Extraterritorial Images: Visual Presence and Absence in the Representation of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
My thesis examines contemporary manifestations of extraterritoriality and the logic of extraterritorial representation by looking at a concrete study case: the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. On May 31, 2010, a convoy of six vessels carrying humanitarian aid and protesting the Israeli seige of Gaza was attacked in the international waters of the Mediteranean. The Israeli attack began with an attempt to shut down all satellite connections to and from a flotilla, and marked the beginning of a conflict of images. On board the largest vessel, the Mavi Marmara, the confrontation resulted in the death of ten activists. After taking control of the ships, the Israeli military confiscated all memory cards of cameras, mobile phones, and hard discs. The flotilla has been the subject of national and international procedures ever since, including a court case brought before the Criminal Court at Istanbul in 2012 against senior Israeli commanders, which has been taking place since in absentia. My dissertation investigates the complex logic of the event and its aftermath, focusing on the notion of extraterritoriality—geographical, legal and political, but also visual—in order to reflect on the effort to control vital visual documentation. Viewed from this perspective, extraterritoriality applies not only to people and spaces, as the concept has traditionally been understood, but also may be applied to images when the latter are excluded or exempted from one law system and subjected to another. In the flotilla case, important visual documentation has been kept at a legal distance precisely in order to keep it away from investigations in which it may potentially serve as vital evidence. My suggestion is that the concept of extraterritoriality may help us understand the way in which these images have been legally excluded from public scrutiny, especially in cases involving a conflict between competing legal systems.
Member of Roundtable Two