Following the success of a campaign aiming to prevent the screening of a post-Gaza war documentary in a number of Israeli cities in recent weeks, the right-wing activists behind the initiative have asked to watch the “one sided” film.
The southern city of Yeruham on Wednesday yielded to the pressure, becoming the third Israeli city to cancel its scheduled screening of “Shivering in Gaza,” a short documentary by Dutch filmmaker Geert van Kesteren about Palestinians coping in the aftermath of the war.
The film follows trauma specialist Jan Andreae, who discusses trauma, mourning and fear with local aid workers in the months following Israel’s war with Hamas that devastated the coastal enclave last year.
According to Haaretz, Amnesty International in Israel originally arranged to have the film shown at the city’s community center, but was later forced to move the screening to another venue after the mayor and city council members were flooded with messages, calls and letters demanding the documentary not be shown, citing political bias. The community center canceled the screening shortly after.
Despite the change in venue, several dozen protesters — many of whom attended the local yeshiva — showed up at the new venue, and some clashed with police officers, who prevented them from disrupting the event and entering the building.
After the screening, however, the protesters expressed interest in watching the film to the Amnesty organizers, who obliged them and screened the documentary a second time. Later, the protesters engaged in a discussion with organizers about their concerns that Amnesty was promoting a “one-sided film” and not giving a voice to the Israeli narrative.
A local teacher who attended the second screening called the discussion that followed “fascinating,” and said that both the right-wing protesters and Amnesty International — an organization considered in Israel to be left-wing– respectfully discussed their varying approaches to the role of media in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We invited the students to discuss responses to being exposed to media content that differs from your own opinion or worldview, and it developed into a fascinating debate between left- and right-wingers,” Zev Levine told Haaretz.
“Ultimately, the discussion was not about the film itself, but about the divided culture in Israel that re-emerged in light of the controversy in Yeruham,” he said.
According to the report, Yeruham was the third Israeli city to cancel the screening of the documentary film. Sderot and Beersheba canceled their screenings in July after city officials faced similar pressure.