(June 3, 2019 / JNS) A letter signed by 100 families to Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Monday demanding that she cancel a prize set to be awarded at the Docaviv International Film Festival to a film positively portraying attorney Lea Tsemel.
The film, Advocate, tells the life story of Tsemel, who has gained notoriety for her persistent defense of terrorists, including Abdel Aziz Salha, who took part in the 2000 lynching of two Israeli Defense Forces’ soldiers in Ramallah and was pictured in the infamous photograph waving his blood-soaked hands in the air.
Tsemel has also defended dozens of Hamas terrorists, as well as former Knesset minister Basel Ghattas, who was convicted of smuggling cell phones to jailed terrorists. Most recently, she represented the family of the terrorist who murdered and raped 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher in February.
The international film festival is held every year in Tel Aviv, and is sponsored in part by the Culture and Sports Ministry.
The award includes an NIS 70,000 ($19,000) cash prize and an additional NIS 150,000 ($40,000) to promote the film as the Israeli candidate for an Academy Award.
“For the past five decades, Tsemel has been defending terrorists who’ve murdered a large number of Israelis, including many of our children, wives, husbands, siblings and other relatives,” read the letter penned by the Choosing Life Forum of Bereaved Families. “The funding of this prize is a spit in the faces of bereaved families. It is shocking and horrifying that such a film could represent Israel in the Oscars.”
In response to the letter, Regev criticized the award but did not address the families’ request to cancel it.
“It is outrageous and irritating to have a film centered around Lea Tsemel, an attorney who represents, supports and speaks in the name of many who aim to undermine the very existence of the State of Israel. These individuals inflict terror on our soldiers and citizens, and then enjoy the legal and public protection of Tsemel,” said Regev.
Regev added: “A film that depicts her actions in a positive light is outrageous and condemnable and should not leave any Israeli citizen who cares about the future of the state indifferent.”