Israeli Town Cancels Gaza Film in Wake of Right-wing Pressure

Southern town of Yeruham is the third city to cave in to pressure not to show 'Shivering in Gaza,' a Dutch documentary that follows a trauma expert through the Gaza Strip.

Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman
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A scene from 'Shivering in Gaza.' Focuses on the work of a trauma expert.Credit: Geert van Kesteren
Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman

The management of a community center in the southern Israeli town of Yeruham canceled Wednesday’s scheduled screening of "Shivering in Gaza,"’ becoming the third town to succumb to right-wing pressure not to show the documentary film.

Sderot and Be’er Sheva canceled screenings in their towns in July.

Hani Briga, the director of the Yeruham-based Center for Volunteerism and Civil Society and a member of the community center’s board, initiated the screening, which was to take place at the town's community center. When the film’s planned showing was announced, right-wing activist Shami Glick launched a Facebook campaign calling for protest text messages to be sent to Michael Biton, the head of the local council. Biton initially announced he had no intention of intervening in a private initiative.

On Sunday, however, the community center board met and voted to cancel the screening. Briga invited board members to watch the film before deciding, but they refused.

“Most of the debate was based on some of the participants' political opinions, and I regret that there was no chance that the decision would be anything other than cancelation of the screening,” Briga wrote in a mass e-mail after the meeting. “I’m sorry that a public place is incapable of containing a variety of opinions, especially a community as diverse as Yeruham.”

Biton told Haaretz, “Maintaining freedom of speech is preferable, but it’s improper for a board member of the community center to make a decision that most board members do not support. He said it was fine with him that Briga was working on screening the film elsewhere.

“Personally, I wasn’t against the film, and I wasn’t for it,” he said. “I was attacked by the far right, but the community center has management, and I don’t intervene in its decisions. The board decided that the community center was not the venue for political exploration," said Biton.

Briga still hopes to hold a private screening of the film on Wednesday. "I have not given up," she told Haaretz. "I hope the film will be screened in Yeruham. In my eyes, it's a very serious issue when a public body cancels the screening of a film, because this body is supposed to give people a way to express themselves." She added that she was not surprised by the board's decision given the reason it convened. "It doesn’t matter which government is funding such institutions at the moment,” she said. “It’s important not to silence anyone. There is a substantial audience for whom this is interesting.”

The Dutch film “Shivering in Gaza” follows trauma expert Jan Andreae as he enters the Gaza Strip a year ago, at the end of Operation Protective Edge, and meets with Gazan aid workers, speaking to them about fear, mourning and trauma. Amnesty International arranged for the film’s screenings.

Glick was also behind the successful Facebook campaigns to flood the mayors of Be’er Sheva and Sderot with protest text messages and pressure them to cancel their respective screenings of “Shivering in Gaza.”

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