we evince the power relations
and guards within days. Unlike the original experiment, the prisoners and
guards in this work choose to protest against the prison manager, collectively
deciding to end the experiment.
The reenactment used by Dickinson and Zmijewski may be construed as a staged,
ritual modus operandi at work in many apparatuses. It is intended to
cleanse the collective conscience and heal the wounds. The reenactment
has a symbolical theatrical dimension: taking an intricate, often emotional
event, encoding it into an easily digestible product and providing local
rationalization, a process which makes for an illusion of order.
The reenactment dissociates the past from any sentiment in an attempt
to rejuvenate reality which has crumbled at that point; therefore it
occurs outside time, as it were.
Noam Gelbart’s animation piece Experiment 5.6.5/10 depicts an (imaginary)
experiment in randomly selected subjects who were told that they were
selected due to their alleged superior qualities. The subjects were given
a random set of laws and rules which they had to obey. In return, they were
told, they will feel a considerable improvement in their quality of life.
The ostensibly arbitrary rule list was extracted from Jewish rabbinic law.
In the third week of the experiment, one of the participants succeeds in
exploiting the paradigm in his favor, thereby garnering status and power.
He becomes a mentor and an educator capable of giving instruction on his own.
From here the path is short to full and violent destruction of the experiment.
Milgram’s and Zimbardo’s experiments were preceded by Dr. D. Ewen Cameron’s
CIA-funded experiment held in Canada between the late 1950s and the
mid-1960s, which set out to examine whether it is possible to blot out past
behavioral patterns and reconstruct new ones in their place. In order to
eliminate existing behavioral conditioning, Dr. Cameron gave the subjects
electric shocks far beyond the level allowed at the time. He drugged his
patients with hallucinatory drugs and various stimulants, putting them in
a state of unconsciousness which lasted many weeks. Simultaneously, he
repeated to them instructions for new behavioral patterns.
Cameron succeeded in eliminating his patients’ past behavioral habits,
but he was never able to prove that the soul’s shattering and
transformation into a blank slate (tabula rasa) could indeed facilitate
construction of new patterning or healing of the patients who
came to him seeking help. An investigation of the American Senate
revealed the existence of numerous such experiments exported from the
United States to other countries, attesting to their faulty nature.
Cameron’s modi operandi are nowadays exercised throughout the world
by people who are considered normative, following instructions from
above under pretexts of scientific research, national security,
and state of emergency, while releasing the individual performing
them from personal liability. These modi operandi include isolation
of the studied subject from contact with reality by means of sensory
isolation, including white noise played incessantly, blindfolding
to outside images, covering the hands, and disruption of sleeping and
eating patterns by detachment from the outside or from any other element that
preserves a temporal continuum.
The film Total Isolation (from the series “Horizon” produced by the BBC)
documents an experiment conducted on several subjects, who volunteered to
suffer sensory deprivation for 48 hours. The subjects were given an identical
cognitive test before and after the experiment. During the experiment they
experienced different levels of sensory deprivation, after which a decrease
in their cognitive functio'ning was clearly registered.
The film The Human Behavior Experiment (director: Alex Gibney) links Milgram
and Zimbardo’s experiments, addressing the mechanism producing blind
obedience or submission to power, events where systems of power are at work,
which allow for domination of others’ lives, and the way in which this
power is exercised destructively when the system does not lay rules which
clearly restrict the use of force or the domination of others. For example,
soldiers posted at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, who abused
prisoners suspected of various activities against the American military
Interviews with these soldiers reveal that during their duty as prison
guards, they thought they were optimally following the orders given them.
photographs present abuse, humiliation, and torture suffered by the prisoners
which call to mind the methods of Dr. Cameron and Zimbardo. Excluding one
interrogator, who documented and publicized what he saw at Abu Ghraib, the
majority of soldiers blindly obeyed orders and never asked themselves
whether they were legal, and whether they can indeed be relieved of
responsibility for the very prisoners for whom they were responsible.
They did not
ask themselves whether their actions were abusive and humiliating, violating
the other’s basic rights or humanity.
