Miral is having its US premiere tonight at the United Nations, and the American Jewish Committee is (of course) trying to shut it down. Here is a letter from AJC Executive Director David Harris to UN General Assembly President Joseph Deiss:
Dear President Deiss,
I write on behalf of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to express profound concern about the planned showing of the film “Miral” in the General Assembly Hall on Monday.
To say the least, we were surprised to learn about this highly unusual premiere under the auspices of your office. The film has a clear political message, which portrays Israel in a highly negative light. Permit me to ask why the President of the General Assembly would wish to associate himself — and the prestige of his office — with such a blatantly one-sided event.
AJC has had a long and productive association with the UN that dates back to the world body’s founding in San Francisco in 1945. Indeed, historians have credited our organization with a key role in achieving the human-rights provisions in the Charter. Moreover, the Barbara Hepworth sculpture in front of the Secretariat building was a gift from our president, Jacob Blaustein, to then Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold as a tangible gesture of support. Today, we enjoy consultative status at the UN.
It is in that spirit of deeply-rooted connection to the UN that we voice the earnest hope, even at this late date, that you will reconsider your decision about the film. Otherwise, you will only serve to reinforce the already widespread view that Israel simply cannot expect fair treatment in the UN.
Thank you for the consideration of our view.
AJC Executive Director
The AJC press release adds another quote from Harris complaining that “the Israeli Mission to the UN was not even given the minimal courtesy of being consulted in advance about the wisdom of showing such a film”. As per usual, the AJC is only echoing the Israeli government, which has called the premiere “scandalous” and is protesting it within in the UN.
From the Jerusalem Post article “Israel incensed pro-Palestinian film to show at UN“:
A member of the Israeli delegation to the UN who had seen the film told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the film is “scandalous.”
“There’s no historic context, not at all, nothing,” the diplomat said, noting that the film was laden with instances of Israeli cruelty to Palestinians. “You can see us bombing a house in the film, but you don’t see why – maybe this was the house of a suicide bomber that killed 30 Israelis. We don’t know.”
Sources said that invitations were sent out on Thursday afternoon for the Monday night screening. Members of the Israeli delegation said the decision to screen a feature film in the General Assembly hall – especially such a dramatically pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli film – was a “horrible” one.
The decision seems to have been made unilaterally by Switzerland’s Joseph Deiss, the General Assembly’s president.
Asked whether the showing would be particularly inappropriate following the slayings in Itamar on Friday night, UN spokesperson Jean- Victor Nkolo told the Post Sunday that Deiss condemns “in the strongest possible terms the murder of the Israeli family in the West Bank.”
However, Nkolo said, it is the UN’s hope that the film “will show the state of children in conflict.”
Nkolo said Deiss had seen the film and thought it would be “conducive to a discussion of children in conflict.”
Nkolo said he believes other films have been shown in the General Assembly hall, recalling one on child soldiers in Africa. He did not know if a nondocumentary feature film had ever premiered there.
On Friday morning, Israel’s delegation to the UN sent a letter of complaint to Deiss, protesting his decision to host the US premiere of Miral.
In the letter, Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Haim Waxman wrote, “We find it very troubling that the UN has chosen to feature this film in the GA Hall. We are not aware of any other films with such contentious political content that have received this kind of endorsement from the president of the GA.”
The event, according to the Israeli delegation, “will mark a rare occasion in which the UN’s GA Hall is used for a movie premiere. This is clearly a politicized decision of the UN, one that shows poor judgment and a lack of evenhandedness.”
According to members of the Israeli delegation, various offices at the UN denied having any knowledge of the event beforehand, including the office of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. His office did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.
Waxman said that Deiss, as president of the General Assembly, in some circumstances is independent and therefore has the prerogative to make decisions such as these.
“But the hall of the General Assembly is not his own property,” Waxman continued.
“This is the main hall of the global community and belongs to the countries of the world. Anything that happens there has to be decided with great care. We find ourselves arguing about commas here and there on every document – so how can this screening happen?” Waxman said members of the Israeli delegation met with Deiss staffers on Friday.
“We gave them a very strong piece of our mind on why we think it’s completely out of place, why this is almost bizarre and a very strange decision [that] the only time they’re sending a political movie [is] when it deals with us,” Waxman told the Post.