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A Nakba Film Suppressed, and a Hypocritical ‘Change’ Government

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Producer Deema Azar and actor Ashraf Barhom introduce "Farha" during the Palestine Cinema Days festival, in the West Bank city Ramallah in November.
Producer Deema Azar and actor Ashraf Barhom introduce "Farha" during the Palestine Cinema Days festival, in the West Bank city Ramallah in November.Credit: FILM LAB PALESTINE/ REUTERS

Yesterday evening, the Jordanian film “Farha” was shown at the Alsaraya Theater in Jaffa. The movie contains a scene in which a newborn baby is left to starve to death so as “not to waste a bullet on him.” In response, the outgoing government spoke out against the movie and the theater for showing it, saying it does not present the IDF in a positive light. Culture Minister Chili Tropper and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman have already announced that they will examine the possibility of revoking the theater’s budget.

The film is not flattering to the IDF, but the solution is not to silence it but rather to speak seriously about what really happened in the 1948 war. We need to recall what a war “without the High Court and without B’Tselem” looked like, and to have a substantive public discussion about the war and its victims, and not just a petty debate about “who started it,” as if the answer justifies the harming of innocents. But according to Ministers Tropper and Lieberman, there is no need for any such discussion, and anyone who raises these questions should have their funding revoked.

The film’s producer says the “Farha” is an artistic work that does not purport to be a documentary, and thus the criticism against it and against the theater that chose to screen it is peculiar. Are we supposed to accept the idea that a cultural work which is disliked by someone has no right to exist? This conception is particularly troubling because it is an outgrowth of an attitude that denies facts and insists there is no such thing as a Nakba or a Palestinian people. The ministers’ reaction to the film carries echoes of the “cultural loyalty” amendment that Miri Regev once tried to promote, but while Regev’s initiative immediately incurred the wrath of artists and much of the media, no criticism of Tropper and Lieberman is being heard.

Tropper and Lieberman, ministers in the outgoing government of “healing and change,” have essentially shown that nothing has changed and that they wish to perpetuate the policies of Regev and the previous government. They do not embody an intellectual and ideological alternative, but instead choose to be an imitation of the right-wing Netanyahu government. So it is not surprising that the public is choosing the original over the imitation.

The culture minister’s criticism here is not coherent with the stance of unity and conciliation that he supposedly supports. For example, at the Ophir Awards last year, he said, “When things are clarified in an appropriate and respectful way, this is most welcome.” And also, “I, for one, have a clear identity. Among other things, it includes my being a Jew, a Zionist and an Israeli patriot, this is my identity. I am happy with it, I am proud of it, but precisely because I am so certain of it, I have no trouble listening to and taking in criticism.”

If you have no problem with criticism, Minister Tropper, I would expect you to be the first in line to see the film. But you are calling for funding to be revoked without even seeing it. That is not how a secure identity is expressed.

I have been to the Alsaraya Theater many times. I can attest to the high quality of the films that are screened there, and that the theater presents genuine coexistence based on intellectual and cultural equality. One of the films I saw there was “Tantura,” a documentary about alleged war crimes committed by IDF fighters in the village for which the film was named. That movie is not flattering to the IDF either, and it was also shown at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. But, of course, Chili Tropper and Avigdor Lieberman are not about to halt funding for the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.

What they wish to do to Alsaraya will lend a basis and legitimacy to the policy of the Netanyahu-Ben-Gvir government, which might actually seek to revoke the Cinematheque’s funding. And then, looking back, we’ll understand that not only did the left lose at the polls, the left didn’t even make an effort to be a player in the field.

The writer is a law student at Bar-Ilan University.

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