In the vein of its previous documentary project presenting a montage of 24 hours of life in Berlin, the German Zero One film production company has been planning a similar venture on Jerusalem.
Berlin-based Zero One Film will work alongside Palestinian producer Daoud Kuttab and newly founded Israeli prodco 24 Communications. The latter is a joint venture between Israeli prodcos Pie Films and Inosan, which worked on the original version of HBO hit In Treatment.
Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and Jerusalem Film Fund are backing 24h Jerusalem and the producers hope to secure the remaining €400,000 (US$500,000) of its €2.4m budget at MipTV this week.
Palestinian directors have now pulled out of the project – they were unaware of the presence of the Israeli production company, nor of backing from the Jerusalem Film Fund, which is in turn funded by the Jerusalem Development Authority. Current activities of the JDA include expropriating Palestinian land in East Jerusalem for parks. The JDA received “40 million NIS in 2005 to develop green spaces around the Old City of Jerusalem”.
Designating urban space as a national park is not only easier but cheaper too, the state having no obligation to compensate owners.
The Jerusalem municipality leaves the creation of these parks to the National Planning Authority (in the Ministry of Interior), Bimkom noted, which deals more with the protection of nature and heritage than the rights of Jerusalem’s residents.
The disparity between the management of space for West Jerusalemites compared to their counterparts in the east is stark, with national parks notably absent from the west.
“The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from extreme neglect and shortage of public infrastructure,” Bimkom architect, Efrat Bar-Cohen, said in a statement.
“The residents are in desperate need of space by which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly.”
The building of the park will have ramifications beyond the strangling of Issawiya and A-Tur residents.
It will stretch into the E1 area of the West Bank, which represents an important reserve of space for Palestinian development, creating a string of Jewish Israeli-only settlement between the Old City and Ma’ale Adumim settlement.
Elad Kandl is director of the Old City projects at the Jerusalem Development Authority, whose website describes their work as rehabilitating and conserving the Old City.
He expressed succinctly Israel’s aim of curbing Palestinian development in Jerusalem. “When you make it a national park,” he told The Jerusalem Post in reference to open space, “you keep the status quo.”
The JDA, which operates under the 1988 Jerusalem Development Authority Law, was established to further entrench Israeli control over the city and is also involved in the Jerusalem light rail project.
Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Office and the mayor of Jerusalem sponsored a JDA program to work toward this goal. On its website the JDA is very clear about the role of the Jerusalem light rail project, stating that “The investment in the light railway project was one of the government’s key strategies to empower Jerusalem as a capital.”
The JDA is also an instrumental actor in the proposed construction of 1,400 new housing units in the Gilo Jewish settlement colony, located near Bethlehem in occupied East Jerusalem.
In this light, the involvement of the JDA in the 24h Jerusalem project clearly designates the film as unacceptable normalisation with the Israeli occupation.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has defined normalization specifically in a Palestinian and Arab context “as the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.”  This is the definition endorsed by the BDS National Committee (BNC).
One Palestinian participant in the 24h Jerusalem project, Enas aL-Muthaffar, made clear his objections to the film project in an open letter on August 25th. He reveals that he was not informed at all about the Israeli production partner. Nor were the Palestinian directors to be involved in the editing process.
To whom It May Concern,
When Kuttab Productions first contacted me early July, it failed to mention that Israel is part of this project, although I specifically inquired about this issue. And then again, you sent me an email on July 9th, which also failed to mention that Israel is in fact part of your film production. I only knew about Israel being a co-producer of Jerusalem 24 when I asked specific technical questions about the characters, crew and the editing phase. I was surprised to know that the selected filmmakers are only requested to film on September 6th and that we have no say in the editing phase. Then, you said: The editing phase will happen in Germany where the Palestinian and the Israeli films will be edited in one feature length documentary. This is not information that can simply be passed on in such a way!
I reject to be part of Jerusalem 24: a German/ Israeli/ Palestinian co-production for the following two main reasons:
· I respect and support Palestinian civil society campaign for Boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with International law and respects Palestinian rights.
· I refuse to be part of a peace propaganda machine that continues to ignore Israel’s cruel colonization of Palestine.
There is a longer list of reasons related to the current steps undertaken by Israel that aim at changing the demographic, social and cultural composition of the city of Jerusalem – to name few:
· Advocating the largest act of de-population of East Jerusalem since 1967.
