Daughter of 'martyr' decries 'Paradise'

Petition with 36,000 signatures denounces Paradise Now Oscar honors.

nonie darwish 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
nonie darwish 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The daughter of an Arab "martyr" killed by Israeli forces presented a petition with 36,000 signatures to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday, denouncing its selection of Paradise Now for Oscar honors. Nonie Darwish harshly criticized the Palestinian film about two suicide bombers for "putting a human face on the murderers of children."
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She warned that if Paradise Now, one of five nominees in the best foreign film category, wins an Oscar at Sunday evening's ceremony, "it will send a message to young Arabs that we are accepted in the West and we have won." Darwish was the sole speaker at a news conference sponsored by The Israel Project, which organized the petition campaign and which seeks to educate the American media and public about Israel. The group also placed a full-page ad Friday in the entertainment industry daily Variety featuring photos of an Israeli bus and teenager blown up by a suicide bomber. The news conference was held at a Hollywood restaurant adjacent to the Kodak Theater, the site of Sunday's glittering Academy Awards. Darwish grew up in the Gaza Strip in the early 1950s, then under Egyptian rule. There her father, Lt.-Col. Mustafa Hafaz, was the leader of the fedayeen movement, a forerunner of subsequent terrorist organization. Israeli forces killed Hafaz in 1956. Reporters questioned the timing of the petition presentation, coming after all the ballots for Oscar winners had been cast and counted. Other questions focused on the validity and effectiveness of the campaign, which provided publicity for a film few Americans would otherwise see. However, Darwish, 57, and now a Los Angeles resident, refused to be distracted. "There should be films about those Arabs who refuse to become jihadists," she said. "We give too much honor to terrorists and not enough honor to their victims... I look forward to the day that Hollywood honors a Palestinian film that advocates peace." Placed behind Darwish as she spoke was a large montage with the faces of some 300 Israeli victims of suicide bombers. There was a separate photograph of 16-year old Asaf Zur, who was killed in a Haifa bus bombing. His father, Yossi Zur, was among the first to speak out against Paradise Now and he had planned to present the petition in person to Academy officials. However, the third yahrzeit of his son's death on March 5 falls precisely on the date of the Academy Awards and he decided to remain in Israel to mourn with his family.