Last June, in “Which Side Are You On?” I wrote, “There’s an old labor song by Florence Reece called ‘Which Side Are You On?’ Sometimes self-styled Palestinian solidarity activists bring this tune to mind.” Today brings the sad news that the organizers of the recently concluded Ann Arbor Palestine Film Festival have violated both the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott against Israel and the 2005 Palestinian call for “broad boycotts … against Israel” by showing an Israeli film, Ajami.
In an Electronic Intifada interview with Jimmy Johnson entitled “Education and resistance at the Ann Arbor Palestine film fest” one of the festival’s organizers, Hena Ashraf, is quoted characterizing the festival as combining her interest in film and Palestine solidarity activism. Ashraf says, “Film, and more broadly, media, can be used as a means to educate, but also unfortunately to miseducate. Mainstream media outlets have often presented gross stereotypes of Palestinians and biased misinformation.” In the case of Ajami, it appears that Ashraf and her colleagues have not only violated the boycotts but if Raja Shehadeh, founder of the Palestinian human rights organization, Al-Haq, is to be believed they are also guilty of presenting “gross stereotypes of Palestinians and biased misinformation.”
Shehadeh says:

[The world of Ajami is] a city of drive-by shootings, drugs, and racketeering, where men, young and old, are shot or stabbed to death on the slightest provocation and shady sheikhs in Arab dress sort out the blood money in what is supposed to pass as tribal justice. … the unrelieved blood-letting punctuated only by moments of love and loyalty to family and friends leaves us in no doubt that the Jewish citizens of Israel exist in a jungle infested by bloodthirsty, uncivilized Arabs who live inside and outside its borders exactly as Israeli propagandists claim. If Israel is to make it, the story goes, this tiny bastion of civilization has no choice but to remain militarized and on full alert.

To return to the boycott issue, last month Hannah Brown touted Ajami in the Jerusalem Post as “a triumph for Israel in a year in which prominent industry figures called for a boycott of a program of Israeli films at the Toronto Film Festival last fall.” She also noted, “It received some of its funding from the Israel Film Fund, which is government-supported.” On Oscar night, responding to Ajami co-director Scandar Copti’s criticism of Israel, Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan told a Jewish Journal blogger: “Tomorrow no one will remember what [Copti] said … They’ll remember that this is an Israeli movie and that it will help make Israel a little stronger by reinforcing the relationship between Israel and Hollywood.”
The same article also says:

“The film represents Israel exactly,” said Israeli-American choreographer Barak Marshall. “It touches on almost all of the issues we face in Israeli society and it shows how broad the public debate is; that someone who is from Israel can negate his very connection to the state shows how wonderfully strong and alive our political culture is.”
For Dayan, art that reflects a dynamic Israeli society and its status as a pluralistic democracy is an essential strength of statehood.

The issue of why Zionists like Ajami is also addressed here and in the Palestine Chronicle but the matter of why self-styled Palestine solidarity activists like Ashraf and her colleagues promote the film is another matter. Is it ignorance? Arrogance? Elitism? Who knows? Labels: , , ,  

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