By now I know I was not alone in cringing when a film from Palestine was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category. My personal discomfort wasn’t out of any objection that a film was made in the Palestinian territory, but rather for my immediate nervousness at the prospect of an acceptance speech. When I thought about it further however, I was actually quite pleased by the nomination. Not so much because I feel any personal investment in the growth of the Palestinian film industry, but rather because of the damage it does to the argument made by the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) Movement.
The movement, one that has influenced wealthy corporations and high-profile entertainers to boycott Israel, pushes the agenda that Israel is an apartheid state where Palestinians are persecuted with no hope for any sort of future. Along comes a movie, “Omar”, a movie that tells a story of a young Palestinian man accused of being an accomplice in the murder of an Israeli soldier. In the movie the man is beaten by an Israeli interrogator and convinced to collaborate with Israeli intelligence. Having not seen the movie I can not speak to how good or bad it makes the Israeli authorities look, but I do know that in an apartheid state a film of this sensitive nature would never have been made. This movie was made in Nazareth, in what is territory ultimately under control of the Israeli government. It is hard to imagine a film like this would even get off the ground in China or Russia if a filmmaker from one of those countries showed either of those governments in a similar light. So when the nomination of this film was read out loud for the entire world to hear, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was making the statement for those who needed to hear it that Israel is not only NOT an apartheid state, but a country where people can express themselves freely, be they Arab or Jew.
I don’t expect the anti-Semites who mold the BDS Movement to their agenda to be influenced by this at all, but I am hoping that the message was loud and clear to anyone out there who is objective and maybe not as educated to the reality of the situation. For this I would like to thank the Academy.