Blood on their hands: The story of a photograph in the Israeli national discourse

Zohar Kampf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The intention of this paper is to describe the evolution of a photographic narrative constructed in the Israeli media. The analysis will focus on the case of the 'lynch in Ramallah' photograph, an image of upheld blood-stained hands of young Palestinian photographed immediately following the lynching of two IDF soldiers, that was first published on 13 October, 2000. The paper will provide an account of several processes involved in the production and consumption of photographs in contemporary violent conflicts: First, a detailed semiotic description of the characteristics of the lynch image will demonstrate how it became a metonymic representation of the enemy and, thereafter, a defining reference for the ongoing conflict. Second, an account of the reproduction and distribution of the image will illustrate the way in which it's communicative mode changed through several visual processes, and how these changes function in the image contest. Third, an analysis of the role of national institutions in the constructed narrative will demonstrate the nature of the efforts invested in bring about closure to one particular episode, within the wider context of an ongoing and unfinished narrative such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By exploring the aforementioned practices this paper intends to conceptualize a basic structural element of the visual narrative - a thematic 'violation-revenge' pairing that emerges from traumatic photographs. This conceptualization will further contribute to our understanding of the role of collective visual archives during national conflicts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)263-285
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2006


  • Iconic images
  • Israeli National discourse
  • Media discourse
  • Photographic narrative
  • Traumatic photograph
  • Visual archive


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