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European film festivals hit with controversies over Israel-Hamas war

(JTA) — The war between Israel and Hamas continues to divide the cultural world, as two European film festivals this week found themselves embroiled in controversy over their handling of both Israeli and pro-Palestinian filmmakers.

The Stockholm International Film Festival, in Sweden, apologized Monday for what it said was a “misunderstanding” surrounding a planned guest, Israeli-American filmmaker and actress Aleeza Chanowitz. The festival had planned to have Chanowitz attend a screening this week of her raunchy comedy series “Chanshi,” which she created and stars in as an Orthodox American woman who moves to Israel on a quest for sex with male soldiers.

But in emails Chanowitz first shared with Deadline, organizers walked back the invitation, at first saying the Israeli embassy could no longer provide travel costs, then citing a Swedish Foreign Embassy warning against travel to and from Israel. When she pushed further, organizers at the festival reportedly told her the organization had “to take a stand” and that her appearance at the festival could be an “unpleasant situation.”

“I am surprised by the festival’s cowardice, and it really sucks because I wanted to have a nice time at a cultural event where I could take a break from our scary reality and enjoy and discuss art,” Chanowitz told Deadline. “I also ‘have had to take a stand’; I stand with the Jews, Israelis of all kinds, peace with our neighbors, and most of all with the families of the hostages.”

After the story blew up in the Israeli press, the festival issued an apology and offered to host Chanowitz in a virtual Q&A, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Claiming that “incorrect information” was spread about the reason behind the change, the festival said in a statement, “We are incredibly sorry about this bad communication that has caused pain for the team and for the wider Jewish community.”

While the Stockholm controversy was unfolding, another was taking place in the Netherlands. At the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, around a dozen filmmakers have pulled their work from the festival’s lineup over its stance on the phrase “From the River to the Sea.”

The collective, along with the Palestine Film Institute, was angry with festival organizers for condemning an opening-night pro-Palestinian protest. At the protest, demonstrators had unfurled a banner reading “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” a controversial phrase that many argue has historical roots in calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Claiming that he had not seen the banner at the time, festival director Orwa Nyrabia was caught on camera applauding the protests. He later condemned the banner after pushback from Israeli filmmakers, who wrote in an open letter, “We see this as a personal attack against us.”

The festival’s eventual statement on the slogan remarked that it “does not represent us, and we do not endorse it in any way. We are truly sorry that it was hurtful to many.” Festival organizers also called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, which Israel has bombarded for more than a month since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, and for humanitarian aid to enter the region.

After announcing that stance, several pro-Palestinian filmmakers announced they would be pulling their films from the event, including at least one Iranian director. 

“I am heartbroken, betrayed, and outraged by the damaging slander of the slogan ‘From the River to the Sea,’” Iranian filmmaker Maryam Tafakory announced on Instagram as she pulled her film. “To call this slogan ‘hurtful’ is to be against the end of occupation.”

The Palestine Film Institute, which pulled out of plans to showcase several films and participate in the festival’s marketplace, issued its own statement saying the festival “unjustly criminalizes Palestinian voices and narratives.” While the phrase has been criminalized in Germany, the institute said it has not been banned in the Netherlands. The institute later issued another statement praising the festival for supporting a ceasefire.

Among the films the institute had slated to show at the festival was “Bye Bye Tiberias,” a documentary about the family of Palestinian-Israeli-French actress Hiam Abbass, best known for her role in the HBO series “Succession.” 

The controversies in Stockholm and Amsterdam mirrored other debates around Israel that have unfolded in arts and culture spaces, including at the 92NY in New York City and among the staff of the art magazine Artforum. In both cases, blowback to Israel-critical open letters resulted in staff at the institutions either resigning or being fired. 


The post European film festivals hit with controversies over Israel-Hamas war appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns

Stadion Widzewa is a multi-use stadium in Łódź, Poland. It is currently used mostly for football matches and serves as the home stadium of Widzew Łódź. Photo: maps.pomocnik.com.

Two Israeli soccer teams — Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva — that were set to play their European Championship matches in the Polish city of Łódź have been banned by the hosting country, after widespread outrage from Poles.

The Union of European Football Associations previously announced that Israel will not be allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the ongoing war against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

As a result, the Israeli clubs announced on Sunday that their new “home stadiums” would be the Władysław Król Municipal Stadium and the Stadion Widzewa in Łódź. Soon afterward, two Polish clubs that play at the stadiums released statements distancing themselves from the decision, with many fans expressing antisemitic outrage on social media against Israel and support for the Palestinians.

The Polish city’s Cultural and Sport authority then released a statement saying that no Israeli teams would play at any facilities in Łódz because “the safety of Łódź residents and visitors is the highest priority for the city.”

Yacov Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, slammed the decision and lodged a complaint with the Polish city.

“One should not give in to such threats. Lodz needs to remain a place of tolerance, not fear,” Livne said in a statement on X/Twitter.

Maccabi Haifa took second place in the Israeli top league, giving it the opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds for the European Conference League, while Hapoen Beer Sheva came third in the Israeli premier league.

One of the Polish clubs based in Łódz has a history of antisemitism.

In 2016, a group of ŁKS Łódz hooligans set fire to “Jewish” effigies and paraded a banner calling for the burning of Jews. Years earlier in 2013, fans of the same team invited visitors to an indoor tournament to play a game in which they could throw objects at “Jews,” models dressed in uniforms of the club’s rival, Widzew Łódź. A sign next to the game informed players that for a meager price they would be given “three throws at the Jews.”

Antisemitism is increasingly creeping into Polish politics as well.

Last week a virulently antisemitic member of the Polish parliament who extinguished the candles of a lit Hanukkah menorah with a fire extinguisher won a seat in the European Parliament elections, riding a wave of far-right success across the continent.

The post Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’

Quentin Tarantino being harassed by anti-Israel media personality “Crackhead Barney.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

A notorious anti-Israel social media personality accosted filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at a New York City restaurant and called him a “Zionist piece of s–t.”

A woman known online as “Crackhead Barney” shared a video on Saturday of her confrontation with the “Django Unchained” director, 61, as he was eating alone inside a restaurant on St. Marks Place. She approached his table and shouted, “Quentin Tarantino, say ‘Free Palestine!’ Why are you a Zionist piece of s__t?!” Tarantino remained silent as Barney repeated herself and then asked him, “Going to Israel?” as workers from the establishment tried to make her leave the restaurant.

When Tarantino left the eatery, a rowdy crowd awaited him outside including Barney, who confronted him again. She repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” and asked the director to “say ni–er” multiple times while also exposing herself to the “Pulp Fiction” director. The crowd of people outside the restaurant also chanted “Toes! Toes!” which is seemingly a nod to the director’s fixation with showcasing feet in his movies.

Tarantino is married to Israeli singer Daniella Pick, who is the daughter of legendary Israeli pop musician Svika Pick. The couple live in Tel Aviv with their two children and Tarantino spoke in 2021 about learning Hebrew. In 2022, he received an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, Tarantino visited an army base in southern Israel and met with Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops.

Earlier this year, Barney harassed actor Alec Baldwin inside a coffee shop in New York City and recorded their confrontation on her cellphone. She told the actor, “Free Palestine … F–k Israel, F–k Zionism.” She repeatedly asked Baldwin to also say “Free Palestine” and when she would not back down, Baldwin eventually knocked Barney’s phone from her hands.

The post Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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