No gov't funding, for now, for anti-Zionist filmmaker

Eyal Silvan filming documentary marking Israel's 60th Independence Day.

eyal sivan 88 (photo credit: )
eyal sivan 88
(photo credit: )
Despite widespread, often angry reports to the contrary, a controversial documentary marking Israel's 60th Independence Day next year has not been granted taxpayer money, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Celebrations marking Israel's 59th year of statehood had barely ended last week when controversy erupted over plans for Jaffa, one of at least 10 historical documentaries being considered for public funding in the yearlong lead-up to Independence Day 2008. With few details known about the proposed film, the outcry has centered on its would-be maker, Eyal Sivan, an anti-Zionist director with a long history of overseas activism against Israel. In a telephone interview Monday afternoon, the general manager of the Rabinovich Foundation, one of three groups responsible for the decision, denied that Sivan had already won financing for his film, a documentary that would draw heavily on footage from Israeli film archives and could receive as much as NIS 250,000 in government funding. The film has received approval from the other two bodies - the Jerusalem Cinematheque and Channel 8, the cable documentary network that will broadcast the selected documentary next May. But although the official, Giora Einy, confirmed that the film has also cleared the first stage of the Rabinovich Fund's vetting process, he said its ultimate selection remained less than guaranteed. "The other bodies have already chosen Sivan's film, but we have said that we will not accept it automatically," Einy said, criticizing what he described as erroneous reports rapidly picked up and disseminated last week by Hebrew-language media. At most, Einy added, Sivan could receive NIS 500,000 for his film - not the NIS 650,000 widely reported - and no more than NIS 250,000 of the total sum would come from taxpayer money. The Rabinovich Foundation is among the government-supported cultural bodies that allocates financing for Israeli films. Regardless of the final outcome, the debate over Sivan's film isn't likely to subside in the near future, even if the Rabinovich Foundation rejects the documentary when it makes its final decision May 10. Government funding for the film, which would explore parallels between Israel's public image and the Jaffa brand of oranges, has already been called a foreshadowing of Israeli national "suicide" in the pages of Ma'ariv, which condemned Channel 8, the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Rabinovich Fund for their willingness to consider subsidizing Sivan's project. Described in the same Ma'ariv column as an "out-and-out hater of Israel," Sivan has been an activist since his youth, when the Haifa-born director joined a movement protesting "religious coercion" in Jerusalem. The future filmmaker moved to Paris in 1985, not long after bypassing service in the IDF - mental health factors were cited in his military exemption - and saw his international profile rise in 1999 with the release of The Specialist, a documentary about the Jerusalem trial of Final Solution mastermind Adolf Eichmann. Sivan's anti-Zionist work has intensified in recent years, with the director signing a public statement during last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah denouncing "the brutality and cruelty of Israeli policy" during IDF operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Sivan appeared earlier this year as a speaker at "Israeli Apartheid Week" in London, delivering a lecture on "Zionism, Israeli Media and Rationalizing Racist Consciousness." Reached by telephone Monday in Paris, Sivan declined to comment on his political views or the as-yet undetermined future of his film, saying he had "absolutely nothing to add" to remarks he'd made earlier to the Yediot Aharonot Web site. In that interview, Sivan said he'd turned down four separate opportunities to take French citizenship in lieu of his Israeli passport, and that he'd been the victim of "character assassination" in the Israeli media. Sivan's refusal to make additional remarks was mirrored by Channel 8 and the Jerusalem Cinematheque, both of which ignored requests for comment about their decision to bankroll the proposed film.