RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories, Oct 23, (Agencies): A Palestinian city on Sunday cancelled the planned screening of a Lebanese film after activists called for a boycott over the director’s “normalisation” with Israel.
“The Insult”, which deals with the Lebanese civil war, was scheduled to be screened Monday in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as part of the “Days of Cinema” festival.
But Ramallah’s municipality decided on Sunday to cancel the showing at a city-run facility after pressure from Palestinian activists who accused French-Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri of promoting “normalisation” with Israel.
Doueiri’s 2012 film “The Attack”, about an Israeli surgeon of Arab origin whose wife carries out a suicide attack, was partly filmed in Israel.
“The Attack” was banned in Lebanon and prompted authorities to detain Doueiri for questioning on his arrival in Lebanon last month.
Lebanon submitted “The Insult” as its official entry for the Oscars, in the foreign film category.
In Ramallah, activists had planned a protest against the screening and launched a social media campaign urging Palestinians to boycott it.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which campaigns for economic and cultural measures against Israel, had accused Doueiri of “defending normalisation” with Israel and called for the screening to be cancelled.
Ramallah municipality director general Ahmad Abu Laban told AFP the screening was cancelled over “our responsibility to keep the peace”.
He cited “safety concerns” and said the decision did not imply that the municipality was bowing to pressure from activists.
Doueiri’s previous film, “The Attack,” about a Palestinian surgeon living in Tel Aviv who discovers that his wife carried out a deadly suicide attack, was filmed in Israel and featured several Israeli actors. That film was banned in Lebanon and most Arab countries. Last month, Lebanese authorities briefly detained the Paris-based Doueiri because of his visits to Israel.
“The director showed no remorse, and insisted on his stand, and we think screening any of his work at a Palestinian cinema festival would be a big mistake” said Abed Hamayel, an activist who campaigned against the film’s screening.
A segment of Palestinians has long called for Arab political, economic and cultural leaders to boycott Israel as a way to prevent normalizing ties with the Jewish state. An international movement of activists also calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against people or companies doing business with Israel.
Doueiri could not be reached for comment, but Kamel Elbasha, a Palestinian actor who stars in the film, criticized the decision.
“Ziad was punished for that movie which was banned in all Arab countries,” he said, adding that the activists were “mixing things up, lying and distorting facts,” and questioning their motives. Elbasha won the best actor award for his role in the film at the Venice Film Festival in September.
Film Lab Palestine, the group behind the Palestinian festival, noted that “The Insult,” was being screened in Lebanon and in other festivals in the Middle East. The film, which focuses on a tense exchange between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee, explores the fraught place of Palestinians in Lebanese society.
“’The Insult’ was selected for this year’s edition of the festival since it addresses an important issue for the Palestinian people,” said a statement from the group. It also said the film was selected because it stars Elbasha, who hails from east Jerusalem.
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