In Israeli Tamar Yarom’s film, To See
if I’m Smiling, a harsh picture
arises from the testimonies of six female ex-soldiers, who describe their
intoxication with power and lack of differentiation between good and bad
their military service, includinghaving their pictures taken with
the bodies of Palestinian interogees who had been tortured. The film
consists of a set of interviews with women who served in the Occupied
Territories. Several years after their service they look back at
their military past which haunts them, trying to confront the civilian
reality in relation to the time they had served as soldiers.
The monologues of the film’s six protagonists indicate distress, suffering,
and guilt feelings. It is incomprehensible how they could have been so easily
pulled into a world of wrongdoing and acts of violence perpetrated by
soldiers against citizens and detainees; why they agreed to collaborate,
to be a part of the system of silencing which kept the squadron’s secrets?
The delayed confession is perceived as akin to
assuming responsibility and
confrontation with the past, especially since the exposure of the secret is
public, and often involves pain and admission of guilt without a trial.
The disclosure, in this case, is media exposure, demanding daily
confrontation of the guilt.
Simultaneously, an act of transference takes place, whereby anyone who
listens to the confession or admission assumes responsibility by virtue
of the knowledge, absorbing part of it from the confessor.
Avi Mograbi’s film Z32 centers on an ex-soldier in an elite unit who
participated in an act of revenge for the murder of six Israeli soldiers,
an action in which two Palestinian policemen were murdered.
He confesses and reconstructs the killing event for his life partner and
the viewers. His testimony relates to his part in the murder and to the
charged feelings that have burdened him since. In the film, the ex-soldier
reconstructs the night of the event several times to his partner.
In addition, he returns to the scene of the incident with Mograbi,
and reenacts the revenge for him. Much like a murder reenactment which is
invalid as judicial evidence, yet serves as confession to a crime committed,
albeit not judicial, in this case, too, the reconstruction and the repetition
of the killing process combine personal with collective guilt, the desire
for absolution with reconstruction of the power intoxication during the
To us, viewers, the act of reconstruction serves as a type of catalyst for
cleansing our consciences, through participation which does not require
Artist David Reeb’s video work, Ni’ilin 1.5.2009, begins with a tear gas
canister fired into the yard of a house where the owners and political
activists (“Anarchists against the Wall”) are present.3
Directly thereafter, a group of Border Guard fighters climb to the
roof of the house. The soldiers present no document authorizing them to
penetrate the house, even when they are asked to do so. In order to scare
off the activists, they throw tear gas at them and at the house owners
from the roof. The roof serves the soldiers as an observation and firing
post at demonstrators in the streets near the house.
When they climb off the roof and leave the family home, one of the
commanders says to his subordinate who stands next to him: “We must detain
them, and you don’t do that. You have to enter their homes at 2 AM
and arrest them, before they ever come here.” Reeb documents this moment
in the video in his painting Bougainvillea. He isolates the preliminary
event by painting one frame from the video, featuring several soldiers
marching on a dirt road, and next to them a flowering bougainvillea
shrub sprawling beyond the yard of the house.
The presence of “Anarchists against the Wall” disturbs the soldiers’ work.
The Anarchists refuse to take for granted the force exercised by the soldiers
and submit to it. They always demand to check whether each and every act
taken by the soldiers—in this case, entry into the home of a Palestinian
citizen—was authorized. The Anarchists group exercises its civic power; it
does not obey the code which determines that the physically strong is the
dominant. This introduces a nuisance or generates confrontation with the
soldiers who must address their demand, which is opposed to the approach
of the majority of soldiers toward the Palestinians whom they regard as
unequal; the Palestinians houses and property are perceived as territory
subject to control, hence, they believe, the soldiers are not forced to
obey civilian laws, at times not even the laws of the army.
Eyal Eithcowich, director of the film Enraged, follows the story of four
members of the activist group “Anarchists against the Wall” through their
The group’s activity has met with harsh oppression by the State.
Hundreds of Palestinians and scores of Israelis and foreign nationals
have been injured, and hundreds of arrests have led to dozens of indictments.
