Three victims' fathers join petition to bar Palestinian film on bombers from Oscars

'Paradise Now' makes heroes of malicious murderers, says Yossi Mendelevich.

Sunday, March 5 is going to be a tough day for Yossi Zur, Yossi Mendelevich and Ron Kerman, who will mark the third anniversary of the murder of their children Assaf, Yuval and Tal by a suicide bomber who boarded an Egged bus in Haifa with the sole intent of killing as many people as possible. Seventeen people were killed in the explosion - nine off them children. March 5 is also the date for the gala 78th Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards - popularly known as the night of the Oscars. Among the films nominated is Paradise Now, about the indecision of a suicide bomber, the first international prize-winning movie by a Palestinian filmmaker. The film recently won the Golden Globe award.
The three fathers, aided by The Israel Project, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to strengthening Israel's public image worldwide, launched a petition aimed at having Paradise Now excluded from the list of Best Foreign Language nominees. In less than a month, they collected 32,000 signatures. On Wednesday, during a media conference in Jerusalem where they explained why they want the film to be dropped, they placed the petition in a large envelope to be delivered to the Academy in Los Angeles on Friday by Nonie Darwish, an Arab peace activist who was raised in Gaza. "This is not a call for censorship," explained Calev Ben-David, who heads The Israel Project's Jerusalem office. "This is not a call for limiting freedom of expression or freedom of artistic expression." The reasoning behind the petition, he said, is that the film severely lacks moral dimensions in dealing with victims of suicide bombings and their families. "If this had been about 9/11 terrorists justifying their actions just as the planes were hitting the Twin Towers, and you didn't see the consequences, can you imagine it being nominated for the Acadamy Awards?" he asked. Zur said that he had gone to see the film to learn its message. In fact he has seen the film many times, and he believes it to be "extremely dangerous" not only to the Middle East but to the whole world. If the movie continues to win prizes, he warned, it will give suicide bombers an excuse for their actions, adding: "Now they can say that what they do is legitimate." Free speech and free artistic expression are sacred, Zur continued, but cautioned that the international community and international associations should think twice about what it means to award this kind of prize to this kind of movie "because the message that it conveys to the viewer is that the content is okay." Mendelevich characterized the film as 'dangerous propaganda." It was a form of "artistic terror" he said, that will encourage and intensify such acts. "This film makes heroes of malicious murderers." Referring to the emotional suffering of the families whose loved ones have been killed, Mendelevich said: "We just want to prevent others from going through what we're going through." Like the two other bereaved fathers, Kerman stressed that the movie doesn't show the end of the story, but leaves it to the audience to imagine. "What happened to me can happen to anyone. We have to be careful about what we endorse, because it can be a signal that such acts are understandable. What we're saying is that it's not. Incitement is being disguised very professionally as artistic expression."