Netflix has launched a collection of movies on its global streaming service by and about Palestinians called Palestinian Stories.
The collection has drawn criticism from some Israelis, and raises questions on whether releasing movies in Israel by directors who support the BDS movement – which advocates for a cultural boycott of Israel – violates the company’s guidelines.
Netflix said that they are releasing 32 films in the program. On the Israeli version of Netflix, 28 movies came up Sunday in a search for Palestinian Stories. A spokesperson for Netflix confirmed that some of this content, such as the Oscar-nominated short film The Present by Farah Nabulsi, which was already available on Netflix, has been repackaged as Palestinian Stories.
Im Tirtzu, an Israeli Right-wing non-governmental organization, researched the directors of the films and found that of 19 directors who made them, at least 15 have voiced support for BDS. But apparently, these directors do not have a problem with the films being shown on the Israeli Netflix service, or have not yet voiced this concern.
Ameen Nayfeh, director of The Crossing, one of the movies included in Palestinian Stories, told Reuters that he was happy that it was: “This is why we make films, because we want our stories to travel, we want people to know about us. Now when you type Palestine in the search button on Netflix, you will see so many different titles that you can watch. Before, when I would type Palestine, I would get Israeli titles.”
Earlier this year, Nayfeh and a number of these directors signed a statement in response to the Gaza war in May, calling for governments to “cut trade, economic and cultural relations with Israel” and calling Israel “an apartheid regime.”
Representatives of Im Tirtzu oppose showing these films on Netflix.
“It’s disgraceful that Netflix is featuring propaganda films directed by BDS supporters whose sole goal is to slander and delegitimize the only democracy in the Middle East," said Matan Peleg, CEO of the group. “If Netflix wants to tell the Palestinian story, it should start by contacting the thousands of bereaved Israeli families who are victims of Palestinian terrorism.”
Netflix did not comment directly on the connection of any of the directors to BDS, releasing a statement on its reason for releasing the films and reaffirming its support for Israeli programming, saying, “Netflix believes in artistic freedom and is continuously investing in authentic storytelling from all over the world. The Palestinian film collection will showcase the depth and diversity of the Palestinian experience, exploring people’s lives, dreams, families, friendships, and love. Since its launch, Netflix invested in dozens of Israeli titles and recently released an official statement on Twitter and Instagram outlining its position against antisemitism in all its forms, including the worrying increase in hate crimes and Holocaust denial.”
Netflix distributes its content all over the world, including Israeli shows such as Fauda, which have been quite popular in the Arab world, including in Lebanon.
BDS has previously called to boycott films by directors who have violated their guidelines. It has advocated for a boycott of films by Ziad Doueiri, a Lebanese director who made the Oscar-nominated 2017 movie, for example, because he made a movie in 2012, The Attack, that was filmed partly in Israel with many Israeli actors.
As of press time, BDS had not returned a request for comment on Palestinian movies being shown on Netflix in Israel.