· Continuing expansion of illegal settlements.
· Renewal of closure of East Jerusalem Institutions.
· Building restrictions and home demolitions.
· Revoking residency rights and denying family reunification.
· Continued illegal diggings under al-Aqsa mosque compound.
There is no way in which I can separate my art from who I am, from my life, from my duty to resist everything and anything that doesn’t acknowledge my right to exist on my land in freedom and dignity.
Enas I. aL-Muthaffar
Enas’ stance is confirmed in an Al Akbar piece [Google translation]:
Yesterday, I sent a group of Palestinian institutions and individuals working in the field of culture and art message to «Book of production» declare the absolute rejection of various forms of normalization with the occupier and «standing in the face of attempts to penetrate the cultural front as the line of the clash with the basic occupation, and intellectuals were and will remain the spearhead in the clash of cultures and civilizations with brute occupation force.
Haidar Eid further affirms terms of the PACBI boycott relevant to the joint film project [Google translation]:
That all meetings and projects that combine between the Palestinians and the Israelis must be placed in the proper context against the occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and most importantly that these meetings be pro-boycott by directives issued by the National Committee of the province.
According to Amira Hass, 20 directors, including Israelis, have now pulled out of the film project in support of the cultural boycott and filming, scheduled for September 6, has been halted.
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Palestinian women wait to cross an Israeli checkpoint on their way from
the West Bank city of Bethlehem to attend prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque
in Jerusalem during Ramadan 2011. (MaanImages/Luay Sababa)
After years of travel restrictions, Israel last month opened up its borders to many (not all, of course) Palestinians from the West Bank. In Nablus alone, 17,000 permits were issued out of 25,000 applications. Certain age groups were allowed in without a permit.
The occasion was the holy month of Ramadan, but there is no denial that a decision was taken somewhere in the Israeli military establishment to loosen up the big prison that millions of Palestinians find themselves in.
Even the dreaded Qalandiya checkpoint all of sudden became much easier to cross, with soldiers merely looking at the car number while crossing, at times without the long lines that have become its trademark.
Naturally, Palestinians were delighted to be able to pray in Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque and visit relatives and friends in Jerusalem and inside the Green Line. Many had not been in Jerusalem for decades.
Parents took their children (some teenagers) to see a Jerusalem they had never seen. Many flooded West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and other locations.
Palestinians shopped (the Malha mall is said to have sold goods worth two million shekels in one weekend). They hit the beaches and stores, enjoying a rare occasion to get out of the closed area of the West Bank.
The Israeli decision, carried out unilaterally (except for the administrative part at the liaison offices), surprised many, including the political establishment.
What was the reason for this Israeli “benevolence” at a time when hundreds of foreigners coming to visit Palestine are denied entry at the King Hussein Bridge?
Palestinian commentators hit the airwaves with arguments, wondering whether the decision was primarily political or economy-related.
They said that Israel was satisfied with the high degree of security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and that the security situation was the best in years and therefore Israelis wanted to take advantage of this security lull to help release Palestinian tension.
Some argued that Israel was concerned that a third intifada might be around the corner and that their decision allowing masses of Palestinians to move around might help steer people away from a return to violent confrontations.
Others pointed out the various statistics showing how much Palestinians purchased in Israel and said that this was a calculated decision to help Israel’s economy and to counter the boycott of Israeli products.
Some, however, said that this does not make sense because the amount of money spent by Palestinians in this one burst is peanuts compared to the large Israeli economy.
Yet others argued that with the Palestinian Authority’s financial situation in a dire situation, the number of unemployed Palestinians will increase dramatically, which could contribute to the return of violence. This economic safety valve, it was argued, had more with the idea of returning the Palestinian economy to the days when it was totally dependent on Israel.
With Israeli companies needing workers and with the anti-African mood in the Israeli public, the argument was that it might be time to allow Palestinian workers who commute and therefore not cause a major social problem in Israel to start working in Israel.
Palestinian laborers are very much desired by Israeli employers because of their high level of productivity, knowledge of Hebrew and understanding of the needs of Israeli employers.
To many, the Palestinian workers are much better than the imported Thai workers or African migrants.
Whatever the real motivation behind the Israeli move to relax its border-crossing policy, it seems clear that a political solution is much further than previously expected.
