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Palestinians have no role to play in Israel's film academy

Out of the 982 members of the Israeli Academy of Film and Television, there is not a single Palestinian.

Tamar Tal and Barak Heymann receiving Ophir Award for Best Documentary Film "Life in Stills" in Hafia. September 21, 2012. "Fill the Void", which was named Best Picture of 2012 and will represent Israel in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the American Academy Awards on February 24, 2013. (Avishag Shaar-Yashuv/Flash90)

Tamar Tal and Barak Heymann receiving Ophir Award for Best Documentary Film “Life in Stills” in Hafia. September 21, 2012. “Fill the Void”, which was named Best Picture of 2012 and will represent Israel in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the American Academy Awards on February 24, 2013. (Avishag Shaar-Yashuv/Flash90)

I leave my gear with the rest of the production team and go downstairs to take a walk around the village. At the village center I find a bit of shade overlooking the local pub. While sitting and rolling a cigarette, I notice a woman walking by with a garbage bag. “A local,” I think to myself, and decide to rid myself of the boredom that has come to be mixed with depression.

“Excuse me,” I turn to her as cool as I can. “Do you know where the mosque is?”

“What?” she answers in shock. I noticed her blue eyes still in shock when she started to shake her head for quite some time after I asked my question.

She keeps walking. I sit and look at her. She throws a garbage bag right next to the entrance of the pub, before walking inside to say hello to someone. I wondered to myself what bothered her more: the fact that she lied to me, or the fact that she just walked into a mosque that had been stolen from its owners in order to say hello to a friend over a beer, before returning to the stolen Palestinian house she lives in, which has an “art gallery” in its yard. But at least they tell Palestinians to stop building mosques, right?

I always hated the “artist colony” of Ein Hod, established in place of Ein Hud, a Palestinian village whose inhabitants were expelled from their homes. A few weeks ago the director of a movie I am producing decided to drive there and film some shots for a movie about the Nakba. Once we finished I pressed the crew to go back to the car. I’ll only come back here when Ein Hod goes back to being Palestinian, I told them.

A coffee shop in Ein Hod, an 'artists colony' in northern Israel, July 16, 2016. Hundreds of Palestinians were expelled from the village during the 1948 War. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

A coffee shop in Ein Hod, an ‘artists colony’ in northern Israel, July 16, 2016. Hundreds of Palestinians were expelled from the village during the 1948 War. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

The village (which is more of a settlement) is located half an hour from Haifa. Its residents were expelled in 1948, and some of them re-established their village just up the mountain — a village the state refused to recognize until 2005. The whole thing represents the ugliness of the Zionist Left’s ideology. Under the guise of “contemporary art,” Ein Hod’s residents live on the ruins of the lives of Palestinian refugees, in beautiful homes that belonged to others 70 years ago. “But it’s okay,” they’ll say to themselves, “I opened a gallery here. I’m leftist!”

Beyond the willingness to make bad art to silence their conscience, many Israeli artists often hold racist beliefs and exclude their Palestinian colleagues. The recent controversy surrounding the Israeli Academy of Film and Television is a prime example of that.

Several weeks ago the academy announced its nominees for the Ophir Awards, which recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry (a film that wins Best Picture usually becomes Israel’s submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film). Beyond the fact that Udi Aloni’s film, Junction 48, which stars Palestinian hip hop star Tamer Nafar and presents the Palestinian narrative in an uncompromising way, was not even nominated for Best Picture (despite its global success) — was the issue of representation of Palestinian citizens in the academy.

Samar Qupty and Tamer Nafar, the stars of 'Junction 48.'

Samar Qupty and Tamer Nafar, the stars of ‘Junction 48.’

Spoiler alert: there are none.

That’s right — among the 982 academy members, not a single one is Palestinian. Why? Because of the fact that many Palestinian filmmakers, if not most of them, understand the role of art better than their Israeli colleagues. Palestinian filmmakers understand the notions of justice and morality, while many of their Israeli counterparts simply don’t.

The judges of the Israeli Academy prefer to pick a film from the “shooting and crying” genre to send to the Oscars — the kind of film that shows Israeli soldiers wiping clean their conscience — or at the very least a film that focuses on Arab crime without ever referring to the Palestinian disaster. On the other hand, most Palestinian artists will talk about occupation and the struggle against oppression. The Israeli artist will clean his conscience, while the Palestinian will remain in his or her struggle.

‘They don’t deserve it’

The story is not that Junction 48 was not nominated. Let’s give the academy the benefit of the doubt and assume that their considerations were professional. The question, then, is why there is not a single Palestinian member in the academy. Why, out of 982 judges, is there not one Palestinian? How could it be that in an art form known for its critical and left-wing outlook, Israel’s academy does not accept Arabs?

