New Israel Fund Australia has launched a petition following a decision by The Maccabean, the newspaper of the Perth Jewish community, not to carry its ad promoting a screening of Israeli documentary Magash Hakesef (The Silver Platter). The documentary, about economic inequality in Israel, was screened on Israeli television last year and attracted over 1.5 million viewers.
Magesh Hakesef is a series of three one-hour documentaries based on economic analysis, with each presented by a different critic of Israeli society. The tagline of the documentary is: “The powerful wake-up call to fight those who are plundering the country. How do 20 tycoons control Israel’s economy? How did Israel go from being a highly egalitarian society to an unequal one in 30 years?”
The three presenters, who are thought leaders in their respective areas of economics, journalism and history, argue that Israel’s greatest threat is from within – that the country’s social and economic policies are harming it greatly.
The documentary is scheduled for three screenings: in Sydney on September 4 at Event Cinemas Bondi Junction, in Melbourne on September 11 at Classic Cinemas Elsternwick, and in Perth on September 13 at Event Cinemas, Centro Galleria, Morley. The screenings feature the first two parts of the documentary with the third part available for download.
The ads promoting the screening had been booked to run in two editions of The Maccabean. However, the paper sent a short e-mail to Liam Getreu, the Executive Director of NIF Australia, which stated: “Your request to place advertisements for the film has been considered by Maccabean management which has reached a decision that the Maccabean is unable to accept these ads.”
NIF Australia’s first Perth event
NIF is a partnership between Israelis and the Diaspora committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis. It has provided over $200 million to more than 800 organisations, all registered by the Israeli government, since its inception in 1979. Founded in 2011, NIF Australia is run by a board and staff, and assisted by its two co-patrons, Ambassador Martin Indyk and Ronni Kahn, as well as an Advisory Council and volunteers.
Getreu said NIF Australia had not previously held an event in Perth and he was at a total loss to understand the decision. “This is the first time we’ve ever had an ad rejected anywhere and, really, this TV series is on totally consensus issues.”
NIF Australia had advertised far more ‘controversial’ films and speeches over the years, including the Amos Oz film Censored Voices and a speech from retired IDF Colonel Shaul Arieli last year that was highly critical of Israeli government policies in the occupied territories, he added.
“We’ve advertised on J Wire, Australian Jewish News, and plus61J.net.au in the past. We’ve also marketed through the Jewish International Film Festival and organisations such as the Zionist youth movements without any issues ever arising.”
The NIF petition reads: “Israel is too complex to limit a voice like NIF’s – and it’s not up to the community’s ‘leadership’ to decide which voices are in and which are out … There is no excuse for censorship. Community spaces should be marketplaces of ideas where all perspectives are welcome and given equal opportunity. Virtually every Israeli charity is working to alleviate suffering, and this popular Israeli TV show shines a light on it in a powerful and unique way.”
Decision garners plenty of publicity
Getreu said he was still waiting to be given an explanation by The Maccabean, despite requests for one. Plus61J had not received a response from the paper by press time for this article. Australian producer and director Rod Freedman, who reviewed the documentary series for Plus61J, said he has written to The Maccabean urging them to reconsider their decision.
When asked what he hoped to achieve from the petition, Getreu said the reinstatement of the ad, though he conceded that this was unlikely to happen at this stage. “The decision was so bizarre – a community newspaper that will not run a community ad.”
Conversely, the newspaper’s decision may have had the opposite intended effect, with the petition gaining lots of publicity on NIF Australia’s Facebook page.
“We’ve reached a lot more people over the last four days than we otherwise would have,” Getreu said, adding that he was very encouraged by the number of young people in Perth who seemed to genuinely care about fixing inequality in Israel, and that more than one screening of Magesh Hakesef was not out of the question.
He also said NIF Australia would welcome the opportunity to discuss the situation with The Maccabean’s management. “It’s true that NIF is prepared to deal with issues that other organisations won’t touch, but we are simply standing for Israelis trying to do the best for themselves and that involves equality, justice, inclusion and democracy. We’re all Zionists, we all want the best for Israel,” Getreu said.
This Plus61J article may be republished if acknowledged thus: ‘This article first appeared on www.plus61j.net.au and is reprinted with permission.’
And see: Cronyism, not terrorism, is the biggest threat to Israel, hit TV series says – Simona Weinglass – The Times of Israel 28.10.15
A social protest in Israel