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Media construction of public sphere and the discourse of conflict: A case study of the Kidnapped Yemenite Babies Affair in Israel

Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Questions of the relation between race and nationality are at the center of Israel's defense narrative, its violence, its deployment of blood and its domination of land and bodies. Usually, the discourse of violence and the concept of victim in a nation's logic involve images of penetration to borders and land. However, this dissertation is about internal violence, about the reproduction of the state not through land, but through babies and identities, narratives and memory, knowledge and censorship. I revisit Said's Orientalism (1978) and the way it was applied to the analysis of Israeli cinema by Ella Shohat (1989). I also use the framework of ‘The West and the Rest’ developed by Stuart Hall (1992), thereby relocating the different ways in which Orientalism and Eurocentrism internally work within the Israeli nation state. In this dissertation I argue that Israeli national identity is constructed on a notion of imagined unity as articulated in the Zionist ideology, while in practice denying and oppressing cultures and identities of Oriental Jews. This notion of unity, I claim, was achieved under a false sense of emergency by the Arab threat, and thereby advocated the need for a strong Jewish state. This logic is used continuously in public discourses to justify the state's overlooking of internal conflicts. To demonstrate my argument I analyze in depth the case of the Kidnapped Yemenite Babies Affair. This case study, I argue, reveals how the media, who play a central role in Israeli society (Caspi and Limor, 1986), articulate and shape inner conflict and how they define and reproduce identities while maintaining national unity and hegemony. Through this analysis I wish to re-define the relationship between the state of Israel, minority groups and the Arab ‘enemy’. I also discuss the essence of national identity, citizenship and unity and how, from the states' standpoint, such inner conflict interrupts and threatens the wholeness of the Israeli state. In my work I engage with such theoretical concepts as articulation, representation, nationhood and national identity, Orientalism, race and ethnicity, colonial and post-colonial discourse, identity politics and community.

Subject Area

Mass media|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Madmoni-Gerber, Shoshana, "Media construction of public sphere and the discourse of conflict: A case study of the Kidnapped Yemenite Babies Affair in Israel" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3096298.