Peace Now head banned from Knesset after film fiasco

Peace Now head banned fr

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL,
October 27, 2009 02:56
3 minute read.

Peace Now learned the hard way that it lacks Sacha Baron Cohen's charm. Cohen's movie Borat might have been a box office smash, but when Peace Now tried to mimic its mock-documentary style by sending undercover actors to interview National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, they were "panned" by the Knesset guard and ousted from the building. On Monday, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was not laughing when he protested the movie ploy and banned Peace Now's secretary-general, Yariv Oppenheimer, from entering the Knesset until further notice. On Sunday, Ben-Ari agreed to be interviewed by a trio of young men who he believed were religious right-wing students working on a school media project. Ben-Ari's assistant - far-Right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir - helped them acquire the necessary permission to enter the Knesset. The trio passed through security, together with their film equipment. Ben-Ari's office said later that in the course of the interview - which was held in his Knesset offices - he had become suspicious, due to their questions, as to whether the three were in fact students researching a project. The MK then contacted the Knesset Guard, which is responsible for maintaining order in the building, and who questioned the three. Under questioning, they admitted that they were working on a film on behalf of Peace Now for production company EPW. They said their aim was to produce clips of interviews with right-wing politicians and personalities to expose their views. A further check carried out by the Knesset Guard revealed that the three had visited the Knesset a week earlier to conduct interviews with MKs Danny Danon (Likud) and Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu). In the recording of Danon, released Monday, the Likud MK was asked, "What would you do if you discovered that one of your family members was going out with an Ishmaelite (Arab)?" "That would be very serious - I wouldn't wish that upon any father in Israel," responded Danon. Danon's office said that the MK welcomed the release of the recordings and stood by every word he had said. "It is sad that a group of outcasts that call themselves Peace Now and are funded by foreign states deal with deceit and failed attempts to blacken the name of Israel and its leaders throughout the world," said Danon. "Their trail of deceit proves that they have lost all sense of the Israeli public opinion." Some of the most inflammatory statements, however, were not issued by the MKs, but by other figures also interviewed by the Peace Now group. Radio broadcaster Dudu Elharar affirmed statements attributed to him - that former Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin and Hebrew University Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell should be tried and sentenced to the death penalty for their support of handing over territory to the Palestinians. Regarding former prime minister Ariel Sharon, Elharar said that "he deserves the most serious punishment in the heavens. I would have liked him to be able to feel it - his suffering. He is simply a lowlife, a cheat and now, it seems, a thief." He added that "the first time that the words 'blazing hatred' really held meaning for me were regarding Arik Sharon. Not anyone else, not even Hitler. His family also deserves to suffer - they were with him step by step." Srulik Einhorn, a co-owner of EPW, said the Ben-Ari interview was one of eight his company had conducted for Peace Now. The idea, Oppenheimer said, was to do Borat-style film clips "to create a different kind of dialogue." His group, he said, was within its legal rights to conduct that kind of interview. Oppenheimer took issue with Rivlin's decision to oust the actors and ban him from the Knesset, a move he said he hoped was temporary. People should not be banned from conducting interviews based on their political beliefs, he said. "With all due respect to Mr. Ruby Rivlin, I do not think he should investigate who was making the movie. He needs to investigate the actions of the Knesset guards."


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