Competitive memories: the Holocaust and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in contemporary British culture

Summer 2018
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:93.03.2017

Recent trends in memory studies have focused on the possibility of creating links between different forms of memory and considering these links as non-competitive. Michael Rothberg (2009; 2011) and Max Silverman (2013) propose a concept of memory that creates a productive comparative framework for understanding different types of memory without, however, creating a hierarchy of suffering between them. In this article, I interrogate the idea of non-competitive memories by focusing on the representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Marina Lewycka’s novel We Are All Made of Glue (2009) and Peter Kosminsky’s mini-series The Promise (2011) in light of how the Holocaust and the British Mandate in Palestine are remembered in the UK. Offering close readings of the narrative strategies used to engage with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in these works, I argue that Israel/Palestine can be seen as a litmus case to show that even though, in theory, Rothberg’s and Silverman’s concepts of memory are able to avoid a competition of suffering, in practice the Holocaust is still perceived as a validation of exclusive Jewish rights to territorial sovereignty in metropolitan discourses, thus often overriding the Palestinian history of suffering as well as Palestinian claims to a national homeland. 

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