Our involvement with the last film in this year’s Palestinian Film Festival, on 9th December, was sponsored by SPARK Social Justice – as there are always many younger people in the audience. This year it was sold out. The film was called Israelism and explored how many young Jewish people in the USA are brought up to revere the state of Israel without being fully aware of the situation with regard to Palestinians. It follows the stories of some of these people and how they reject the stories they have grown up with after seeing the situation for themselves on visits to Israel.
For us, as organisers, the event was not without its own drama! We were due to have a post-film discussion with the film’s Director. However, two days prior to screening he had to cancel because his parents were ill. Thanks to the efforts of Tricia Griffin, Film Festival committee member and longtime campaigner about Palestinian rights, we were have the discussion led by Robert Cohen, a writer and blogger on Jewish affairs who lives in Leeds.
In some ways, it was better to have Robert speaking as he was able to give a UK perspective on what was depicted in the film. People asked some hard questions of him – comparing the reaction of people in this country when UK Jews have gone to fight in the Israeli Defence Force against the reaction to Muslims who went to fight for IS. However, it was very striking how the questions were phrased in a respectful way and the discussion was a genuine exploration of positions and issues where it is almost impossible to get beneath the surface in the mainstream media. We are very grateful that Robert took the opportunity to share his expert knowledge.