Arab bloggers: Jordan school can't admit Israelis

"Imagine, sitting next to you will IDF reservist who may have killed or maimed an Arab."

October 3, 2006 00:19
3 minute read.
arab computer 88

arab computer 88. (photo credit: )


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Jordanian King Abdullah II's promise earlier this month to create a Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts in Jordan (RSICA), which will include Israeli film students, has caused a stir among bloggers on line from all over the Middle East. "I read what blogger Laith Majali posted about the film school and it said the school is also open to Israelis. Imagine, sitting next to you will be an Israeli who is an IDF reservist and who may have killed or maimed an Arab a few kilometers away from the film school. And then we in Jordan will help him make films about evil and terrorist Arabs. This is like Israeli film schools admitting skinheads and neo-Nazis," writes one anonymous commentator on, the blog of an LA film student. The project, which was initiated on September 20 in New York by the Jordanian king along with the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California, hopes to enroll men and women from the Middle East in a specialized learning environment dedicated to teaching all disciplines of the cinematic arts. Participants in the inauguration ceremony also included Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of the School of Cinema-Television; Frank Price, chair of the school's Board of Councilors and USC trustee; Samer Mouasher, commissioner of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan; as well as Israeli filmmaker Dan Katzir; and producer of Syrian descent Malek Akkad, producer of the film Halloween. To initiate the film school, Abdullah drew on the expertise of Jewish filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who recommended the partnership with USC. Spielberg, who did not attend the event, wrote in a press release: "When His Majesty the king approached me on the subject of a Jordan-based, world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel, I immediately saw the importance and significance of such a venture for the people and the future of the region. I knew as a trustee of USC and a member of the school's Board of Councilors that the university had the exact expertise he needed for this incredible initiative." It was Spielberg's comment about including Israel in the vision for improving the film industry in the region that made bloggers angry. Among the comments on were: " film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel The New Middle East? You can count me out." Another commentator by the name of Shlomo responded: "Thank you. I can't [wait] to learn filmmaking in Jordan to make films about terrorist Arabs." "People seem to be very skeptical about this project," Katzir told The Jerusalem Post in an interview last week. "I believe that King Abdullah was extremely brave to initiate this program a day after the [president] of Iran made some comments attacking Israel and there was a tense atmosphere in New York." "I see it as a statement of peace and tolerance and hopefully it will work out," continued Katzir, who said he had joked with the Commissioner of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan about how the world needed to convince those who do not want peace to see that it is much more fun to make movies than war. "Movies are an amazing way to create dialogue, they have the ability to show the humanity of both sides of a conflict. On the news we only see the rhetoric, we don't see the culture of others," said Katzir, whose films have won 22 international awards and a nomination for the Israeli Academy Awards. "The Middle East does not have a significant film industry," continued Katzir. "And Jordan is in a position to become an international center for people in the area to collaborate." Construction of the RSICA campus is set to begin in early 2007 in Akaba and its facilities will include digital screening rooms, post-production, animation and interactive media laboratories. Faculty will be drawn from industry, arts and academic institutions around the globe. First admissions will be accepted in September 2008.

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