The real Ajima

Al Jazeera reports from Ajimi, the location of the Oscar-nominated film of the same name.

Haaretz reports:

A day before a film about crime and tension in Jaffa will compete for an Academy Award, protestors took to the streets to denounce what they see as increased police violence in Jaffa.

“We are calling out, together, against violence – violence from the police,” said Gabi Abad, head of the Arab Jaffa organization.

“The body that is supposed to protect us is attacking us… We tell the police – we are against violence, especially against the innocent,” he added.

The Israeli movie “Ajami,” about strife between Jaffa’s Muslim and Christian Arabs, is up for an Oscar for best foreign film.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Jaffa from the central square toward the police department. Among the demonstrators were family members of “Ajami” co-director Scandar Copti. Copti’s mother, Mary, on Saturday demonstrated outside Jaffa’s police station.

At Mondoweiss, Ira Glunts writes:

Just hours before the ceremony, Scandar Copti angered Jewish Israeli government officials by declaring, “I am not part of the national team…. I cannot represent a country that does not represent me.”

This quickly brought reaction from Jewish government officials. Limor Livnat, Minister of Sport and Culture, opined: “It is sad that a director supported by the state ignores those who helped him create and express himself…. Happily, the rest of the movie’s team see themselves as part of the State of Israel and are proud to represent it in the Oscars as ambassadors of liberated cultural expression.” Member of Knesset Daniel Hershkowitz eschewed the gentler and nuanced critical style of Livat and spoke directly to the fears of the cultural ambassador types when he warned, “the man who directed the film with Israeli funding might wrap himself with a Hamas flag tonight. If the movie wins an Oscar, it might be a Pyrrhic victory for Israel.”

The chances are “Ajami” will not win the Oscar. My bookie is laying 7 to 1. If it beats the odds and wins, we will then see a real Israeli mini-drama in Hollywood. The plot: will Copti accept the award saying he is not a representative of Israel and what will he say about the real life Ajami?

At The Palestine Chronicle, Michelle J. Kinnucan quotes Palestinian attorney Raja Shehadeh who reviewed the film for the BBC:

[The world of Ajami is] a city of drive-by shootings, drugs, and racketeering, where men, young and old, are shot or stabbed to death on the slightest provocation and shady sheikhs in Arab dress sort out the blood money in what is supposed to pass as tribal justice. … the unrelieved blood-letting punctuated only by moments of love and loyalty to family and friends leaves us in no doubt that the Jewish citizens of Israel exist in a jungle infested by bloodthirsty, uncivilized Arabs who live inside and outside its borders exactly as Israeli propagandists claim. If Israel is to make it, the story goes, this tiny bastion of civilization has no choice but to remain militarized and on full alert. What the film fails to open our eyes to is why life in Jaffa has come to this. After one of the senseless murders by Arab assailants, the Israeli television commentator explains that poverty and unemployment often lead to crime. But are these the only reasons that explain why things have become so bad in Ajami? The film makes no reference to what Jaffa has been and what it has gone through or the present threat of eviction facing many in its Ajami quarter. Before most of its inhabitants were forced out by Israel in the 1948 Nakba–the catastrophe–it was a prosperous city of over one hundred thousand citizens that was described as the “Bride of the Sea.” After the establishment of Israel the city was left to rot. Nor does the film give any hint of the host of economic and travel restrictions imposed on the territories Israel occupied in 1967, restrictions which force another of its characters, Malik, a one-time resident of Nablus, to seek illegal employment in Jaffa and there, enduring daily hardships, he becomes involved in drug dealing and dies as a result. … surely a film that wants us to open our eyes to reality should not serve ideology by compromising truth. In July 1936, Ben-Gurion, one of the founders of Israel, wrote, in his diary: “I would welcome the destruction of Jaffa, port and city. Let it come. It would be for the better. If Jaffa went to hell, I would not count myself among the mourners.”

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