‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film

Producer Deema Azar and actor Ashraf Barhom introduce ‘Farha,’ the closing film of the Palestine Cinema Days festival, Ramallah, Israeli-occupied West Bank, Nov. 7, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 December 2022

‘Farha’: Palestinians reject Israeli backlash against Nakba film

  • Netflix release, directed by Jordan’s Darin J. Sallam, tells 1948 story of a girl in a village overrun by Israeli militias
  • Jordan chose ‘Farha’ to represent it in the Oscar for Best Foreign Film award during next edition of the premiere film event

RAMALLAH: Palestinians are defending the newly released movie “Farha” following an Israeli backlash against the film’s depiction of events in 1948.

As Netflix faces criticism for airing the film, activists advocating the Palestinian cause are taking the initiative to support its release.

The Jordanian film depicts the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, known as the Nakba.

Screening of the film has caused widespread Israeli anger with threats to cancel Netflix subscriptions.

Israeli ministers and officials have accused the film’s creators of promoting a false narrative and inciting violence against Israeli soldiers.

The movie, directed by Darin J. Sallam, a Jordanian woman of Palestinian origin, tells the story of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who witnesses the murder of her entire family, including an infant, when Israeli militias overrun her village and execute civilians during the Nakba. The girl dreams of moving from her Palestinian village to the city to continue her education.

The village’s exposure to the invasion prompts the girl’s father to hide her in a small room, and her life changes dramatically in a matter of days.

The film, inspired by real events, was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2021.

Jordan chose “Farha” to represent it in the Oscar for Best Foreign Film award during the next edition of the world’s premiere film event.

The film was launched on Netflix on Dec. 1.

Israeli officials claim that Farha “presents a false narrative” about the Nakba, in which 760,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homelands.

Prominent Palestinian poet and writer Mutwakel Taha told Arab News that the reason for the Israeli anger was because the country’s actions in the Nakba had been exposed to the world through the film.

“They want to monopolize the victim image alone. So their madness is because the Palestinians appear as victims of the Israelis,” Taha told Arab News.

Taha said that Palestinians are betting on cultural solutions after the failure of efforts to reach a political settlement with Israel.

A Palestinian narrative of events during the Nakba frightens Israeli, said Taha.

Palestinian writer Tahsin Yaqeen agreed.

Yaqeen told Arab News that Israel considers every artistic or literary work from the side of Palestine as an attack, adding that Israel’s narrative had been challenged and undermined through the work of Israeli historians such as Ilan Pappe.

Shlomo Sand, another prominent historian who has questioned Israel’s actions, has also challenged prominent narratives, Yaqeen said, adding: “We do not need as Palestinians to explain what happened in 1948 and before and after that, because the world knows very well what happened.”

Israelis should view “Farha” and listen to the stories of Palestinians, even if they do not agree, said Yaqeen.

The writer asked: “If the Israelis are not believing what is narrated by the ‘Farha’ film, would they not ask themselves today, what is their government and army doing in the West Bank?”

Yaqeen said that the Israeli reaction to the film was based on “a national rejection because it violated the Israeli narrative.

“It is not artistic criticism of the film’s narrative.”

Sireen Jabarin, an Israeli-Arab activist from Umm Al-Fahm, told Arab News: “Israeli authorities limiting freedom of art is not new, but, interestingly, the Israeli policies in this direction are tending toward racism and extremism and not accepting the narration of the other party, and even rejecting any action that explains the truth to the Palestinians about what happened decades ago.”

An Israeli intellectual who opposes the release of “Farha” told Arab News: “Netflix is a global network and has many subscribers in Israel. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Israeli subscribers have canceled their subscriptions to Netflix during the past few days in protest of its marketing of the Jordanian film ‘Farha,’ which lacks balance and objectivity, and neglects to mention the Israeli point of view.”

Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the release of the film.

Lieberman said: “It is insane that Netflix decided to broadcast a film whose sole purpose is to present a false claim and incite against Israeli soldiers.”

Lieberman added: “We will not allow the reputation of Israeli army soldiers to be tarnished.”

The minister said that he had directed the leadership at the Ministry of Finance to take measures to withdraw the budget of the Jaffa Theater, which chose to screen the film.

Israeli Culture Minister Hili Tropper said that the screening of the film in Israeli cinemas was a “shame,” adding that “Farha” promotes “lies and slander.”

Darin J. Sallam and producers Dima Azar and Aya Jardaneh condemned criticism of the film.

They criticized a social media campaign targeting the film’s rating on IMDb, attempts to stop the screening of the film at Jaffa Theater and threats to cancel Netflix subscriptions.

They also condemned hate messages, harassment, accusations and bullying on social media.

