On Wednesday, November 26, MKs in the Knesset Finance Committee held a heated emergency debate over funding of the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque towards this week’s scheduled opening at the art-movie theater of “48 mm: The 2nd International Festival on Nakba and Return.” Last year’s first Nakba film festival, organized by the Israeli NGO Zochrot, marked the 66th anniversary of the November 29th 1947 United Nations partition resolution, which provided for the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine. As with the 2013 event, the festival program features four short films produced especially for the occasion by Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers as well as longer movies made here and abroad on the subject of the Nakba and the right of return for Arab refugees.
According to material prepared by Zochrot, the three-day film festival (November 27th-29th) aims to “challenge the perception of this division in creative ways, and suggest alternatives for a just civil existence for all the inhabitants of the country and its refugees.” Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller, who requested the committee meeting, called the festival “a pathetic attempt by the Cinematheque to take advantage of its stage to support Israel’s enemies who look for every way to undermine our sovereignty.” Miller said that Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud), who also protested against the festival last year, has asked Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) to withdraw the state’s NIS 250,000 budgetary allocation for the Cinematheque.
MK Dov Khenin of Hadash blocked continuation of the discussion by filibustering it until a meeting of the Knesset plenum, at which point Finance Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (HaBeit HaYehudi) adjourned the discussion. Slomiansky promised to place the issue before Lapid and to reconvene the discussion with all the relevant parties present.
Shira Hertzanu – the public relations director of Zochrot – said that the Knesset discussion was an attempt to stifle democratic debate. “This is an attempt at silencing, a sign of an extreme and dangerous policy that tries to hide anything not in accord with the view of those in power,” Hertzanu told “The Jerusalem Post”. She linked the policy to the controversial “Jewish State Bill,” which critics have said would subordinate Israel’s democracy to its Jewish character.
Hertzanu countered that the Nakba was not about mourning the creation of Israel, but about the consequences of its establishment for Palestinians. “The foundation of the state was another outcome of the war, but this is not what the term refers to. The focus is not on the State of Israel, but the hardships that were inflicted on the Palestinians who lived here, the Palestinians who were not able to return after the war,” she said. A thriving democracy, she added, should challenge norms, narratives and history through art. “We invite the Israeli public to come to the festival to learn, question and debate where its responsibility lies,” she said.