Apartheid Week - Hypocrisy at its best / Jonathan D.Halevi

Five hundred artists from Montreal have recently signed a statement “to support the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israeli apartheid.” The Canadian artists blame Israel for intentionally harassing and bringing disaster to the peaceful Palestinian people during more than 60 years and fail to mention the word “terrorism” even once.

Their account of the historical events as they appear in the statement is to say the least distorted. One paragraph within the long list of “crimes” accuses Israel of deliberately oppressing the Palestinian cultural activity as follows:

“During the first and second intifadas, Israel invaded, ransacked, and even closed down cinemas, theatres and cultural centers in the occupied territories. These deliberate attempts to stifle the Palestinian cultural voice have failed and will continue to fail.” [1]

The five hundred Canadian artists virtually portray Israel as a pinnacle of human evil and their basic premise assumes, as it may be understood, that without Israeli “crimes,” the pluralist and liberal Palestinian culture in the Gaza Strip would be flourishing with cinemas, theatres and cultural centres.

This thesis has one little weakness. Not a single cinema house exists in the Gaza Strip and Hamas – NOT Israel – is responsible for "stifling the Palestinian cultural voice". Saud Abu Ramadan, a Palestinian reporter working for the Chinese newswire Xinhua, published an article on July 26, 2009 reviewing the history of cinemas in the Gaza Strip while interviewing 57-year old Adnan Abu Beid, who used to run the most famous and biggest movie house in downtown Gaza city called al-Nasser, and today makes his living as a greengrocer. [2]

Abu Ramadan notes that “after Israel signed Oslo accords with the Palestinians, when the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was established after the Israeli army withdrew from Gaza city, al-Nasser movie house was reopened for a few months, but later it was burned and destroyed by angry Islamic Hamas demonstrators in 1995.” Abu Beid told Xinhua that after al-Nasser movie house was burned and destroyed, “I hid my film archives and decided to become a vegetable vendor.” He added that his archives "are the only that remained after all the movie houses had either shut down, or been destroyed by Hamas activists during demonstrations in Gaza city in 1995."

By 1994, after the PNA was established, there were nine movie houses in the Gaza Strip, including al-Nasser, al-Samer, al-Jalaa' and Amer in Gaza City, al-Khadra and al-Hamra in the city of Khan Younis and three other movie houses in the town of Rafah. However, Abu Beid said, "Nowadays, there is ignorance of movie houses and the contribution they could make in developing our culture." He went on, saying that "many people who think about reopening movie houses in Gaza are afraid that it would be attacked, burned and destroyed."

Hamas website Xinhua’s reporter mentioned in this regard that ”radical Islamic groups have carried out in the last several months a series of attacks against internet cafes, coffee shops and other entertainment sites in the Gaza Strip, claiming that these places are used to spread immoral principles among the young Palestinian generations.” He quoted the response of Osama el-Eassawi, the minister of culture for the Hamas government in Gaza, who conditioned the reopening of any of the closed Gaza movie houses upon respecting the laws and the traditions of the Islamic society by saying the following: "We support the art that respects the moral and religious traditions and cultures."

The first and yet only movie produced by the Hamas government was Imad Aqel which was screened at the Islamic University of Gaza, in the absence of cinemas in the Gaza Strip. The movie tells the heroic story of the senior terrorist of Hamas, who established its military wing, and is held accountable for the killing of 13 Israeli soldiers and civilians. The film cost $120,000 and was written by Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader of Hamas. Reuters’ reporter, Nidal al-Mughrabi, describes the reaction of Palestinian spectators who came in masses to watch the first movie ever to be screened under Hamas Islamic rule. “The audience in the Gaza Strip clapped and cheered as the actor delivered the movie's most memorable line: “To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God." Majed Jendeya, the movie's German-trained director, was quoted as saying that he hopes to screen the film at the Cannes festival in France. [3]

In conclusion, it is tremendously hard to comprehend how a huge group of Canadian artists are speaking with big words on human rights and at the same are silent on Hamas oppression of any free cultural activity, and even worse on its pursuance of nurturing a culture of death. I desperately want to believe that the Canadian artists were not familiar with the facts before signing the distorted statement.

[1] http://www.tadamon.ca/post/5824

[2] http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-07/26/content_11772664.htm

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL3682698

Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi serves as director of research for the Orient Research Group Ltd., a strategic and private information services company, and as a senior researcher of the Middle East and Radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs headed by former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Dore Gold. Mr. Halevi is also a special consultant to the Terror Victims Litigation Project which represents US citizens harmed by terrorist actions in the Middle East. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Halevi is a retired career Intelligence officer who specialized in research on Palestinian and Islamic affairs. Between 2003-2004, Mr. Halevi served as senior advisor for policy planning in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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