The Be’er Sheva Municipality prevented Monday the screening of a documentary about the Gaza Strip during last summer's Operation Protective Edge – several days after the Sderot Municipality did the same.
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On the occasion of the first anniversary of the war, the Israeli branch of Amnesty International arranged for screenings of the Dutch film “Shivering in Gaza” in the Tel Aviv and Sderot cinematheques, as well as in the Gaza Strip. The events also featured a discussion with director Geert van Kesteren and trauma expert Jan Andreae; the film is about Andreae’s work with Gazan aid workers.
Amnesty claims that after the film was shown in Tel Aviv last Wednesday, right-wing activists tried to prevent the screening in Sderot. Among other things they published the phone number of Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi so text messages could be sent to him – and that put pressure on the local cinematheque and led to the cancellation.
The movie was instead scheduled for screening at the Mifgash Multaka cultural center, the home base of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality in Be’er Sheva.
But on Monday morning – once again due to right-wing pressure and the publication of the phone number of Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, the screening was cancelled.
“Government policy and the prevailing public atmosphere constitute an overall attack on freedom of expression, and represent a danger to democracy,” said Yonatan Gher, the executive director of Amnesty International Israel Monday, adding that “it is inacceptable for local leaders to function as censors in their cities.”
The film “Shivering in Gaza” follows Andreae as he entered the Strip at the end of Operation Protective Edge, where he met with Gazan aid workers and spoke to them about fear, mourning and trauma.
Andreae has worked for many years with South African, Yugoslavian, Israeli and Palestinian trauma victims. In recent years he has been working mainly with Gazans; with them he tries to build a meaningful life in the shadow of destruction and fear.
Van Kesteren is a photographer and filmmaker who has worked for magazines such as Newsweek, Stern, and The Independent. This is his first documentary.
The Be’er Sheva Municipality said that screening the film constitutes a political act that is prohibited according to an agreement regarding usage of public assets.
“When we learned about the intention to carry out this activity, the municipality’s legal adviser turned to representatives of the association and explained the municipality’s policy. In light of that, the representatives announced cancelation of the film scheduled for this evening,” according to a municipal source.
Haya Noah, director of the Negev Coexistence Forum, told Haaretz that the film is about a method of treating trauma. “If Arabs and Jews can’t talk about that, what will they let us talk about? I think that the municipality is afraid, we’ve reached a situation where there’s a lot of fear; it’s hard to know what the next step will be. I’m disappointed at this conduct, I didn’t think that the mayor of Be’er Sheva would allow such a thing to happen.”
'No problem' with the film
Benny Cohen, director of the Sderot Cinematheque, told Haaretz that the screening was canceled due to pressure from Mayor Davidi.
“Right-wing activists raised an outcry against the film, and we decided to postpone it so that the administrative staff at the cinematheque could watch the film and decide – but I saw the film and there’s no problem with it. It’s a film that just talks about treating trauma," Cohen said. "The right-wing activists were afraid that the movie criticizes Israel Defense Force soldiers and Israel, but there’s no problem with it.”
According to Sderot’s mayor, “This is an anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli film, biased and one-sided, and therefore it won’t be screened in the Sderot Cinematheque.”
Davidi added: “You need a lot of chutzpah and cynicism to bring this kind of film to a Qassam-besieged city like Sderot, and to crudely trample on the feelings of its residents ... I won’t lend a hand to that. To this day our children suffer from anxiety and receive therapy. Hamas has been firing at Sderot for years. It did so both before and after Operation Protective Edge. Nobody will tell us who the good guys and the bad guys are in this story.”