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JCC Manhattan Showcases Anti-Israel Film

The JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Manhattan proudly proclaims having 7 core values, the last one of which is:

We are deeply connected to Israel.
Our community connects to Israel through its sights, sounds, history, and complexity. We embrace the challenge of weaving our relationships with Israel into our diverse Jewish identities.

One really has to question that “deep connection” to Israel.

I have not seen the film, but I thought I would see if there are any clues online as to whether or not this hijacking of the film is truly the case.

Here’s the film’s trailer.

OK, nothing really there. But here’s the synopsis.

Synopsis

Dawn is a psychological drama behind closed doors, in which four comrades in arms pressure the young Elisha to overcome his moral qualms and fully commit to the armed struggle.

The story is set in Palestine in 1947, during the British mandate period. The Zionists are fighting for the establishment of a Jewish state. A member of the armed Jewish underground has been sentenced to death by the British authorities. In return, the resistance has kidnapped a British officer, trying to redeem their friend. The insurgents spend the night together, waiting for the outcome of the negotiation. If the British hang their friend at dawn, one of them will shoot the British officer held as a hostage.

Based on the novel by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, Dawn sheds a new light on a key moment in history that allows us to re-examine the current political disputes.

Context

Since the beginning of the British occupation of Palestine, towards the end of the First World War, the British authorities were struggling to maintain peace between the local Arab population and the Jewish newcomers from Europe. When the British denied entry to the survivors of the concentration camps coming by boat to Palestine, they became the Enemy Number One of the Zionist project. Clandestine groups like the Irgun and Lehi subsequently increase their attacks against the British on Palestinian soil. (see also Timeline)

The theme of the resistance’s struggle has not lost its relevance since the novel’s publication in 1960. However, the reading of the book today evokes the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which it is now the Palestinians who are fighting for the liberation of Arab Palestine. The situation’s reverse is quite striking and shows that liberation can lead to other forms of oppression, once again leading to fight. Of course, this kind of theoretical reflection is quite distant from the people involved in the everyday struggle. It is therefore necessary to keep a certain distance in order to be able to judge the problem on the whole.

The parts I bolded clearly show the thinking of the filmmakers and their attempt to draw parallels between the Jews’ struggle in pre-state Palestine and the palestinian terrorists of today.

This is no surprises when you consider the director and producer is the Swiss Romed Wyder.

Here he is speaking at a press conference organized by BDS Switzerland “addressing the cooperation of the Festival del Film Locarno with the Israeli foreign ministry and the Israel Film Fund.”

The Iraqi-born Swiss filmmaker Samir (not mentioned in the JCC brochure) has a documentary under his belt – Forget Baghdad – which seems critical of Israel.

The other third of the movie focuses on the work of Ella Habiba Shohat, an Israeli film scholar living and working in New York, and is devoted to analyzing the stereotypes of Mizrahim in Israeli cinema.

Once Ms. Shohat takes center stage, one of the film’s themes — how the movies perpetuate and reinforce negative racial and cultural stereotypes — comes to the fore. Although we’d like to imagine that the movies are more enlightened today than in earlier decades, there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

Typical examples of cultural demonization offered by ”Forget Baghdad,” which opens today in New York, are the swarthy, ferocious Arabs dispatched by Arnold Schwarzenegger in ”True Lies.” Woven through the movie are clips and references to movies ranging from ”Son of the Sheikh” and ”The Thief of Baghdad” to ”Exodus” to vintage Egyptian musicals and Israeli comedies that present condescending portrayals of Mizrahim as boors and buffoons.

The fact the JCC would run such a film is nothing short of scandalous. But not surprising. Their director of film programs and the Israel Film Center is Isaac Zablocki.

Isaac Zablocki, director of film programs and the Israel Film Center for the JCC in Manhattan, in an Aug. 15 blog post for theHuffington Post stressed what he called the importance of using boycotts to pressure Israel in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Zablocki later clarified that he does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The JCC in Manhattan, whose director of film programs expressed public support for boycotts of Israel in a Huffington Post op-ed. Credit: Team Boerum via Wikimedia Commons.

In his post, Zablocki opposed a BDS movement letter asking Iranian film director Moshen Makhmalbaf to boycott the Jerusalem Film Festival. Zablocki also criticized calls for Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri to boycott the festival.

In his opposition to those efforts, however, Zablocki seemed to support the broader concept of boycotting Israel.

“In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nonviolence is a welcome form of protest for the region, and the importance of the use of boycott to get international attention towards pressuring Israel to end the occupation is unquestionable,” Zablocki wrote. “However, the protest of art, culture and education brings up dangers in the realm of freedom and evolution of thought. Artists and educators have an important impact on changing society.”

“When we start to boycott art and limit the reach of great minds and talent to places, we are limiting potential of change,” he added.

To clarify his blog post, Zablocki later stated, “I do not support BDS as has been claimed.  I oppose it in all forms. In my article, I only intended to assert the obvious, which is that while people have the right to boycott, I do not support it when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Richard Allen, head of the pro-Israel group JCC Watch, told JNS.org that Zablocki’s blog post is “not shocking,” in light of the JCC in Manhattan hosting events promoting groups such as B’Tselem, Partners for Progressive Israel, and the New Israel Fund. Those groups have been accused of funding and promoting BDS, but all deny that they support the movement. The New Israel Fund states that it opposes BDS and “will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.”

Whether or not Zablocki truly supports BDS, he clearly has an anti-Israel agenda, which is against the 7th core value of his employer.

This is not the first time the JCC has pulled a stunt like this. In March they hosted a “conversation” with anti-Zionist Avraham Burg, a former Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset who recently joined the Israeli Communist party. A year ago, they hosted a Shabbat dinner and “intimate conversation” with The New Israel Fund, an organization that supports BDS. And in 2011, a JCC member accused the JCC’s annual film festival of lending credibility to organizations hostile to Israel.

Enough is enough. I call on any donors to the JCC Manhattan who are pro Israel to cease their support, and any potential donors to reconsider, unless the JCC Manhattan desists from this anti-Israel activity contrary to its own expressed values.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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