On first day of the seminar, it became clear to me: dealing with the memory activism in Israel is like writing in the sand: what you write now, next second could be erased. Just like in Serbia, someone has always to be present and write the same message again, and again, confronting the waves.
Memory activism in Serbia: is there any? Does memory activism in Serbia exist like in Israel, where it occurs as clearly defined activity on the margins of the Israeli society? Or is it more correct to claim that memory activism in Serbia actually means creating the memory of certain historic events like genocide in Srebrenica or ethnic cleansing campaigns in Kosovo and maintaining it in Serbian public discourse?
Is our memory activism basically creation/revival/discovery of silenced memory of the atrocities of wars? Does our work end there, in giving the voice to those memories? What else needs to be done in order to create permanent memory politics that would function without our guardianship? Is that even possible?
(Maybe this is the very essence of what we need to keep memory of in terms of memory activism in Serbia: In wars in former Yugoslavia, Serbia played role of an aggressor. If that fact is excluded from the context of our work, it seems to me that none of the memory activism strategies that we're trying to introduce can't work properly. It all starts there.)
Out of many memories from the nineties, which ones do we tend to keep? Why? Do we have knowledge of all events that we should keep memory of? Can we determine exact number of memories and/or their order? (Is that necessary?) Which criteria do we use in selecting the memories we decided to be important? To what extent the memories we tend to keep alive are our own construction? How do we keep objective, non-biased and truthful interpretation and representation of events? Is our activism actually education of the public?
(Memory of the Nakba in Israel: More structured, more organized, although without prevailing effect on broader public. The Nakba was destruction, expulsion, massacres and incidents of rape of the Palestinian inhabitants of the state of Israel. It was keeping refugees out by force at the end of the 1948. war, in order to establish the Jewish state. Today, the Nakba is destruction of Palestinian localities, the disregard for the rights of refugees and displaced people of Palestinian origin. This understanding of the Nakba is practically forbidden in Israeli public discourse.)
III 'The knowledge is already out there' argument
It's true, a lot of information can be found on the aftermath of the wars in former Yugoslavia or the Nakba in Israel. However, the actual question is how this knowledge is structured and how is presented to the public. Who cares about this knowledge? OK, academics and human rights activists, but is there anybody else? Who passes it on to the broader public and how?
Israeli experience on the available knowledge of the Nakba shows that in order to inform/educate the public, knowledge of the events has to be put in an activist perspective; it has to actively inform people of the past, to provoque questions, fostering public debate and in that sense challenging the mainstream. (Zochrot's tours, initiatives and publishing activities as possible role models.)
IV Memory battle
In Israel, at least two main flows of collective memory can be detected: official, state-based memory and memory promoted through work of counter-memory activism groups. In Serbia, there are a lot of independent narratives, both official and unofficial, which in result create confusion and indifference among the public. Is it necessary to maintain one, unified counter-narrative in terms of memory activism regarding certain events from the past?
V Construction of the memory
Are all memories recognized by the official policy a priori dismissible? Is it possible to break the uniformed, state approved sound that majority of the media repeat (normalized propaganda?); bring in new voices and finally start debating 'official truths'? How do we challenge official politics of memory? Which social/political actors are our allies? Can we do it alone?
VI H. Arendt
Creation of the State of Israel in relation to expulsion and discrimination of the Palestinian people: How did the absolute victims (H. Arendt) become bad guys? How the victimization of Jews is politically used by the state of Israel to approve discriminatory and abusive actions towards politically, economically and military weaker 'opponent'? Are the political representatives of absolute victims always absolutely innocent no matter of their actions?
VII The 'knowledge' issue / Fichte
How knowledge and memory activism can be used in order to induce political change? If we tend to use oppositional knowledge to promote social and/or political change we should follow the line: knowledge - acknowledgment - responsibility. Knowing and acknowledging isn't enough if the sense of responsibility isn't induced.
When Fichte gave one of his famous public lectures in Berlin, first thing he said to the audience was: I'm taking all of you as hostages. From now on, you cannot claim that you didn't know.
Wall in the West bank: Two realities - Rachel Tomb site and Aida Refugee Camp
Young Jews dancing on the Israeli side of the Wall in front of Rachel tomb
Young Palestinians in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, behind the Wall