Jewish Soldiers of the Time: Ethos, Pathos and Logos in Rineke Dijkstra’s “Israel Portraits”




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Peer reviewed


My paper investigated Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra’s photographic series ‘Israel Portraits’, solicited by the Herzliya Museum of Art (Israel) in 1999. ‘Israel Portraits’ depicts Israeli soldiers in military camps and off-duty, at home. Connoting the Israeli State and its perceived militant disposition, the photographs feature specific faces whose alleged social role at present is to defend the Israelis and their territorial land against the Palestinians. However, owing to the representational gaze utilised by Dijkstra, I argued that ‘Israel Portraits’ imbues Israeli soldierly identity with indicators of physical vulnerability as well as emotional insecurity. In doing so, the photographs open up a representational space that permits historically repressed images of the Diasporic Jew to reappear. This involuntary reincarnation of the ‘helpless’ Jew within Israeli visual culture, and in association with state’s symbols of power, unleashes a political consciousness that mirrors, rather than polarises the precarious lived and narrated experiences of Palestinians and Israelis, uprooting the prescribed roles often associated with them by belligerent political ideologies.


I gave this paper as part of the conference Insight Palestina: Images, Discourses, and the Image of Discourse (The University of Leeds). Co-organised by Lior Libman (the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and myself, and featuring Prof. Griselda Pollock, Prof. Sander Gilman and Dr. Ihab Saloul as keynote speakers, Insight Palestina was a one-day international conference which investigated visual and textual images produced within, and in relation to, the circumstances of the Israel-Palestine struggle.


Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rineke Dijkstra, ‘Israel Portraits’, Diaspora Jews, Israeli soldiers, Visual politics, Photography and national ideology, Photography and social politics, Photography and state ideology


Pasternak, G. (2012) Jewish Soldiers of the Time: Ethos, Pathos and Logos in Rineke Dijkstra’s “Israel Portraits”


Research Institute

Media Discourse Centre (MDC)
Institute of Art and Design