The movie Farha is a Jordanian historical drama about a Palestinian girl’s experience during Israel’s War of Independence, which the Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe). The film tells the story of a Palestinian girl named Farha who dreams of going to university, but her dreams are shattered when her entire family but her is gunned down by Israeli soldiers. The film was banned in Israel, but it is still aired around the world on Netflix.
I believe we can expect many more such films, as well as other means of propaganda to be used against Israel, as the wave is only expected to grow. The truth—be it partial, whole, nonexistent, or content related—has nothing to do with the world’s acceptance of such stories. Since the world hates Israel, anything that taps into that feeling gets a standing ovation from critics and audiences alike.
Films are a powerful means of carrying a message. America has been using it since the dawn of cinema. Think of such ideals as The American Dream, the superhero, the wickedness of Soviet Russia, or the romanticism of the Wild West. None of them would have become so entrenched in our psyches were it not for Hollywood and the American film industry.
The fact that the story of Farha is based on legend that was created in order to promote the Palestinian narrative is irrelevant from the perspective of the viewers. They absorb the message just as viewers have been absorbing Hollywood’s messages. The fact that the film is a tool of propaganda will not diminish its impact on the viewers whatsoever.
Israel, too, can produce films that advance the Israeli narrative and present counter propaganda. However, as with everything else that Israel has tried in order to explain itself to the world, the films will have no impact; no one will believe our narrative, and everyone will adopt the Palestinian claims without even bothering to verify them.
That said, since films are a powerful tool of propaganda, I think we can and should use them, but use them to promote a message that will change people’s views about Israel. That message has nothing to do with the Palestinians, but only with ourselves. Because the world behaves toward us as we behave toward each other, if we improve our behavior toward each other, the world will improve its behavior toward us.
The Israeli society is plagued with division and loathing. The country is divided into factions that simply detest one another. That abhorrence projects itself to the entire world, and the world reacts with abhorrence toward Israel.
We may think that our internal relations are an internal Israel affair, but nothing could be further from the truth. Since the inception of our nation, we have been at the center of the world’s attention. The reason that antisemitism has never died proves that the world has never stopped looking at the Jews and condemning them for their sins. And the only sin we have ever committed is in hating one another. When we care for one another and exhibit solidarity and mutual responsibility, the world admires us and comes to learn from us how to unite. When we dislike each other, the world hates us and reproves us for spreading hatred. It does not explicitly state that it is our duty to spread unity, but the fact that it regards Israel and Jews as warmongers proves that it expects from us the opposite.
Therefore, if we want to spread unity, we should direct our efforts toward internal unity, and films are a great tool for this purpose. Just as Farha is a drama story, we can produce films that show Israel as united, and what life in Israel will look like if we are united. Of course, they will be imaginary since we are anything but united, but they would create a positive narrative and enable public discourse that focuses on unity rather than on slander and division.
Because the world’s view of us depends on our view of each other, we are in a unique position to determine the world’s opinion about us. We can choose what entertainment to produce, and what message these tools of entertainment convey. Since every media carries a message and tries to influence its audience, we should consciously direct the messages of the media we consume to portray the message that will help us, and not one that will hurt us.
And there is only one such message that will help us: Unity and solidarity among Israelis is the only cure for the State of Israel, and for Israel’s status in the world. As an offshoot of improving Israel’s position, Jews around the world will feel the relief, as antisemitism will subside.
Producer Deema Azar and actor Ashraf Barhom introduce “Farha”, the closing film during the ninth edition of the Palestine Cinema Days festival, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, November 7, 2022. Film Lab Palestine/Handout via REUTERS