Not content to restrict its anti-Israel activities to the political arena, the United Nations has now taken upon itself to spread anti-Israel propaganda via popular culture, the American Jewish Committee said in a letter Swiss Ambassador Joseph Deiss, President of the UN General Assembly.
On Monday, a film called Miral, about the experiences of an Arab girl in the wake of Israel's War of Independence, made its U.S. premiere at the headquarters of the world organization, On hand to fete the film's producer, Julian Schnabel, were a panoply of American film stars, including Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, Josh Brolin and Steve Buscemi – all long known for their left wing views and political activities.
In his letter to Deiss, AJC Executive Director David Harris called the film a propaganda piece that “will only serve to reinforce the already widespread view that Israel simply cannot expect fair treatment in the UN."
The film's plot revolves around the adventures of the fictional title character, a young girl orphaned as a result of the War of Independence. (It should be noted, however, that the movie is based on an autobiography by its author, Rula Jebreal). Miral is one of the children taken into an orphanage established by Hind al-Husseini, a scion of the infamous Haj Amin al-Husseini, who planned to deport all the Jews in the Land of Israel to concentration camps after the hoped-for Nazi invasion.
Al-Husseini starts the orphanage with 55 children who escaped the “massacre” at Deir Yassin, and before long there are 2,000. Along the way, there are attacks and provocations by Israelis, and eventually, the title character grows up and teaches in a refugee camp, where she falls in love with a terrorist.
Schnabel, who was awarded the best director at Cannes in 2007 for his "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," is himself Jewish and is quite proud of his involvement with the film. In an interview with the British Guardian last year, Schnabel said that “coming from my background, as an American Jewish person whose mother was president of Hadassah in 1948, I figured I was a pretty good person to try to tell the story of the other side.”
The film is being distributed the Weinstein Company, the independent studio of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, and stars, among others, Freida Pinto, best known for her portrayal of Latika in the 2008 Academy Award winning film Slumdog Millionaire, along with British actress Vanessa Redgrave, long known for her anti-Israel activities.
In his letter, Harris asked Deiss to reconsider using the UN's good name for what he called “blatant propaganda. “We were surprised to learn about this highly unusual premiere under the auspices of your office," he wrote. "The film has a clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light. Permit me to ask why the President of the General Assembly would wish to associate himself -- and the prestige of his office -- with such a blatantly one-sided event.”
Deiss, however, turned down the request, with his office saying that he hoped that the film would “contribute” to peace.
Both the Weinsteins and Schnabel see no contradiction in their distributing Miral and their loyalty to the Jewish people – or even to the State of Israel. In a statement, Harvey Weinstein said that he and his brother “pride ourselves on aligning our company with films that take risks and provoke dialogue. Miral is precisely that kind of picture. We are honored that it will have its premiere at the United Nations General Assembly hall, and it saddens me that some in the Jewish community are protesting this screening and judging Miral before they have had an opportunity to see it.”
In a press release, Schnabel said “I love the State of Israel. I believe in it, and my film is about preserving it, not hurting it. Understanding is part of the Jewish way and Jewish people are supposed to be good listeners. But, if we don’t listen to the other side, we can never have peace. Instead of saying ‘no,’ I ask the AJC to say ‘yes,’ see Miral and join the discussion.”
However, based on its reviews, it's unlikely that too many movie fans will be going to see Miral at all. The film, which opened in Britain in December, was very poorly reviewed, garnering just a 20 percent approval rating at the Rotten Tomatoes review site. Among the comments made by reviewers who panned the movie were “unfocused and, as a result, not especially engaging,” “this sprawling would-be epic is quickly sunk by flat direction, stilted dialogue and very ill-advised casting,” and, “Is this a joke? Or a film art 'happening'?”