Israeli City Bars Screening of Film About Israeli-Arab Coexistence

Municipality scraps public showing of 'Junction 48,' co-written by Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar, under right-wing pressure.

A scene from Udi Aloni's "Junction 48" shows Samar Qupty as Manar, left, and Tamer Nafar as Kareem.
Amnon Zalaita, AP

The Carmiel municipality has canceled next week’s screening of the movie “Junction 48” following pressure from the right wing, the Mako site reported Wednesday.

The film, co-written by Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar and Oren Moverman and directed by Udi Aloni, is about two lovers navigating life in Lod’s Palestinian ghetto. The screening was called off at the demand of deputy mayor Rotem Yanai (Habayit Hayehudi) and a rightist activist.

The municipality said it was canceled because the screening was opened to the public contrary to the agreement with the organizers. They said the film can be shown in another venue in town, and not the designated youth club.

The screening was initiated by social activists’ groups Shared Society and Transparent Communities, who said they were planning to show the film as planned next Thursday, despite the municipality’s announcement.

“I found out about the screening two days ago,” Yanai told Haaretz. “This came after an event in Carmiel this week conveying the message of living in a joint community, implying that Carmiel is a mixed town, while it’s far from being that.”

“We live in a region shared by Jews and Arabs and there’s no need to create unnecessary tensions,” he said.

Yanai said he asked the deputy mayor responsible for the youth club, municipal director general and mayor’s office to call off the screening.

“How can they allow a film by such a person, who incites against the state and Israel Defense Forces soldiers, be shown in a building run by the municipality? That got the ball rolling and yesterday we were told the event was cancelled,” he said.

Yanai said he did not see the movie, but read about it and its maker.

The municipality said in a statement “the organizers asked to lease the town’s youth club for a private event. After we learned they were planning a public screening we told them it wasn’t what we agreed on and that the event cannot be held at the youth club. They were invited to hold it in another facility.”

The organizers said “we regret the Carmiel municipality canceled the screening, thus lending a hand to gagging due to pressures exerted on it. We expect the municipality to make the required efforts to enable the screening to take place and not to cave in to threats.”

Dov Caller, of the Carmiel Rainbow for Social Justice, said that about a year ago rightist activists tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent screening the movie “Zahara,” directed by Mohammad Bakri, at the town’s auditorium. Several activists demonstrated with flags and songs for 20 minutes and left before the screening began, he said.

“We won’t let anti-democratic forces set the cultural or political agenda,” he said.

“Junction 48” won the Panorama Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival in February and the Best International Narrative Feature at Tribeca.

Nafar, who wrote the film script, messaged Carmiel mayor Adi Eldar on Thursday morning. "Sabah al hir (good morning) to the mayor of Carmiel," he wrote. "My name is Tamer Nafar, one of the creators of the international movie 'Junction 48.'

"I won't be able to make the screening in Carmiel, in any event, because I will be taking the film to one of the Arab countries. I am pondering what I will say there after the screening and wanted to confirm with you that you really are canceling the screening in your city.

"Because if they ask me while I'm onstage how the film has been received in Israel, how should I respond? That while they are embracing a film that is entirely a Jewish-Palestinian collaborative effort, in Carmiel they are canceling screenings?"