Ghosts beneath the surface: Remnants and revenants of Palestine in the Cinema of the Interior

Robert George White




In a 2003 interview with the Journal of Palestine Studies, the director Elia Sulieman evoked the spectre of the revenant (which appears by coming back) when explaining the presence of Palestinians within Israel in terms of Israel’s being haunted by the spectre of the ‘becoming-Palestinian’ of the Israeli-Arab. This is both an allusion to a historical legal condition of present absence (the Knesset’s 1950 Law of Absentee Property), but also articulates—this article claims—an emerging hauntology/ontology of the cinematic image of the Palestinian in Israel.

This article argues that the contemporary cinema of Palestinians in Israel is essentially a cinema of ghosts, where temporal disjointedness and spatial displacement constantly disturb the project of national identity formation; from the haunting of Jaffa in the work of Kamal Aljafari, where Palestinian ‘ghosts’ are re-inscribed onto the work of Israeli director Menahem Golan, to the ghostly lacuna between Arab and Jew which haunts Amos Gitai’s Ana Arabia (2013).

Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s notion of ‘the spectral’, alongside a critical analysis of what Edward Said termed al-dakhil (the interior), the article examines Palestinian interiors as haunted sites. The article contends that from within these sites, Palestinian cinematic remnants stubbornly refuse to be buried, haunting and acting back on the State which has attempted to repress them.  


Haunting; Remnant; Derrida; Edward Said; Palestinian Cinema

Full Text:



Aljafari, Kamal. 2010. “This Place They Dried from The Sea: An Interview with Kamal Aljafari”. Interviewed by Nasrin Himada. Montreal Serai, September 28 2010. Online. Accessed July 07 2013.

Aljafari, Kamal. 2016. “Kamal Aljafari: Unfinished Balconies in the Sea”. Interviewed by Nathalie Handal. Montreal Serai, September 18 2016. Online. Accessed December 04 2016.

Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. The Time That Remains. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Anidjar, Gil. 2003. The Jew, the Arab: A History of the Enemy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Barthes, Roland. 1993. Camera Lucida. London. Vintage.

Butler, Judith. 2004. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso.

Cohen, Hillel. 2002. “The Internal Refugees in the State of Israel: Israeli Citizens, Palestinian Refugees”. Palestine-Israel Journal 9 (2). Online. Accessed March 03 2017.

Dabashi, Hamad. 2012. “Elia Suleiman's cinema as the premonition of the Arab revolutions.” Aljazeera, April 17 2012. Online. Accessed February 25 2020.

Darwish, Mahmoud. 2010. Absent Presence. Translated by Mohammad Shaheen. London: Hesperus Press Limited.

Darwish, Mahmoud. 2012. “ ‘Exile Is So Strong Within Me, I May Bring It to the Land’ A Landmark 1996 Interview with Mahmoud Darwish”. Interviewed by Helit Yeshurun. Journal of Palestine Studies 42 (1): 46-70.

Derrida, Jacques. 1994. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International. New York/Abingdon: Routledge.

Derrida, Jacques. 2002. "Spectographies". In Echographies Of Television, 1st ed., 113-134. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Emmett, Chad. 1995. Beyond the Basilica: Christians and Muslims in Nazareth. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Freud, Sigmund. 2003. The Uncanny. Translated by David McLintock. London: Penguin.

Gitai, Amos. 2014. “Interview with Amos Gitai”. Interviewed by Nienke Huitenga., July 17 2014 [online]. Accessed November 03 2014.

Hochberg, Gil Z. 2007. In Spite Of Partition: Jews, Arabs And The Limits Of Separatist Imagination. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hochberg, Gil Z. 2015. Visual Occupations: Violence and Visibility in a Conflict Zone. Durham/London: Duke University Press.

Levy, Lital. 2012. “Nation, Village, Cave: A Spatial Reading of 1948 in Three Novels of Anton Shammas, Emile Habiby, and Elias Khoury”. Jewish Social Studies 18 (3): 10-26.

Mulvey, Laura. 2006. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books.

Said, Edward W. 1986. After The Last Sky. London: Vintage.

Said, Edward W. 2000. Reflections on Exile. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Said, Edward W. 2003. Freud and the non-European. London: Verso.

Shammas, Anton. 2002. “Autocartography: The case of Palestine, Michigan”. Palestine-Israel Journal 9 (2). Online. Accessed April 10 2016.

Shohat, Ella . 2006. Taboo memories, diasporic voices. Durham: Duke University Press.

Shohat, Ella. 2010. Israeli Cinema. 2nd ed. London: I.B. Tauris.

Suleiman, Elia. 2003. “The Occupation (and Life) Through an Absurdist Lens”. Journal of Palestine Studies, 32 (2): 63-73.

Zochrot. 2014. “al-Manshiyya Neighborhood”. Accessed March 24 2020.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Robert George White

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Evaluation systems:

ERIH PLUS  (The European Reference Index for the Humanities and the Social Sciences)

LATINDEX e ProQuest / CSA (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts)

Journal of Communication and Languages |  ISSN 2183-7198

 Licença Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.