Monday, July 27, 2009

Documentary sparks uproar at Jewish film fest

by Matthai Kuruvila

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has come under siege after deciding to show a documentary about Rachel Corrie, a Washington state 23-year-old killed in 2003 while trying to prevent an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian's home.

Whether Corrie naively put herself in harm's way in support of terrorists or was intentionally killed by the Israeli military is the nexus of the controversy.

Compounding the issue, festival organizers invited Corrie's mother, Cindy, to speak after today's showing at the Castro Theatre of the film "Rachel." It is one of 71 films at this year's festival, which includes two films profiling kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

The reaction has been outrage. The festival board's president stepped down from her role, opening-night ceremonies were boycotted by some, and Israel Consul General Akiva Tor said it was a "big mistake to invite Mrs. Corrie."

At the core of the debate are questions about how broadly Jews can discuss Israel within their own community - and how Jews represent Israel to the broader world. It is also overlaid with accusations of the "new anti-Semitism," prejudice that is disguised as particular criticisms of Israel, the only Jewish state.

"The furor is much larger than this one film or this one speaker," said Peter L. Stein, the festival's executive director. "It reveals a rift in our community that we all need to help understand and hopefully heal."

Family feud

The 29-year-old festival is the oldest and largest Jewish film festival in the nation, yet it's also like a small family. The film festival's board includes members with close links to both the accusers and those accused of the new anti-Semitism.

No comments: