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Film Festival Backtracks on Condemnation of Anti-Israel ‘From the River to the Sea’ Slogan After Directors Withdraw From Event

Anti-Israel protesters hold a banner that says, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” standing in front of the president’s palace in Warsaw, Poland, on Nov. 5, 2023. Photo: IMAGO/Marek Antoni Iwanczuk via Reuters Connect

Organizers of the 2023 International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) currently taking place in Amsterdam have walked back their criticism of a rallying cry widely known as a call for the destruction of Israel after a number of pro-Palestinian directors withdrew their participation in the film festival.

The IDFA’s Artistic Director Orwa Nyrabia told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday that “around 10” directors have pulled their films from the festival’s lineup. The Palestine Film Institute (PFI) announced on Sunday that it too has withdrawn from all activities at the IDFA film market. The PFI additionally organized a protest outside the main IDFA headquarters on Monday to demand an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and to criticize the IDFA.

In response, Nyrabia said, “We respect the choices and the decisions of all filmmakers, whether that is to speak their minds on stage or online or to withdraw their films. All forms of peaceful protest, including criticism of our work, we honor and respect.”

The IDFA is the world’s largest documentary film festival. At its opening night on Nov. 8, pro-Palestinian protesters rushed on stage and held a banner that read, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The slogan has been widely interpreted as a call for Israel, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, to be eradicated and replaced by “Palestine.” It has also been used to defend the deadly Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel that took place on Oct. 7.

Last week, the US House of Representatives voted to censure Palestinian-American Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) for her use of the slogan. A resolution passed by 22 Democrats and most Republicans called the slogan “a genocidal call to violence to destroy the state of Israel and its people to replace it with a Palestinian state.”

A day after the incident at the film festival’s opening night, 16 prominent members of the Israeli film community — including the chair of the Israeli Film Academy, chairwoman of the Israeli Documentary Forum, and chairman of the Israeli Producers Union — wrote a letter to the IDFA. They asked the festival and its director to “clearly and resoundingly distance themselves, reject and denounce these calls for violence and withdraw any platform from those who knowingly incite for the annihilation of Israel, instigating violence and giving rise to antisemitic sentiments against Jews everywhere.”

IDFA organizers afterwards condemned the slogan in a statement released on Nov. 10.

“That slogan does not represent us, and we do not endorse it in any way. We are truly sorry that it was hurtful to many,” the statement read in part. “We understand that the slogan was hurtful, and sincerely apologize for how this happened. There are many ways that people use or read this slogan, and that various sides use it in opposing ways, all of which we do not agree with, and we believe that this slogan should not be used in any way and by anybody anymore.”

Nyrabia added that the slogan is “a triggering statement and an offensive declaration for many, regardless of who carries it. It does not represent IDFA, and was and will not be endorsed.” The Syrian-born filmmaker also denied allegations that he was applauding the banner that featured the slogan on opening night, saying that he did not see the words on the sign until afterwards and “clapped to welcome freedom of speech, and not to welcome the slogan.”

In a separate statement released on Nov. 10, the film festival called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

After the release of the statement slamming the “river to the sea” slogan, a number of pro-Palestinian producers and the PFI announced their withdrawal from the film festival. PFI additionally accused the IDFA of engaging in “institutional violence and censorship.” It said that by condemning the actions of the anti-Israel protesters at the festival’s opening night, the IDFA was responsible for the “vilification of Palestinian voices.”

The IDFA responded to the backlash in its most recent statement published on Nov. 12, when it repeated its call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, accused Israel of “occupation,” and clarified its stance regarding the slogan, appearing to somewhat justify its usage.

“Many filmmakers, Palestinians, Israelis, and others, whose work featured at IDFA over the years, showed the world how occupation is the core of this tragedy, and that ending the occupation and respecting all human lives as equal and sacred, are the essential steps,” the statement read.

The festival then said it recognizes that the controversial slogan “is at the heart of the on-going discussion is used by various parties in different ways and is perceived by various people in various manners.”

“We are not ignoring, undermining, nor criminalizing any of these positions, and we fully respect and acknowledge the pain that is going around and the extreme urgency of these discussions while war is still on, and innocent civilians are still dying,” the statement added. “Our aim is to make sure everybody feels welcome and safe to express themselves and to listen openly to others, even when in disagreement. Our hope is that everybody feels entitled to use this platform, seriously and responsibly, lovingly and sincerely.”

Iranian filmmaker Maryam Tafakory is among the directors to withdraw from the IDFA after it criticized the anti-Israel slogan. She pulled her film Mast-del from the film festival’s lineup and said in an Instagram post that she is “heartbroken, betrayed, and outraged by the damaging slander” of the “from the river to the sea” phrase. In the same social media post, she accused Israel of being an “apartheid state,” of “ethnic cleansing,” and of committing an “ongoing genocide” agains Palestinians.

The International Documentary Film Festival is taking place Nov. 8-19. On Wednesday, it awarded top prizes to a film about a “stateless Palestinian child” living in a refugee camp in Beirut, titled Son of the Streets, and another film titled Coexistence, My Ass! about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but with a comedic twist.

In a statement about awarding Son of the Streets at the IDFA Forum Awards, jurors Zdeněk Blaha and Nada Riyadh explained “with our decision, we would like to support not only a specific aspiring talent but also a cause,” in a clear reference to supporting the Palestinians. “If there was one project that needs support at this moment the most, it is this one. We would like to recognize the struggle of a nation forced to live as ghosts caught between the walls. Without home, without identity, without land.”

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Protester Sets Self on Fire Outside Israeli Consulate in Atlanta

Illustrative. Anti-Israel protesters demonstrate outside AIPAC President Michael Tuchin’s vacation home in Los Angeles, Nov. 23, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

i24 NewsA protester was in critical condition on Friday after setting themself on fire outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. authorities said. A security guard who tried to intervene was also wounded.

A Palestinian flag found at the scene was part of the protest, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said at a news conference. He added that investigators did not believe there was any connection to terrorism and none of the consular staff was ever in danger.

JUST IN: A pro-Palestine protester is in critical condition after they set themselves on fire in “political protest” outside of the Israeli Consulate office in Atlanta.

The protester was reportedly draped in a Palestine flag.

The protester has severe burns and unfortunately, a…

— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) December 1, 2023

“We do not see any threat here,” he said. “We believe it was an act of extreme political protest that occurred.” Everyone inside the consulate building was said to be safe.

Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the southeastern U.S., said: “We are saddened to learn of the self-immolation at the entrance to the office building. It is tragic to see the hate and incitement toward Israel expressed in such a horrific way.”

“The sanctity of life is our highest value. Our prayers are with the security officer who was injured while trying to prevent this tragic act. We are grateful to the city of Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders for all they do to ensure safety.”

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Released Israeli Hostages Call for Captives to Be Freed

Relatives and supporters of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, rally for their release, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas ended when the terrorist group broke it, in Tel Aviv, Israel, December 2, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Israeli hostages released in the past week by Hamas in Gaza called on Saturday for the immediate release of fellow captives left behind, a day after a temporary truce that had allowed scores to come home broke down.

Tens of thousands gathered at a rally in Tel Aviv outside Israel‘s defense headquarters, where they cheered Yelena Trupanov, 50, standing on a stage just two days after being freed.

“I came to thank you because without you I wouldn’t be here. Now we must bring back my (son) Sasha, and everyone. Now.”

Similar pleas from other released hostages were shown on video.

A seven-day truce, during which Hamas had released more than 100 hostages, collapsed on Friday after Hamas breached the ceasefire.

Israel said on Saturday it had recalled a Mossad intelligence agency team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal that would have freed all children and women held hostage.

More than 240 people – Israelis and foreign nationals – were abducted to Gaza on Oct 7. by Hamas terrorists who burst through the border with Israel and killed 1,200 people.

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IDF Foils Stabbing Attack Near Nablus in West Bank, Eliminates Terrorist

Illustrative. Palestinian attacker near Nablus hurls stones towards Israeli troops during clashes at a riot in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, May 5, 2017. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.

i24 NewsThe Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported thwarting a stabbing attack on Saturday afternoon against reserve Battalion 7037 at the X junction near Nablus in the West Bank.

According to the IDF spokesperson, the event unfolded when the forces at the roadblock became suspicious of an individual approaching the barricade.

During the questioning process, the suspect suddenly drew a knife and advanced towards the IDF personnel.

ניסיון פיגוע דקירה אירע לפני זמן קצר לעבר כוח צה”ל במילואים מגדוד 7037 שפעל בחסם בצומת האיקס סמוך לעיר שכם שבמרחב חטיבת שומרון.

הכוח חשד במחבל שהגיע לחסם והחל לתחקר אותו, המחבל שלף סכין והחל להתקדם לעבר הכוח.
הלוחמים חתרו למגע והגיבו בירי לעבר המחבל שחוסל. אין נפגעים לכוחותינו.

— דובר צה״ל דניאל הגרי – Daniel Hagari (@IDFSpokesperson) December 2, 2023

The soldiers, faced with the threat, engaged in contact procedures and ultimately responded by opening fire on the assailant. The spokesperson confirmed that the attacker was neutralized due to the IDF’s action.

It was also noted that there were no casualties among the IDF forces involved in the incident. According to the spokesperson, the situation at the X junction has stabilized, and IDF continues to maintain vigilance in the area to prevent further attacks.

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