Films accused of anti-Israel bias fall short at Academy Awards

Click photo to download. Caption: A screen grab from the Web video "Five Broken Cameras - the real story." Credit: YouTube.

( The two Israeli films nominated for the Academy Awards films from Israel this year, “5 Broken Cameras” and the “The Gatekeepers,” both fell short in the Best Documentary category on Sunday night, which was won by “Searching for Sugar Man.”

Though the dual Oscar nominations from Israel put the country’s film industry in the international spotlight, the nominations had not been cause for celebration for many in the pro-Israel community because of concerns that both documentaries cast Israel in a negative light.

“The Gatekeepers” features candid interviews with retired Israeli spymasters, and “5 Broken Cameras” tells the story of amateur Palestinian cameraman Emad Burnat, who documents clashes between his fellow villagers and Israeli soldiers.

Member of Knesset Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), reacting to the Academy Awards on his Facebook page Monday, posted: “The anti-Israeli Israel film ‘5 Broken Cameras’ didn’t win an Oscar. I didn’t shed a tear.”

The Israeli NGO Consensus recently launched an online campaign to present a counter-narrative to what it calls “the ongoing incitement against IDF soldiers in the movie ‘5 Broken Cameras,’” the organization stated Sunday, according to Israel Hayom.

Consensus, which describes its activists as “Guardians of the IDF spirit,” is comprised of hundreds of reserve and non-commissioned IDF officers. Its mission, the statement says, is to protect the IDF’s reputation, its soldiers and its commanders in the public relations and media arenas.

In “5 Broken Cameras,” director Burnat covers the Palestinian demonstrations to stop Israel’s construction of the security fence near the town of Bil’in. The film implies that Israel used excessive force to disperse such demonstrations, focusing on Burnat’s video cameras, which are repeatedly damaged as a result of those clashes.

The Israeli group uploaded its response to the movie on YouTube. The clip, “5 Broken Cameras — The Real Story,” is an animated spoof of the Academy Awards ceremony and behind-the-scenes footage from the film.

The clip alleges that “5 Broken Cameras” was shot in such a way as to malign Israel and manipulate soldiers’ words and actions.

“The movie ‘5 Broken Cameras’ may have been nominated for best documentary [feature film], but it would have been more appropriate had it competed in the category of best propaganda film,” says Col. (res.) Benny Yanay, the head of Consensus. “This movie clearly has an agenda, lacks any objectivity, and has the over-arching goal of hurting the IDF and its troops.”

“The Gatekeepers,” meanwhile, depicts Israel’s Shin Bet security agency in a way that presents the Jewish state “in the caricatured fashion the world has come to expect, as peopled by brutal thugs whose goal in life is to do nothing more than make the lives of the poor, non-violent Arabs as difficult as possible,” Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote in the Jewish Press. Marcus cited a review by Slant Magazine that she said had little basis in reality. The review said Moreh in his interviews for the film was “squaring off against intelligence officers who didn’t just execute systematic torture, abuse, and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ but devised them.” 

Far-right Member of Knesset Danny Danon (Likud), however, was not as concerned as some others in the pro-Israel community about alleged anti-Israel bias in the Oscar-nominated films. Danon had said the nomination of a film that is critical of Israel such as “5 Broken Cameras” relays a positive message about the vibrancy of Israeli democracy.

“I think there will be groups who are against Israel no matter what,” Danon said. “This is one example of the price of keeping a strong democracy. We do not interfere in the content of the movies that are being produced in Israel.”

Posted on February 25, 2013 .