Part One: Introduction
Part Two: Reviewing the Literature
Part Three: The Star Trek Universe (part one)
CHAPTER TWO: THE STAR TREK UNIVERSE (part two)
Section Two: A Palestinian Allegory
"Stories teach in memorable ways. In that sense, they are much more valuable than rote learning and memorization"
While the previous discussion is one of a general transition from The Original Series to The Next Generation wherein we may observe how the imaginings of their time of creation influence and contain the raced and gendered future created by their writers and producers, I want to move now to a more specific example of the working-out-of contemporary concerns on screen. While there are many themes to choose from, I have decided to choose an allegory that proved to be a long standing influence on the franchise. I choose this particular allegory not only for its widespread use across three Star Trek series (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager) but because it remains a current topic of contention in USian society, and most of all because it is an excellent example of the way stories allow conversations on topics that, when engaging with their real world counterparts, are typically silenced.
This allegory is that of the Israeli occupation of Palestine as told through the experiences of two alien species and their planets: Cardassia and Bajor, as seen from a USian perspective through the Federation. While executive producer Rick Berman has said that these stories came from an amalgamation of various occupied/colonized peoples, particularly "the Kurds, the Palestinians, the Jews in the 1940s, [and] the boat people from Haiti”
(Nemecek 178), it is my contention
that given the time these episodes aired, and the way the storyline progressed,
the most relevant allusion is indeed to Palestine/Israel. In fact, the official editorial for the VHS
version of the episode “Ensign Ro” on Amazon.com reads, in part: TNG’s “take on the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict…introducing the dispute between Cardassians and the displaced Bajoran
people” (Spletzer). This interpretation
of the Bajoran/Cardassian conflict remains a contentious one in the Star Trek fandom, as evidenced by its
wide discussion online (DevilEyes) and the diversity of
opinion within those discussions (quinnox, Bernardi, Anonymous).
The Palestinian allegory is rejected outright by those who maintain the Bajorans are only the generalized amalgamation Berman professes to have intended, as well as those who see potential antisemitism in the equating of Bajor with Palestine (and thus Israel with the evil Cardassians)
(TVTropes), or those who
subscribe to the Zionist ideology of Palestine as a land abandoned and then (rightfully)
returned to by a non-Arab Jewish population.
For this last group of fans in particular there is nothing reminiscent
of Zionist Israelis in the colonialist Cardassians, because the Cardassians are
not attempting to “reclaim their ancestral homeworld” (sic) (Anonymous). However, I reject these arguments, and
particularly reject the Zionist foundations of the last. Instead, after careful consideration of these
spirited debates, the words of the producers, and my own critical viewership of
the episodes in question, I continue to believe and will argue below that the
most accurate allegory remains that of an alternately radical/liberal
anti-colonial critique of Palestine under occupation, and the imagining of
Palestine and Israel as at “peace” as two