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Israel-Palestine film a chance ‘to learn’

A still from the documentary Israelism

Backers of a documentary on the Israel-Palestine conflict being screened tomorrow said no one seeking to have the film cancelled had contacted them — but that security would be provided “to ensure that people feel safe and confident to attend, listen and learn”.

The Peace Collective added that it had no security concerns about the free showing of the 2023 documentary Israelism, starting at 4pm in the Tradewinds Auditorium of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

The group spoke after a representative from the Jewish Community of Bermuda is understood to have contacted the BUEI asking that the facility, which is not associated with the documentary, call off the showing.

“Despite the apparent attempts to prevent the screening of this film, we anticipate a large turnout and thoughtful conversation,” a representative of the group told The Royal Gazette.

Israelism triggered a backlash in the wake of sweeping terrorist attack on Israel, launched by Hamas from Gaza on October 7, that claimed nearly 1,200 Israeli lives, with close to 250 hostages taken back into the territory.

The film’s stance on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, seen through the perspectives of American Jews, has proved controversial, with some showings cancelled over accusations that it fosters anti-Semitism.

The BUEI and the Jewish Community of Bermuda both declined to comment on the request, said to have been made on Thursday, for the local screening to be called off.

The Peace Collective responded: “Zionism is a political ideology and it is irresponsible to conflate Zionism — or Israel — with either Judaism or the Jewish people while seeking to shield the actions of Israel from valid criticism.”

The film is rated PG-13.

The group added: “Israelism is a documentary film made by Jewish people and introduced to Bermuda by a collective of residents, some of whom are themselves Jewish.

“It recently won the audience award at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.”

The group’s members have taken part in public demonstrations on the island in support of Palestinian civilians caught up in the fighting between Hamas and the Israeli Defence Forces, and centred on Gaza.

The war is believed to have killed close to 28,000 Palestinian civilians.

In a statement to the Gazette, the Peace Collective said: “Conflating any criticism of Israel — even when this criticism comes from Jews — with anti-Semitism is dangerous.

“It makes it much more difficult to fight real anti-Semitism and silences the diverse perspectives of those within the Jewish community.”

The group said it had selected the film to “create a platform for learning and discussion around a topical humanitarian issue”.

“Showing the variety of Jewish perspectives that exist about and within Israel helps to fight anti-Semitism. This is part of the film's message.”

They said they were inviting members of the community to develop “an informed view of the film for themselves”.

They added: “Regarding any concerns about showing this film, no letter was sent to our group, or discussion had with any individual in our group.”

The Peace Collective said it was available to field concerns at bermudapeacecollective@gmail.com.

Peter Sanderson, a lawyer experienced in constitutional and human rights issues, said that pulling the plug on an event already booked in response to a specific group’s objections would have raised legal complications.

Mr Sanderson pointed to Section 5 of Bermuda’s Human Rights Act 1981, which prohibits discrimination in provision of services or facilities on the grounds of political opinion.

He added: “In my opinion, Bermuda’s Human Rights Act does not allow venues to cancel events due to either the political opinions expressed being offensive to some, or due to the venue wishing to curry favour with a particular religious or ethnic group, members of whom object to the event.

“The BUEI could face legal action from the film organisers if they caved.”

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Published February 10, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 10, 2024 at 8:19 am)

Israel-Palestine film a chance ‘to learn’

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