Palestine solidarity activists in Dublin protested the opening by an Irish government minister of a film festival sponsored by the Israeli embassy yesterday.
The protest was held outside the Cineworld cinema where the “Made in Israel” film festival had what the Israeli embassy termed a “Gala Opening” and “Hanukkah Reception.”
There’s no light in Gaza
“They’re saying that this a celebration of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light, but we’re seeing that the lights are being turned out all over Gaza,” said Donal McFhearaigh, a member of the campaign group People Before Profits.
Protestors held a large banner saying “End the Siege of Gaza” and an illuminated sign with the word “Gaza.”
“In Gaza there’s sewage flooding in the streets and they only have electricity for six hours per day and they’re struggling. And they’re showing an Israeli festival in Ireland promoting Israel,” said Saiorse Bennett.
David Landy, a professor of race, ethnicity and conflict at Trinity College Dublin, said Irish people would have rejected the idea of a white South African film festival during the time of apartheid.
“Similarly, an Israeli state film festival isn’t acceptable to have when [Israel] is attacking every single aspect of Palestinian life, culture and the economy,” Landy said.
“The title of this event in Cineworld tonight is ‘Made in Israel,’ well the disaster in Gaza is also made in Israel,” said Martin O’Quigley of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
In a statement explaining the protest, the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign recalled the words of former deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, who in 2005 told Haaretz that “we see culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the first rank, and … do not differentiate between [propaganda] and culture.”
Irish government complicity
The protestors were particularly incensed that Irish minister for arts Jimmy Deenihan attended the opening.
“I hope that this Film and Television week can foster not only greater cultural engagement between Ireland and Israel, but also closer working relationships and economic cooperation in film,” Deenihan stated, according to an Irish government press release.
The “Made in Israel” festival is “an initiative of the Embassy of Israel in Ireland,” according to the release.
The Israeli embassy in Dublin has also been at the center of controversy because of its persistent use of social media to post racist and offensive material targeting Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians, Israelis and Irish people.
Last year, for instance, it caused consternation when it posted a Christmas greeting on its Facebook page suggesting that Jesus and Mary would be “lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians.”
Support for the Palestinian call for the cultural boycott of Israel has been particularly strong in Ireland. More than 250 Irish creative and performing artists have publicly pledged to respect the boycott call.