The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement demanded that Israeli Arab director Shady Srour cancel the screening of his film at a festival in the U.K. this week, claiming that showing the comedy is propaganda with the purpose of “covering up Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.”
In a letter, representatives of the BDS movement wrote they were “shocked to discover” that the film “Holy Air” is included in the schedule of Seret Film Festival, which presents Israeli films in London and Edinburgh.
“The festival is also trying to cover up Israel's crimes by always presenting Israel as 'the melting pot of cultures, religions and social backgrounds, instead of as a country of occupation, colonialism and apartheid,” the letter said.
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The representatives also noted that “The festival does not recognize the existence of the Palestinian people, and presents all the Palestinian filmmakers and artists as Israelis, without mention of their Palestinian identity.” Therefore, the letter said, the participation of any Palestinian director in the festival enables the Israeli government to “polish its image.”
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In response to the letter, Srour’s political adviser said the director has no intention of acceding to the demand. “Your accusations against director Shadi Srour are very serious and are dangerous in legal and ethical terms, as well in terms of Palestinian nationalism,” Anan Barakat wrote.
“There is a strong and direct implication here that Srour cooperates with war crimes, because of his participation in the festival,” Barakat said. “Did you pay attention to the artistic and cinematic aspect of the film? And did you examine the artist's human and Palestinian message in depth? Or was it enough for you to learn that he is participating in an Israeli or Zionist festival in order to call for a boycott against him, to slander him and to cast doubt on his national and ethical world view?” Barakat inquired.
In the letter, Barakat demanded that the BDS movement apologize immediately for the accusations made against Srour and his film. “Srour did not participate in war crimes or cooperate with them, and he does not reject or conceal his Palestinian identity,” wrote Barakat. According to Barakat, political persecution of this kind is liable “to drag us into a serious intra-Palestinian conflict in light of our political situation inside the State of Israel.
“Your trial of Srour is Orientalist and condescending and is not related to our situation as citizens who recognize the existence of the State of Israel and are aware of the rights of the Palestinian people, and don't deny them,” Barakat added.
“Holy Air” is a comedy that had its debut screening at the Jerusalem International Film Festival last year. The film is about Nazareth resident Adam, played by Srour himself, a father-to-be who is struggling to provide for his family and dreams of being a successful businessman. When he meets an Italian priest who is taking Christian pilgrims on a tour of the city, a brilliant idea for a startup pops into his head: selling holy air in bottles.