Eyal Sivan is a documentary maker whose films include Der Spezialist (The Specialist), Aus Liebe zum Volk (I Love You All) and Route 181. At Manifesta 7 he presents “Happy birthdays”: Toward a Common Archive, Fragment 2. In the Western ideology of memory, the “duty to remember” lies mainly with the victims. Perpetrators of political crimes are rarely obliged to (re)remember their deeds; courts of justice or truth and reconciliation commissions are two of the few places in which they become witnesses. On the condition that the victims in turn become the victors, these places offer ways to collect and even redeem the testimonies of the perpetrators.
“Happy Birthdays” is composed from an ongoing collection of testimonies by Israeli soldiers and commanders who, in 1948, took an active role in expelling Palestinians from present-day Israel. It attempts to form a base for truth and reconciliation in a case where the “spaces of redemption” do not exist. “Happy Birthdays” refers to this year’s double 60th anniversary: of the birth of the state of Israel and of the Naqba (Catastrophe), in which more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and more than 400 Palestinian villages destroyed. After decades of denial, the testimonies of Palestinians are just now starting to be taken into account; yet official history and public memory remains dictated by Zionist discourse and the Israeli authorities. While the artist concedes it is wishful thinking to believe that a trial or truth commission concerning the Palestinian Naqba will take place in the near future, this communal archive seeks to become a historical narrative for Israelis and Palestinians to share together.
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