Thanks to Muzzlewatch for bringing this story to my attention. Over at Israel Palestine Forum one of the members mentioned the Other Israel Film Festival. After visiting the site I said: “How cool!” It is a festival devoted to the films of and about Israeli Arabs. Nothing like this has ever been done in the U.S. and it’s a godsend. Precisely the problem both here and in Israel itself is that we have opinions about Arabs but we don’t know them. We think we know their culture, values, and attitudes but we only don’t. What better way to get to know the approximately 25% of Israel’s Arab population than through their cinema?
I noted that the Festival’s website featured a letter from the producer signed by Carol Zabar of the famous New York food dynasty. I knew the Zabar’s family maintained a bungalow in Mohegan just outside Peekskill in an area frequented by New York Commies in the 1950s. But I had no idea that a Zabar would create something so radical, creative and fresh. More power to her. Memo to my NY readers–Go out and buy more Zabar’s lox and bagels and don’t forget Eli Zabar’s establishments as well!
I also found it extraordinarily positive that the New York Jewish Federation endorsed the Festival. But wouldn’t you know it–it appears that the Daniel Pipes and Mort Kleins of the New York Jewish world have been whispering (or screaming more likely) into the ears of the Fed’s leadership about the evils of promoting Israeli Arab culture. The Fed dropped this one like a hot potato. And it’s too bad. Can you imagine how powerful the statement would be to an Israeli Arab if you told him that New York Jews were hosting a Festival about their culture that was endorsed by the umbrella organization representing New York Jews. That would be a powerful positive statement to that Israeli Arab. It would say there are Jews who embrace him as a legitimate partner within Israeli society.
Alas, this was not to be. The nattering nabobs of Jewish negativism have triumphed once again. They’ve killed a golden opportunity for dialogue. A golden sign of Jewish tolerance and openness to “the other.” Sure, the Festival will go on. The UJA Federation’s withdrawal will not kill it. But think what message is being given to the Jews of New York by this withdrawal. The Festival is no longer kosher. Now, it will be possible for the Campus Watch/ZOA crowd to crow about their victory and point to the withdrawal as confirmation of the radical anti-Israel agenda of the Festival when nothing could be farther from the truth.
Here’s how “radical” the Festival is:
Other Israel will illuminate the lives of the Arab Citizens of Israel who make up twenty percent of Israel’s population.
This unique vision of the largest minority in Israel, celebrates Israel ’s democracy and highlights the different ethnic, religious, cultural and social backgrounds in this diverse landscape.
Through the magic of film, Other Israel provides a cultural platform to further awareness and challenge conventions.
Of course, the Fed officials are muttering under their breath about how their cave has nothing to do with political pressure. It’s purely due to an administrative mistake. Right.