Despite snow which prevented many from attending, there was a good turnout for our film showing, which was introduced by Richard Stainton and followed by an informative discussion.
Jaffa, the orange’s clockwork narrates the visual history of the famous citrus fruit originated from Palestine and known worldwide for centuries as “Jaffa oranges”. The history of the orange is the history of this land. Through photography and cinema, poetry, paintings, workers of the citruses’ industry and historians, memory and present mythologies, Palestinians and Israelis cross and combine.
The close reading of the “Jaffa” brand’s representation is a reflection on western orientalist phantasms surrounding the ‘holy land’ and the ‘State of Israel’ and a way to reveal the untold story of what was once a commune industry and symbol to Arabs and Jews in Palestine.
Jaffa’s orange is one of the symbols that helped build the Zionist discourse about Palestine: a “desert we have made bloom”.
Based on photographic and cinematographic documents, some going back as far as to the 19th century, Eyal Sivan’s film shows the orange groves at a time when Arab Jaffa was one of Palestine’s most populated and thriving cities.
From the picking of the fruit to its packaging before exportation, the orange was a source of revenue for thousands of peasants and workmen, not only from Palestine, but from Egypt, Syria and Lebanon too. Jews and Arabs worked together in the orange groves. These images were progressively replaced by socialist realist images, Israeli style, depicting labor and songs, emancipated women in shorts, etc.: it was the spreading of the “Jewish Labor”, the socialist call to action, excluding the Arabs. In 1948, Jaffa was ruined under the bombs and most of its population was gone. Jaffa’s orange then became the symbol of an Arab-free Israel. An international advertising campaign imposed the name “Jaffa”, like a trademark, concealing the city of Jaffa, its more than a hundred-year-old orange groves, and the history of the Jewish Arab cooperation over this legendary fruit..
Jaffa, the orange’s clockwork is a political essay unfolding the story of the invention and the visual history of the world’s wide famous citrus fruit originated in Palestine and known around the world as “Jaffa oranges”. While the orange become the symbol of the Zionist enterprise and the state of Israel, for Palestinians it symbolises the lost of their homeland and its destruction. Through a careful reading of the visual representation of the brand, the film reflects on western phantasms related to the ‘Orient’ the ‘holy land’ and the State of Israel and unveils the untold story of what was ones a commune symbol and industry to Arabs and Jews in Palestine.
The oranges of Jaffa, the fruits, the orchards, the brand name and the city – that gave to the fruit its name, are the backdrop of the commune Jewish-Arab life in Palestine before the establishment of Israel, the colonial covetousness, the account of obliteration, nationalization, then repudiation in order to propose a joint historical narrative.