The recent Ofir Awards met with much deserved criticism this week as apparently ‘patriotic’ parts of the Minister of Culture’s address were edited out from the nationally-televised broadcast.
The Ofir Awards are the Israeli equivalent to the American Oscars and is put on by The Israeli Academy of Film and Television. The winner in the Best Picture category gets to represent the Jewish state in the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. It is a prestigious award and is highly regarded as these films become the face of Israeli culture to the rest of the world. They have however a notorious reputation for being critical of traditional values and Israel at large to the point of being anti-Zionist.
This year, the winner for Best Picture went to Let It Be Morning by director Eran Kolirin. The film is based on a novel by Israeli-Arab journalist Sayed Kashua. A controversial figure, Kashua took heat from both the Jewish and Arab community, but his writings in the press and his fictional pieces are nothing short of unsympathetic to the Zionist cause.
Let It Be Morning is not the first anti-Zionist feature in Israeli cinematography and this sentiment is especially felt in the annual Ofir Awards. Many films that have received international praise have been disparaging towards Israel and supportive of the nationalistic Palestinian narrative. The film Foxtrot sparked a controversy back in 2017 as some claimed it portrayed the IDF in a bad light. Of the animated movie Waltz with Bashir (2008) journalist Hagai Segal wrote: ”This is another left-wing film about the Vietnam War adapted to the topography and biography of the Middle East.” With that being said it is no surprise that Minister of Culture Hili Tropper was ‘censured’ at the ceremony.
According to sources in the minister’s office, only 45 seconds of his five-minute speech were broadcast. Main parts of his speech were cut, including him saying the words: “I, for example, have a clear identity. Among other things, it includes myself being a Jew, a Zionist and an Israeli patriot.” Sources in the office are upset and say that “patriotic and Zionist rhetoric” was edited from the speech.
Minister Tropper also said: “Precisely because of the confidence in Israel’s identity, I am convinced of the ability and duty of the state to allow freedom of expression. Of course, they also have a limit, and of course I am not talking about the horizons of hatred and incitement. The State of Israel is strong and stable enough not to be shaken by any criticism. Let us face it. We may even grow from it.”
The Academy responded by saying it merely had to fit in the time allotted to them for the broadcast and that the minister’s speech will be uploaded in full on social media.
The arts, like in many societies, are a citadel of the Left; it will leave the Hasbara units in Israel more work as their own countrymen do harm to the public image of Israel in the name of freedom of expression, which Israel itself indiscriminately provides.