Bar­bican de­fends photo ex­hi­bi­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY RACHEL FLETCHER

THE BAR­BICAN arts cen­tre in Lon­don has de­fended a pro-Pales­tinian pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tion mark­ing the 60th an­niver­sary of the “Nakba”.

Re­fer­ring to the Ara­bic word mean­ing catas­tro­phe, which de­scribes the 1948 Arab-Is­raeli war, the ex­hi­bi­tion Home­land Lost dis­plays 18 pho­to­graphs of Pales­tinian peo­ple and scenes and refers to Is­rael’s “col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment”, Deir Yassin and al-Tan­tura “mas­sacres” and “forced dis­pos­ses­sion of over half of the in­dige­nous Pales­tinian Arab peo­ple”.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, by pho­tog­ra­pher Alan Gig­noux, which ends to­day (May 2), co­in­cides with the Lon­don Pales­tine Film Fes­ti­val, which the Bar­bican has hosted for four years.

Text ac­com­pa­ny­ing the pho­to­graphs reads: “In that year [1948], close to 800,000 men, women and chil­dren were up­rooted and over 500 of their vil­lages were de­stroyed. Sixty years af­ter the Nakba, they still long for lost houses, vil­lages, com­mu­ni­ties and land as well as the more ab­stract ‘home­land’. They strug­gle to build lives, of­ten in im­pov­er­ished cir­cum­stances, with­out the ba­sic rights of cit­i­zen­ship.”

Lior Ben Dor, the Is­raeli em­bassy press coun­sel­lor, said the ex­hi­bi­tion text “does not re­flect the his­toric re­al­ity. We all know that the refugee prob­lem was cre­ated af­ter the Arabs, not Pales­tini­ans, as they did not de­fine them­selves as Pales­tini­ans at that time, re­fused to ac­cept the UN res­o­lu­tion call­ing for the es­tab­lish­ment of a Jewish state along­side an Arab one.

“As a re­sult of that, they started a war against us with the aim of throw­ing us to swim in the Mediter­ranean. The so­lu­tion for the refugee prob­lem will be found once a Pales­tinian state is es­tab­lished along­side the State of Is­rael, not on the ru­ins of it. This is why we are ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship.

“We have re­quested the Bar­bican more than once to open their doors to us to ex­hibit Is­raeli cin­ema. Some Is­raeli films show as­pects of the Pales­tinian nar­ra­tive. Is­raeli film is very open-minded and can show the suf­fer­ing of the Pales­tini­ans.”

A spokesper­son for the Bar­bican said it was not plan­ning an equiv­a­lent Is­raeli film fes­ti­val.

“This is a mat­ter of artis­tic judg­ment, as op­posed to pol­i­tics. We don’t think it is ar­tis­ti­cally ap­pro­pri­ate to put on an Is­raeli film fes­ti­val when there is a suc­cess­ful UK Jewish Film Fes­ti­val.”

The spokesper­son said the Pales­tinian ex­hi­bi­tion “ex­am­ines is­sues of home and ex­ile, but we ap­pre­ci­ate in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his­tor­i­cal events can be con­tro­ver­sial”.

The ex­hi­bi­tion had shown in Jaffa, Am­man, Beirut, Cairo, Belfast and Am­s­ter­dam and the Bri­tish Coun­cil had been “very much in­volved”.

“We are an artis­tic or­gan­i­sa­tion rather than a broad­caster, so our de­ci­sions are made on artis­tic merit. We are plan­ning a Yid­dish film fes­ti­val next year, and we held one in 1990,” she said.

Jonathan Hoff­man of the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion said: “If the Bar­bican thinks a Yid­dish film sea­son in 2009 goes any way to­wards bal­anc­ing four suc­ces­sive years of Pales­tinian film fes­ti­vals, they are wrong. It is about as much bal­ance as would be putting chicken soup and salt beef on their restau­rant menu.”

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