So it turns out that the academy actually does accept Arabs. In fact the academy is open to every Arab working in the film industry, and acceptance is conditioned upon request and meeting the necessary criteria. So are Arabs simply missing another opportunity? Not at all.

Everything comes back to the occupation. After all, the Israeli academy chose to be on the side of occupation and apartheid rather than on the side of those fighting against occupation and apartheid. The academy never once took a stand against the government or in support of ending the occupation. They prefer to think that this is not their role. How can a Palestinian artist driven by an ideology of resistance — and most Palestinians filmmakers are driven by this ideology — agree to be part of such a Zionist institution?

Few in Israel understand the role of art. Good art is not a gallery in a stolen Palestinian home. This is not good art, but rather barbarity disguised as art. Real art raises questions, and isn’t busy running away from the answers.

Just as the residents of Ein Hod continue to hide, the Israeli Academy of Film and Television continues to run away. It is a good thing, then, that it cannot pride itself on even a single Palestinian member. It certainly doesn’t deserve it.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      I always hated the “Polish Town” of Gdansk, established in place of Danzig, a German town whose inhabitants were expelled from their homes.

      Can’t you see how stupid that sounds?
      In both cases, your forgetting about the war that occurred during which the expulsion took place.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      @Lewis: Except the Palestinians didn’t invade Palestine. And the incoming Zionists did expel the Palestinians of Ein Hod and many other places. You’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. History is more complicated than you and Moshe Feiglin will ever admit, and the solutions are more complicated. Bringing in “the Germans” yet again (what a propaganda cliche) is just another form of anti-Semitizing and a pretty crude one:

      Reply to Comment
    3. i_like_ike52

      I am confused. The writer says there are no Palestinians among the 982 members of the Israeli Academy of film. That is incorrect. They are all Palestinians, Palestinian Jews. That being the case, he must be referring to Arabs. You see, the term “Palestine” has two meanings. One is the name of the land that Arabs call “Palestine” and that Jews called “Eretz Israel”. Anyone living there, Christian, Muslim, Arab or Jew, is by definition, a Palestinian.
      There is a second meaning as well. That is the geopolitical entity called “the Palestinian Authority” Anyone who is a citizen of that Authority can also be called a Palestinian.
      So we now come to the Israeli Arabs. They are Palestinians according to the first definition, but not the second. However, as I said Israeli Jews are also Palestinians according to the first definition. Thus, to refer to Israeli Arabs ad “Palestinian Israelis” is absolutely meaningless in that it can be referring to Jews OR Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    4. R5

      Ben: Wow dude, are you that ignorant? The Germans expelled from Danzig didn’t invade Danzig, there were plenty there well before the war. And in Sudetenland. They were expelled because OTHER Germans invaded…sound familiar? Arabs from outside Palestine invade -> Jews have to fight all the Arabs at once -> Arabs lose war and territory. And you’re citing Tom again? You really don’t get it man. Tom and his friends (and yes they mostly know each other) look down on you. Right now you’re copying the speech of broke-ass graduate students and bloggers who are trying to build resumes by publishing the same hit piece on Electronic Intifada over and over and over. And you’re their #1 fan boy. You think they respect that you swallow everything they say, when their careers depend on pandering to BDS? For the sake of human decency I hope you’re getting paid to write these comments.

      Reply to Comment
    5. R5

      Rami has to be one of the most legit and sincere +972 writers. He expresses his irredentism and desire for Arab reconquest of specific places with 100% clarity and confidence. Like Norman Finkelstein, I can’t respect the BDS playbook folks who are constantly obfuscating their anti-Zionism behind ignorant slogans about human rights and international law. But when someone just plainly says they want a Jewish village to be Palestinian again, I dig the honesty. Props.

      Reply to Comment
    6. martin

      Rami, thx for showing there are still some fair Jews in Israel, sound like real people.

      When visiting, I hear so much anti-Palestinian hate there, even among women in tel Aviv, up to now USA media only listen to the bitter settler-greed bigots who are growing and will continue to grow ant-Zionist attitudes blaming all Israeli for not repenting and becoming fair people.

      Is there more to do from us abroad bedies remnind BDS is like anti-apartheid to rescue Israel from hatred details and destruction?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Lewis from Afula

      Rami, what is your position regarding “stolen Greek homes” in Northern Cyprus?
      Do Greeks have a right to return?

      What do you think about French Colons expelled from Algeria in the early 1960s. Do they have a right to reclaim their homes?

      What about 1 M Mizrachi Jews expelled from Arab States. Can they return?

      I am awaiting your answer.

      Reply to Comment