Op-Ed: Cinematic Apartheid vs. Righteous Artists of our Time
Prof. Phyllis CheslerThe writer, a Fellow of the Middle East Forum and recipient of the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, is the author of fifteen books, including Women and Madness, Woman's Inhumanity to Woman, and The New Anti-Semitism. She has published three studies about honor killing and is at work on a fourth. Her new book, An American Bride in Kabul, (Palgrave Macmillan) has just been published to great acclaim. Professor Chesler may be reached at her website www.phyllis-chesler.com
Why did Haifa’s International Film Festival wish to honor filmmaker Mira Nair for her film “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”? The film is just another exceptionally well done piece of anti-American propaganda which justifies Islamic/Islamist terrorism by showing us that America harasses Muslims constantly, even Muslims as brilliant and assimilated as Nair’s “fundamentalist” hero, Changez. According to Nair, America is to blame for Pakistani fundamentalist terrorism.
Did the Haifa Film mavens really screen this film? If they did, how could they miss Nair’s agenda? Why would they wish to honor one more film that depicts America, the CIA, and American military forces as cruel, evil, and racist and which glorifies the offended dignity of innocent Muslims as a way of justifying the nihilistic terror that Muslims are unleashing, globally, first against other Muslims, second, against infidels. Remember Syriana (2005), Paradise Now (2005), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Babel (2006), The Kingdom (2007), Rendition (2007), and Amreeka (2009)?
What is wrong with the film mavens who live in Haifa, a jewel of a Jewish city and one with a large Arab Muslim and Arab Christian population? Haifa is a genuinely mutli-ethnic and multi-racial abode. No city in Israel is an “apartheid” city, but Haifa is exceptionally integrated in terms of its demographics. There is nothing like it in Gaza and there will be nothing like it in Judea and Samaria if the world prevails and ethnically cleanses Jews from their historically Jewish land.
This is truly heartbreaking: The so-called progressives and leftists—the “good” people—want to ethnically cleanse the “occupied West Bank” and East Jerusalem of its Jews—and all in the name of anti-racism. They do not demand that Arabs, including the new ones on the block, the Palestinian Arabs, allow Jews--not even the 800,000 Arab Jews who were forced to flee Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Maghreb--after centuries of persecution, to become citizens or even live in any of their twenty two countries.
The Arab and Muslim world is almost entirely “judenrein,” cleansed of Arab Jews, and they are persecuting and cleansing themselves of their Christian Arabs; and yet, the “good people” still insist that such Muslim racists and ideologues are the victims, the underdogs, provoked by white—dare I write “Zionist”?-- colonialism into becoming fundamentalist terrorists.
Just like Mira Nair’s very sympathetic leading character Changez.
Pnina Blair, the artistic director of the Haifa Film Festival has been quoted in Haaretz as saying that she opposed cultural boycotts of any kind and that the festival “is an exemplar of pluralism and coexistence and our program reflects this approach.”
I agree with her and yet while she and I may oppose boycotts, clearly Mira Nair believes in them. Blair’s high-minded statement is toothless, perhaps even too Christ-like for me. It is downright dangerous for a Jew to turn the other cheek: Remember what the Romans did to Jesus and to 100,000 other Jews.
I am certainly not suggesting that Jews become as sadistic or as genocidal as our enemies are—but when they are trying to kill you, I would recommend self-defense, not appeasement by film award. And, as they say, when the one and only Jewish state is utterly surrounded and the entire world is calling for its death, playing offense is a wise form of self-defense.
Yes, of course, progressive Israelis and Jews the world over want to practice the Jewish ethics which Jews developed in exile and for which we are known. Jews do not wish to do to someone else what is hateful to them; we wish to improve the world, we hear the stranger’s cry as well as our own cry; we wish to be accepted among the nations of the world; we wish to live in peace and harmony under our vines and fig trees.
But do we wish to be defamed year after year? Do we wish to live with the consequences of such defamation which are none other than righteous hatred, increasing isolation, and then extermination?
Mira Nair has just defamed Haifa and all Israel. She has been quoted as saying: “I will go to Israel when the occupation is gone…when the state does not privilege one religion over another. I will go to Israel when Apartheid is over.” She has tweeted that she supports “Palestine for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the larger Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, (BDS) Mov’t.”
Why honor such a person? Especially since her film is only a deft and emotionally dangerous piece of propaganda? Clearly, Nair cannot see the elephant in the room: Islamic and Arab gender and religious apartheid.
In the last decade, I have written about twenty articles about high profile academics, public intellectuals, actors, activists, musicians, and artists who have signed petitions against Israel (only); tried to join flotillas filled with Turkish assassins; have voted for academic boycotts of left wing Israeli academics; etc.
Yes, some of the boycotters are great filmmakers—like Sweden’s Lukas Moodyson—who have followed the herd of Big Liars and Defamers. Moodyson’s film, Lilya-4-ever, is about the sex trafficking of girls and women from Russia and into Sweden. Progressive Israelis were holding a conference against trafficking and wanted to show his film. In 2003, when I wrote about his refusal to allow them to do so on a one-time basis, he contacted me privately, enraged, but partly because he was also familiar with my work, he engaged with what I had written. Within 48 hours, Moodyson decided to allow his film to be shown in Israel.
I am not going to name the names of those who believe it is fashionable and acceptable, even brave, to “beat up on the Jew;” those who glorify killers and believe it is romantic to do so. They are common conformists, ignorant about history and reality, unable to think independently or clearly. They are also cowards who cannot withstand the peer pressure, the orchestrated and personalized internet campaigns, and the death threats which come their way when they plan to perform in Israel. They are artists who, I have been told, cannot resist the pressure of one phone call from Bishop Desmond Tutu, who routinely calls to persuade popular artists and public intellectuals not to go to Israel.
Here, I will name the names of some of the very popular musicians who resisted the pressure and chose to perform in Israel. They are our Righteous Artists.
Justin Bieber; Lady Gaga Elton; John Alicia Keys; Madonna; Paul McCartney; Rihanna.
I believe that many more will join them in the years to come.