The Israeli Students Association (ISA), a CAMERA-supported group, recently hosted Igal Hecht, an esteemed Canadian-Israeli filmmaker, at York University.
Hecht screened his latest documentary titled “My Home”, which explores the views and experiences of Israel’s various minorities groups, which collectively comprise 20% of the population. The film features interviews with a cross-section of Israeli society: Bedouins, Druze, Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, and Jews.
“My Home” has received critical acclaim, winning several awards at film festivals in Europe and North America. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Israel’s Channel 1, and BBC Arabic have broadcast the film. In the film, Hecht speaks with some of Israel’s most famous and anti-Zionist Arab politicians – Jamal Zahalka, Ahmad Tibi, Haneen Zoabi, and Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List political party. Zoabi, a member of the Israeli Knesset, infamously attempted to justify the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and routinely calls Israel an apartheid state. These interviews serve to portray Israel as a pluralistic democracy that allows freedom of speech and expression, even when that speech is hateful and dissenting (as in the case of Zoabi).
Contrastingly, Hecht interviews many of Israel’s minorities who strongly identify with and support the state. For instance, he speaks at length with Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest working to bolster the recruitment of Israeli Arab Christians to the Israeli Defense Forces. Naddaf highlights Israel’s democratic character and tolerance of religious minorities as being unique in the Middle East. Hecht also interviews Jonathan Elkhoury, who has toured with CAMERA on Campus multiple times. Elkhoury, a Christian refugee from Lebanon and a member of the LGBT community, also praises Israel as a safe haven for the persecuted.
The aggregate of these interviews paints a very compelling picture – of fiercely patriotic minority communities who are being misrepresented by their politicians. The film shows Israeli society as being inclusive and tolerant and offers much hope for the future.
Following the film, Hecht also held an in-depth Q&A session and fielded a variety of questions from students. In this Q&A session, Hecht lambasted the Israeli media as being irresponsible and untruthful, for preferring to cover the hysterical theatrics of anti-Israel politicians such as Zoabi rather than the true views of the “silent majority”. Hecht suggested that the Israeli media should seek out diverse viewpoints from minority communities.
Hecht’s film was highly informative and was well received by the students. “My Home” serves to dispel the common misconception that Israel’s minority communities are opposed to the state’s existence.
Contributed by Ben Shachar, CAMERA Fellow at York University and member of CAMERA-supported group Israeli Students Association.