Nevertheless, the group continues its activity, refusing to forgo the message
of refusal to be enemies and the partnership in a popular struggle against
the Occupation. The film depicts the group’s activity and the violence in
the Occupied Territories; a horror vision in which soldiers, settlers,
leftist activists, and local Arab citizens all take part. Eithcowich lets
the images, which are often powerful and elusive (especially the depictions
of confrontations during demonstrations), speak for themselves, rarely
“Anarchists against the Wall” was established in 2003 with the intention
of operating against the“Separation Wall” erected by Israel on Palestinian
land in the West Bank. Since its inception, the group has worked in close
collaboration with the Palestinians in a joint popular struggle against
the Wall in the West Bank, the siege, and the attacks on Gaza specifically,
and against the
general. Over the
years, group members have
participated in hundreds of demonstrations: whether in West Bank villages
and towns organized by Palestinian local popular committees or in Israel
proper intended to present the Occupation and its harm to the Israeli public,
and to call upon the public to join in the struggle.
“As Israelis we are well aware of the privileges granted us by the
occupation regime, even when protesting against it. We can move
relatively freely from place to place. The army and police forces are
more hesitant in exercising extreme violence against us, and the civil
law system to which we are subordinated gives us basic rights which our
Palestinian partners are denied, since they are subject to military law.
Therefore, we have chosen to transform these privileges into tools of
solidarity to the best of our ability. The joint demonstrations are not
only a political message regarding the very feasibility of cooperation,
but also a way to stand by our Palestinian partners.”4
In David Tartakover’s series of photographs, I Am Here, the artist digitally
inserted his figure into various events and places. On his body he wears an
emergency services vest, yet Tartakover’s vest bears the word “Artist.”
The images are press photographs from the Separation Wall in Abu Dis, from
Qalqilya, Ras Atiya, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Hebron, always drawn from
incidents related to the Occupation. Hebron 180303 depicts an IDF soldier
holding his weapon in the foreground. At another level of the photograph,
the inscription “Are you Jewish? Yes=life No=death” may be read on the back
of a T-shirt.
Tartakover’s figure is seen in the background, wearing his “Artist” vest,
as if he were a witness to the photographed event not by virtue of his
actually being there, but rather due to the fact that he inserts his
figure into the photographed event. By positioning himself within various
acts taking place around him, Tartakover assumes responsibility: he places
himself as both an observer who does not look away from the occurrences
and as a witness who brings to us his testimony, motivated by the
knowledge that the freedom for individual opinion is not a right, but a duty.
Disregard for personal responsibility does not release the individual
from responsibility for the actions of the society in which he lives.
All the members of the collective share in the responsibility, and
they all have the right to doubt and explore whether they want to be
a part of it. Refusal to take responsibility for the actions of society
and setting oneself apart from it forms an existential threat to that society.
Disobedience (resistance), on the other hand, is an attempt to correct society,
rather than to undermine it. The conscientious objector functio'ns as an
agent of morality who operates for the sake of social change, since obedience
contradicts his moral principles. The conscientious objector does not
disregard the law, and the collective does not have to acknowledge his
rightness. The duty is to acknowledge conscientious objection as
part of honoring human dignity and freedom. Disobedience takes place
vis-à-vis the leadership of society, when each individual is given the
right to protest, via an act of objection, against instructions which
contradict his personal moral values.
Leading an individual life in keeping with an independent moral agenda
is utopian, and can fully occur only under laboratory conditions.
Such individual existence is eliminated by the presence of others,
and is based on the relationship with them. This system makes the individual
suspend his ethics, his personal checks and balances, and to
“assimilate” into the collective paradigm. It is an expression of
the individual’s mental dependence on authority, manifested by his
voluntary integration into a hierarchical system. In return the individual
is granted relief stemming from the detachment from personal
liability by virtue of “belonging” to a collective. It is this belonging
that lends the collective its power. The individual is the arbitrary
signifier of the collective, and the functi'on of authority is to eliminate
his personal characteristics (his personal imprint) so that he may serve
as a pawn representing something beyond his personality; this act
inevitably eliminates the significance of the other as well.
1. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
(New York: Penguin, 1994), p. 252.
2. Another tactic of estrangement employed by the military establishment
involves language. The assimilation of academic and philosophical terminology
in diluted, flattened form to generate alienation of the conflict and
dehumanization of the other party, while keeping a well-reasoned and
For instance, the “cognitive burn” a la ex-Chief of Staff and present
Minister, Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, refers to war as a sterile territory
where cognitions prompt action. Similar examples include the division
of the population into “involved” and “non-involved” (for their definition
as innocent or naïve citizens would inevitably render the soldiers,
by definition, criminals), or expressions such as “scenario” and
“leveraging” intended to alienate the other party in order to efface
its existence. Such simplification of reality introduces a problem
often dubbed “the human element.” Elimination of the other in the name of
some justice enables the perpetration of acts against him which would have
been considered unbearable if applied to a “human being”.
3. The weekly encounters between soldiers and leftist activists have taken
place for several years in Bil’in, and recently also in Ni’ilin, and they
carry the nature of a ritual. The encounter takes place every Friday,
around noon, usually after the noon prayer in the village mosque.
The soldiers, village inhabitants (Bil’in or Ni’ilin), and activists
report every Friday in unbalanced forces, for a chronicle foretold.
4. From the group’s
Hebrew website: http://www.awalls.org/hebrew
Conference #2 in the framework of "Evil to the Core"
Tuesday, December 8 at 8:00pm
At the Israeli Center for Digital Art, 16 Yirmiyahu Street, Holon
This conference is the second of three conferences accompanying the
exhibition "Evil to the Core." The exhibition and conferences seek to
discuss issues concerning obedience to authority, conformism, individual
and social responsibility, non-compliance, and nonconformism in general,
and in Israeli society in particular.
Civil disobedience, unlike criminal disobedience, does not lead to anarchy,
but moral and conscientious action. Therefore, while the state can suppress
criminal disobedience, it should restrain against suppressing civil
disobedience. The right to non-compliance is a natural right related
With this, the limit of civil disobedience is its use of violence – once it
breaks out, it is transformed into criminal disobedience. Another possible
distinction is between offensive and defensive non-compliance; the first
is done against laws whose violation expresses protest and insurrection
against the state, the second involuntarily against laws that impair
human dignity. In any case the restriction of violence is key and is
what lends legitimation to civil disobedience.
The conference will address the boundaries of non-compliance and obedience
in the local context of Israel precisely in a period in which this question
becomes relevant in light of a new phenomenon of military disobedience.
These phenomena, from the right side of the political map, recently made
headlines and raised questions about the place of the individual and the
military in a democratic society. Despite the phenomenon of refusal on the
left as well, it has never managed to produce such resonance. Against this
backdrop, the conference will discuss civil disobedience and insubordination.
Brief information about the speakers and their lecture topics:
Prof. Uri Hadar – Insubordination and Mental Health
Prof. Uri Hadar will describe how refuseniks are being released on the basis
of psychological maladjustment. A professor of Psychology at Tel Aviv
University, a member of the parents’ forum of refuseniks, active in the
organisation "Psycho-active. Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights ",
Prof. Uri Hadar also teaches a course on the psychology of occupation.
David Reeb – Art Making as an Act of Civil Disobedience
The artist, David Reeb, Dizengoff Prize winner, is featured in the
current show and has been painting Israeli scenes based on media images
for three decades.
Haggai Matar – The Refusnik Trial
Hagai Matar is one of the five refuseniks who refused to join the IDF and
were put on trial in 2003. He and the four others were convicted and sentenced
to imprisonment for up to 23 months.
Dr. Gadi Rosenberg – Universal and Particular Principles as the Basis for
Avoiding Army Reserve Duty
Dr. Rosenberg’s research distinguishes between personal objections (defectors)
and ideological opponents from the right and left.
Moderator: Galit Eilat
Free entrance with advanced booking – 03-5568792.
It is recommended to arrive early to see the exhibition.
The exhibition is a collaboration with the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel and their Program for International