Board of Deputies of British Jews attempts to censor Palestinian film

A still from In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain

A group of artists and writers has accused one of the UK’s leading Israel lobby groups of attempting to censor a Palestinian film showing at the Barbican arts center in London.

Artists for Palestine UK wrote an open letter on Wednesday asking “how many other galleries, theaters, universities or community spaces have received similar demands” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain is a short film by Palestinian director Larissa Sansour and Danish writer Søren Lind.

The Board of Deputies wrote to the Barbican last week demanding the film’s removal from a science fiction film season.

Sansour has accused the Board of Deputies of “intimidation” tactics, but thanked the Barbican for their defense of the film. She wrote on Facebook that she hoped they would not be deterred “from selecting thought-provoking or potentially controversial work in the future.”

Author Rachel Holmes said in a statement from Artists for Palestine UK that “censorship of the imagination is never a good idea; nor is political or ideological interference in the programmes of public art institutions.”

The futuristic film, seen by The Electronic Intifada, depicts a “resistance leader,” voiced by Sansour, who fights back against her “rulers” by falsifying history.

She uses spacecraft to drop porcelain – imprinted with the identifiably Palestinian black-and-white checked scarf pattern – on the land, in the hopes that it will be unearthed hundreds of years hence.

Artists for Palestine UK said the film “obliquely questions national mythologies, and its Arabic-speaking protagonist uses archeology to stake claims on the past and thereby on the future of a vanishing land.”

The Guardian reported this week that the Board of Deputies had written to the Barbican, apparently not having seen the film, demanding it be removed from the season and claiming it “smacks of anti-Semitism.”

This claim was based only on an unnamed “member of the Jewish community who saw it,” the Guardian reported.

This misrepresentation is based on the fact that “the dialogue is in Arabic” and a false claim that the film involves “ ‘aliens’ seeding the land with porcelain.”

Sansour said that “we thought and hoped that we had moved beyond the days when criticism of the policies of the state of Israel gave rise to automated accusations of anti-Semitism.”

As a typical smear tactic, Israel lobby groups habitually target Palestinians and their supporters with false claims of anti-Semitism.

Israel has a long track record of using archeology in order to deny the Palestinian connection to Palestine.

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got egg on his face after claiming a souvenir created by the ministry of tourism was a “2,000-year-old coin” which validated Israel’s claim to “Judea and Samaria” – the occupied West Bank.

A link and password to view the full film can be found online here until the end of the day on Friday 1 September.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.