An independent Palestinian state with strong economic ties with Jordan, Egypt and the Arab world is perhaps farther now than in decades.
With the lack of a horizon for peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic peace initiative is now in high gear, being applied unilaterally by the Israeli army.
Daoud Kuttab is a journalist and former professor of journalism at Princeton University.
In the summer of 1996, I was excited to hear the good news. The Palestinian Ministry of Information had agreed to a request to grant us a license for an educational television station to broadcast in Ramallah.
With little funding and tremendous passion we began building up the station with trained staff, equipment and production capacity.
Having grown up in the US, I tried to run the new Palestinian station as a hybrid between PBS and C-Span.
In April 1997 we launched the first season ever of Sharaa Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street. It was a humble production with twenty 15-minute episodes, but for us it was huge.
That summer I tried something that I thought was much more mundane: broadcasting live sessions of the newly elected Palestinian Legislative Council. This proved to be extremely dangerous to the Palestinian leadership.
After broadcasting a session of the newly elected legislature talking about corruption in the Palestinian Authority, I was called in and incarcerated by the Palestinian police. My arrest, reportedly on orders from senior Palestinian leaders, lasted a week, but brought significant publicity to our nascent station, Al Quds Educational Television.
In 2002 our station was once again in the news. As part of Israel’s reoccupation of Ramallah during the second intifada, the Israeli army’s engineering corps decided that the structure housing our station would make a convenient temporary headquarters.
Nineteen days later we were allowed back to our looted and destroyed building. Expensive camera and computer mother boards were stolen and several monitors had bullet holes in them.
This week Al Quds Educational Television and another local station, Wattan TV, were raided. Israeli troops sneaked into the city overnight, barged into the two stations and confiscated the stations’ transmitters.
Israeli officials defended their actions deep in areas supposedly under Palestinian sovereign control by asserting that the stations were “operating without a license on frequencies that could disrupt communications with planes taking off and landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport.”
Later, and under scrutiny of a reporter, officials dropped the interference with the airport justification and issued a statement by an army spokesman that “the raid followed numerous requests by the Communications Ministry that the stations cease broadcasting because of interference with Israeli broadcasting signals.”
Israel has made no claim about the content of what is broadcast on these two stations.
Palestinian Ministry of Communications officials vehemently denied that Israel ever complained about these two stations’ frequencies.
Suleiman Zuheiri, Undersecretary of Telecommunications, called the airport interference claim false. “Airport range is very different from the range used by TV stations.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad visited the stations and called the Israeli action a “clear aggression.”
The Oslo Accords signed in 1993 state that a joint committee of technical experts representing both Israelis and Palestinians should address such issues.
But Israel essentially vetoed its work by refusing to hold meetings. Palestinians were left with no choice but to issue licenses for local broadcasters. The two stations’ frequencies were officially submitted with the International Telecommunications Union in 2004 when the PA was invited as a member.
Some argue that the latest act against a Palestinian broadcaster was an attempt to appease Jewish settlers and right-wing Israelis. The international community (and the Israeli High Court) has been pressing the Israeli government to dismantle settler outposts built without licenses, though international law regards as illegal all settlements built in areas occupied in 1967.
Settlers, however, have demanded that the Israeli army first demolish Palestinian homes built without a license issued by the occupation authority.
Recently, Israeli military forces accompanied by bulldozers demolished seven Palestinian houses and five animal pens near the town of Zaheria, south of Hebron in the West Bank. More than 100 Palestinians lived in these houses, which Israel says were not licensed. The bulldozed units are close to the Jewish settlement of “Tina” which is located on the periphery of Zaheria.
The latest raid on two small television stations illustrates the arrogance of the Israeli occupiers and their inference in every aspect of Palestinian life.
The unilateral nature of the raid also highlights the absence of communication between Israelis and Palestinians. No attempt was even made through Israel’s American allies or the office of Tony Blair, the international community’s peace envoy.
As the US busies itself with elections, Israel is creating facts on the ground and in the air. Palestinian aspirations to be free of foreign military occupation and to live in peace and independence alongside the state of Israel are being severely challenged.
Diplomacy and nonviolent struggle remain the keys to advancing Palestinian freedom. But with the US focused elsewhere and the Israeli government plowing ahead with illegal activities, there is a very real possibility of a return to the violence of a decade ago.
Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University. He was the director of Al Quds Educational Television until 2007.
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