The trio said that they would not tolerate any harmful threats against any member of the “Farha” team.

“These attempts to silence Arab women and filmmakers is a stripping of humanity and freedom of expression,” they said.

“The film’s existence is a reality, and our existence is a reality. We have been robbed of a lot, but our voices will not be taken away.”

Azar and Jardaneh stressed their support for Sallam’s decision to “tell this human and personal story, and share it with the world, and to realize this creative vision cinematically without any restrictions.”

White House: US concerned about reports Israel used white phosphorus in Lebanon attack

Updated 13 sec ago

White House: US concerned about reports Israel used white phosphorus in Lebanon attack

NEW YORK: The United States is concerned about reports Israel used US-supplied white phosphorus munitions in an October attack in southern Lebanon, White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday.
“We’ve seen the reports. Certainly concerned about that. We’ll be asking questions to try to learn a little bit more,” Kirby told reporters on Air Force One.
Kirby said white phosphorus has a “legitimate military utility” for illumination and producing smoke to conceal movements.
“Obviously any time that we provide items like white phosphorous to another military, it is with the full expectation that it will be used in keeping with those legitimate purposes ... and in keeping with the law of armed conflict,” he said.

Japan, UAE to cooperate towards stabilization of international oil market

Updated 11 min 26 sec ago

Japan, UAE to cooperate towards stabilization of international oil market

  • Sheikh Mohammed told Kishida that UAE was keen on boosting relations with Japan in energy

TOKYO: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, spoke with Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio about the Ukraine crisis and assured him that the UAE was keen to maintain energy security and keep global markets stable.

In a Japan-UAE Summit telephone talk, Sheikh Mohammed also told Kishida that his country was keen on boosting relations with Japan in the energy field.

Kishida said that the UAE was a strategic partner for Japan and expressed his intention to foster close ties with Sheikh Mohamed, and expressed his congratulations on the success of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sheikh Mohamed outlined his renewed hopes for strengthening bilateral relations with Japan, and also expressed his gratitude for Japan’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, according to the ministry.

The two leaders also exchanged views on “soaring” crude oil prices in the wake of the situation in Ukraine.

Kishida called for the UAE’s further proactive contribution to the stabilization of the crude oil market as a member of OPEC, and the two leaders confirmed that the UAE and Japan would cooperate towards the stabilization of the international oil market.

The leaders confirmed the strengthening of their bilateral relationship, including through signing the framework document for the “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Initiative,” and in promoting cooperation in various fields, especially as 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE.

Kishida requested the UAE’s support in securing safe means for Japanese nationals in Russia to return to Japan. In response, Sheikh Mohamed said that the UAE was committed to closely cooperating with Japan.

The two leaders exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East, including Yemen and Iran, and confirmed the continuation of their close cooperation.

(With inputs from WAM)

* This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan. Click here to read it.

Strong voter turnout on 2nd day of Egypt presidential election

Updated 40 min 56 sec ago

Strong voter turnout on 2nd day of Egypt presidential election

  • Queues started forming on Monday at some polling stations in Cairo and elsewhere in the country long before they opened at 9 a.m.
  • Polls close at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, with the election results due to be announced on Dec. 18

CAIRO: Egyptian voters turned out in force on the second and penultimate day of a presidential election in which President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was expected to sweep to a third, six-year term in office.

Queues started forming on Monday at some polling stations in Cairo and elsewhere in the country long before they opened at 9 a.m.

El-Sisi is competing against three other candidates: Abdel-Sanad Yamama, the head of Wafd, Egypt’s oldest party, Hazem Omar, leader of the Republican People’s Party, and Farid Zahran, of the Social Democratic Party.

In the coastal city of Alexandria, El-Sisi’s electoral campaign officials reported a strong turnout at ballot boxes, and voting centers were said to be particularly busy in central Cairo and the southwestern New Valley Governorate.

Moushira Khattab, president of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, said: “We are reassured about the conduct of the presidential elections.” She added that the council had so far not received any complaints relating to election conduct.

National Elections Authority officials said that voting operations were proceeding in a disciplined and smooth manner, adding that voter turnout on Sunday had also been brisk.

Polls close at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, with the election results due to be announced on Dec. 18.

Passant Tarek, a 27-year-old dentist who cast her vote in Suez, said: “Voting is our duty, and it is the least we can do for the country, especially during these critical times and with the developments happening around the world.”

UNRWA staff honored at Doha Forum amid Gaza war

Updated 53 min 6 sec ago

UNRWA staff honored at Doha Forum amid Gaza war

  • Lazzarini lamented the deaths of 134 UNRWA colleagues during the war in Gaza

LONDON: The Doha Forum has honored staff from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East for their humanitarian work in Gaza and throughout the region.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani presented the award to UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini on Sunday.

