Israel condemns Netflix film about its 1948 War of Independence

(JTA) — Israel’s government has lashed out at Netflix over a new Jordanian movie that it says disparages the country’s military and its actions in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s independence.

“Farha,” Jordan’s entry into the Academy Awards’ best international feature film race, is a historical drama about the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” the Palestinian term for the events that led to the founding of the State of Israel. In the film, a Palestinian teenager locked in a warehouse witnesses a family being murdered by the Israel Defense Forces. Two young children and a baby are among the victims.

The film premiered on Netflix on Thursday and the Al Saraya Theatre, a theater in Jaffa popular with Israeli Arabs, planned to screen it. Its director, Darin Sallam, has said that he based the film from the twice-deleted real-life testimony of a 1948 Palestinian refugee who ended up in Syria.

But Israel has attacked the film and its producers for what the government says is an unfair portrayal of the IDF.

“To me, it is ridiculous that Netflix chooses to release a film whose sole purpose is to incite ridicule against IDF soldiers,” Israeli Finance Minister Avidgor Lieberman told Israeli media.

Liebermann even more suggested that the Treasury could withhold state funds of the theater unless it canceled plans to screen the film, saying: “The choice of a cultural institution funded by the State of Israel to screen the aforementioned film is already unacceptable.” Israeli law allows the finance minister to withhold funds from any cultural institution that recognizes the Nakba when commemorating Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning.

Outgoing Culture Minister Chili Tropper also criticized the film, saying it makes “a bogus plot against IDF soldiers.”

In response, the producers of “Farha” issued a statement accusing the Israeli government of launching a disinformation campaign against the film.

“These attempts to silence our voices as Semites/Arabs and as women filmmakers in order to dehumanize us and prevent us from telling our stories, our narrative and our truth, go against any freedom of expression.” read the statement by Sallam and producers Deema Azar and Ayeh Jadaneh.

Another film that has sparked controversy for its depiction of the events of 1948, the Israeli documentary “Tantura”, opened in American and Palestinian theaters this week. “Tantura” reproduces oral testimonies from former members of the Israeli army who recall the murder of hundreds of Palestinian residents of the village of Tantura and the dumping of their bodies in mass graves to pave the way for a kibbutz.

A theater in Ramallah in the West Bank is currently showing “Tantura,” which according to its distributors marks the first time that a theater in the Palestinian territories has shown an Israeli documentary.

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