Elle Flanders's 2005 documentary film Zero Degrees of Separation subtly weaves together two seemingly distinct narratives: the settlement of Palestine in the 1950s by a hopeful generation of pioneering Jewish immigrants and the challenges of gay Israeli-Palestinian relationships in contemporary Israel/Palestine. By innovatively interlacing archival footage shot by Flanders's own grandparents as early as the 1920s with interviews conducted with Israeli and Palestinian queers in 2002, Flanders demonstrates the mutual implication of these narratives. This essay examines how through the unique temporal collision of these two historical moments, prominent tensions of the current conflict are made visible in the haunting utopian images of the early Zionist movement. By filtering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of sexuality, Flanders's film deconstructs certain constitutive myths of the modern nation-state, offering an intimately personal glimpse into questions seminal to both the political genealogy of the current conflict and the quotidian lives of Israelis and Palestinians: human rights violations, violence, the policing of bodies, the geopolitics of Israeli expansion, the politics of mobility, and the mapping of Western colonial ideologies onto racialized conflicts—both between Israelis and Palestinian and within the Israeli community itself between Jews of Arab (Mizrahim) and European (Ashkenazim) descent.
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Hoda El Shakry; APOCALYPTIC PASTS, ORWELLIAN FUTURES: Elle Flanders's Zero Degrees of Separation. GLQ 1 October 2010; 16 (4): 611–621. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-2010-007
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