“UNRWA stands with the people of Gaza as they go through their darkest hours. This award is in recognition of the lifesaving and irreplaceable work that my colleagues are doing especially in the Gaza Strip and across the region,” Lazzarini said in his acceptance speech.

The agency houses more than 1.2 million displaced Palestinians in its facilities throughout the Gaza Strip, and its workers are continuing with relief efforts despite suffering tragic losses.

“At least 70 percent have been displaced, some multiple times. They take their children to work so if they die, they die together,” said Lazzarini.

The ceremony was not just a moment of honor but also of mourning, with Lazzarini lamenting the deaths of 134 UNRWA colleagues during the war in Gaza.

“This number is the highest ever recorded in the history of the UN. The world should honor their memory. UNRWA will never be the same without them,” he said.

According to UNRWA, the number of Palestinians killed during the war in proportion to the population is the highest it has been since the turn of the century. At least 70 percent of those killed are women and children.

“I urge world leaders to put an end to this war, for the sake of global peace and stability and to reach a longer-term political solution to what is one of the longest unresolved crises in history,” said Lazzarini.

Palestinians go on strike over Gaza onslaught

Updated 11 December 2023

Palestinians go on strike over Gaza onslaught

  • Many Palestinians took part and rallies were staged in the West Bank
  • In Lebanon, public institutions, banks, schools and universities closed in a nationwide strike in solidarity with Gaza and southern border areas

RAMALLAH: Shops, schools and government offices shut across the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem Monday as Palestinians staged a general strike protesting against Israel’s relentless onslaught in the Gaza Strip.
The bloodiest ever war in Gaza has killed more than 18,200 Palestinians in the territory, mostly women and children, and 104 Israeli soldiers, according to the latest reported death tolls.
Activists had called for a strike in solidarity with the besieged territory covering businesses, public workers and education.
Many Palestinians took part and rallies were staged in the West Bank, according to Essam Abu Baker who coordinates Palestinian factions in Ramallah.
He described the protest as part of a global effort to put pressure on Israel to stop the war, reporting strikes taking place in parts of Jordan and Lebanon.
In Lebanon, public institutions, banks, schools and universities closed after the government decided on a nationwide strike in solidarity with Gaza and with border areas in the south, which have seen intensifying exchanges of fire, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah.
The stoppage was also observed in Istanbul’s western Esenyurt district, where many businesses are owned by residents from the Palestinian territories, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
Footage on social media showed deserted streets and Palestinian flags billowing.
“The strike today is not only in solidarity with Gaza, but also against the USA which used its veto in the Security Council against a truce,” Abu Baker said in Ramallah, referring to the US rejection of a cease-fire resolution on Friday.
Overnight in Gaza, more Israeli air strikes targeted the biggest southern city of Khan Yunis, while deadly fighting and bombing were also reported in the center and north of the narrow territory.
Hamas, which triggered the war with its October 7 attacks in which 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel, warned that the remaining 137 hostages held in Gaza would not survive the conflict unless Israel meets its demands and frees more Palestinian prisoners.

At a rally in Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority, demonstrators unfurled a huge list of names of the victims in Gaza.
Whole families came out to protest, with parents carrying children on their shoulders.
“All we can do is take part,” an elderly man in the crowd told AFP. “We don’t have anything else.”
AFP photographers also saw the work stoppage being observed in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and Hebron in the south, where another rally was held.
In east Jerusalem’s Old City, many shops were closed. The sound of keys echoed in the bazaar as Palestinian business owners locked their brightly painted doors.
“We want the war to stop,” said Nasser, a 65-year-old coffee shop owner who gave only his first name. He has not heard from friends in war-torn Gaza for weeks, and doesn’t know if they are dead or alive.
He said he had little to lose by closing his shop along the Via Dolorosa, a Christian pilgrimage route.
“We’ve had no business anyway since the war started,” he said, after the outbreak of violence prompted visitor numbers to plummet.
The few shopkeepers who did open said they had strong reasons for doing so.
Florist Raja Salama, 62, came to work to prepare wreaths of white roses for an elderly relative’s funeral.
“I’m only open because the funeral is today,” he said.
“When I’ve taken the flowers over, I’ll close.”
Others were desperate for business.
“I need to work to feed my baby son,” said a young Palestinian barber.
He did not give his name, explaining that he was ashamed to open his shop in the Old City.
“I should respect the strike, but I have no choice. I have a one-year-old at home and I haven’t had work since the start of the war. That’s the ugly truth.”