Tel Aviv Cinematheque comes under fire over 'Nakba' film festival

Knesset Finance Committee to hold discussion about pulling funding for institution.

November 25, 2014 16:47
2 minute read.
Nakba Day

Nakba Day protest at Tel Aviv University. (photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)

The Knesset Finance Committee will hold an emergency discussion Wednesday on pulling funding from the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, which is holding a Nakba-themed film festival next week.

“This is a festival marking a Palestinian day of mourning, taking place near a historic date of utmost importance to the Jewish people, November 29, in which the UN decided on the partition plan which led to the declaration of the State of Israel’s creation,” said Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller, who requested the emergency discussion.

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In Arab parlance, the word “Nakba,” meaning “catastrophe,” refers to Israel’s winning the War of Independence, and its consequences for the Arab population.

According to the Cinematheque website, the three-day festival, titled “48 mm, the Second Annual Nakba and Return Festival,” aims to mark the partition plan as a “central turning point in the ongoing conflict and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians becoming refugees.”

The website says the festival’s goal is “to challenge the perception of this division in creative ways, and suggest alternatives for just civic existence of all the inhabitants of the country and its refugees.”

Shira Hertzanu – the public engagement director of Zochrot, which is putting on the festival – said that the Knesset discussion was an attempt to stifle democratic debate.

“This is an attempt at silencing, which is a sign of extreme and dangerous policy that tries to extract anything that does not accord with the view of those in power,” Hertzanu told The Jerusalem Post.

She linked the policy to the controversial “Jewish state bill,” which critics have said would make democracy secondary to Israel’s Jewish character.

In a letter to Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky, Miller said a body that receives state funds should not support the idea that the state’s creation was a catastrophe.

The Cinematheque gets NIS 250,000 of its budget from the government.

Slomiansky, a Bayit Yehudi MK, responded that he saw the situation of “a budgeted body identifying in practice with those who want to undo the achievements of the Zionist enterprise” as “grave.”

Hertzanu countered that the Nakba was not about mourning the creation of Israel, but about its consequences for Palestinians.

“The foundation of the state was another outcome of the war, but this is not what the term refers to. The focus is not on the State of Israel, but the hardships that were inflicted on the Palestinians who lived here, the Palestinians who were not able to return after the war,” she said.

A thriving democracy, she added, should challenge norms, narratives and history through art.

“We invite the Israeli public to come to the festival to learn, question and debate where its responsibility lies,” she said.

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