“Beyond Flesh: Queer Masculinities and Nationalism in Israeli Cinema”–marginalizing queerness for the national good

Yosef, Raz. “Beyond Flesh: Queer Masculinities and Nationalism in Israeli Cinema”, Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Marginalizing Queerness for National Good

Amos Lassen

It has only been recent that Israel’s cinema industry has become part of the world-wide movie business. When the state of Israel was established in 1948, making movies was far from a priority for the new country; it was more important to create a national identity. Zionism, the backbone of the nation was both a political and ideological program and movie making included a sexual identity which the country was not ready to embrace. When the country was ready to become involved in the world of cinema, the creation of a national identity caused all aspects of sexuality, including queerness to be marginalized. It was felt that the Jewish male body had to be nationalized and rescued from the polemics of anti-Semitism, scientific-medical discourse associating homosexuality with disease, madness, degeneracy, sexual perversity and felinity. The Zionist movement wanted to transform the nature of European Jewish masculinity and the early films that were made emphasized through both visual and narrative tropes the image of the super-masculine and militaristic-nation builder and this image depended heavily on the repudiation of the feminine side of men.

The new macho Jewish male became intertwined with attitudes of fathering children, racial improvement, masculine hygiene and perspectives from the Orient. This, in a sense, marginalized the population of Israel that came from the East—the Arab countries and north Africa. The new masculine Jewish male was Ashkenazi.

Raz Yosef critiques the construction of masculinities and queerness in modern Israeli cinema and thereby successfully undertakes an investigation of male sexuality within the national culture of modern Israel. His book critically explores the complex and crucial role that Israeli cinema plays in the construction of heterosexual masculinity and how the homosexual element within Israel is marginalized in the attempt to build a national masculine identity. “Beyond Flesh” suggests a mode for the investigation of the role of male sexualities within a national culture and challenges the tendency that lies within modern critical discourses to look at race, sexuality and nationalism as separate issues. Raz claims that these must intersect and thereby open a space in between these categories in which subjectivity exists.

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