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LETTER FROM BRADLEY POLLOCK REGARDING THE FILM MA NISHMA MB, AND RESPONSE FROM THE JEWISH HERITAGE CENTRE

March 7, 2022

LETTER TO THE EDITOR FROM BRADLEY POLLOCK REGARDING THE FILM MA NISHMA MB

The Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada screened the film, Mah NishmahMB on March 1/2022.  

Two of the people interviewed in the film may suggest the movie’s agenda towards Israel. One of the interviewees, Lasha Mowchin, is a Jew who was protesting the JNF Negev Gala event in 2016.  Another interviewee was Leah Gazan, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Central.  She has lambasted Israel in parliament but has not shown the same interest in condemnation of most countries that are far worse human rights violators. Bnai Brith Canada suggested that some of her past tweets are “inaccurate …and demonizing Israel”. She represents the NDP for which many of her party members support economic sanctions against the Jewish state (but not against the Palestinian Authority, Russia, Belarus, China, North Korea, Iran, nor many other horrific human rights violators).

The film refers to several issues that require clarification:

a)  An individual used the term "cycle of violence”, placing Israel and the Palestinian leadership at the same moral equivalency. There is no equivalency between a terror organization who deliberately targets civilians and uses their own civilians as human shields versus Israel who goes to extreme measures to limit civilian casualties while defending herself from rocket attacks. 

b)  There was reference to the hardships incurred by the Palestinians. I cannot recall any reference to the Palestinian government’s contribution. As well, the film simply does not do justice to the fact that there has been an extensive toll on Israeli society, and that  thousands of Israelis have been dismembered by Palestinian suicide bombers. (Attack Assignments in Terror Organizations and the Productivity of Suicide Bombers; Efreim Benmelech, Harvard University, 2007)

c)   While referencing 1948 Arab refugees (which I understand to be about 750,000), no one in the the film elaborated that: 1) , the majority left  due to fear for their families’ safety, as outlined by Benny Morris in Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited  ; 2) there was no systematic government policy of expulsion and most importantly 3) there would have been no war and no refugees if the 1947 UN partition plan was not rejected by the Arab leadership. The film does not explore the 750,000 Jewish refugees who were forced to leave Arab countries with the establishment of Israel. 

d)  One of the interviewees suggested that Birthright Israel was propaganda, not advocacy.  She did not mention the more concerning propaganda hate fest that emanates within Palestinian society, as she visited the Palestinian territories (A 2014 Anti-Defamation League poll suggested that 93% of their population harbor hate towards Jews).  More importantly, in my view, she contributed to propaganda through participating in this film.  

e) The overall impression I was left with was that we, as Jews and occupiers, have turned from the oppressed into oppressors. Interestingly,  I cannot recall any mention of the multiple opportunities to end the occupation which is unfair at many levels. Despite Israel’s good will, offers were all rejected or not responded to, by the Palestinian leadership (1967 Arab Summit, Khartoum; 2000 Clinton brokered Taba Agreement; 2008 Olmert Plan).   Furthermoreonce Israel can be assured of a genuine peace partner who is willing to accept a sovereign Jewish State with secure borders, then Israel will be able to end the occupation. 

Israel is an imperfect democracy exercising a reasonable balance of its security threats with civil rights. She is considered a model for any country if terrorism were to strike their backyard. I would ask the producers to name two countries under similar security threats that have better records of maintaining this balance between security needs and civil rights and better records on human rights?   I believe they will be unable to name such countries, which speaks volumes of the film’s bias against the Nation State of the Jewish People.  Our community should have no tolerance for anti-Israel bias as we have no tolerance for this type of bias against any other nation or race.

The section on the Israeli Palestinian conflict in Mah Nishmah, MB will have a powerful impact on those who are not aware of the nuances of the conflict.  This will further fuel the demonization of Israel.

 

RESPONSE FROM THE JEWISH HERITAGE CENTRE OF WESTERN CANADA

We understand that Bradley Pollock has described our recent program in strongly negative terms. The Rady JCC showed the film in October as part of Tarbut.  At the time the Rady JCC described it on its Facebook page this way: “This playful, funny and evocative documentary by two local Jewish filmmakers explores the history of Jews in Winnipeg - the complex, diverse and dynamic experience of the current Jewish community and what exactly it means to be 'Jewish enough'.”

The film explored the diversity and complexity of our Winnipeg Jewish community. It was a balanced portrayal with many different voices, such as Yude Henteleff, Dr. Daniel Stone, Rabbi Finkel, and a number of young Jewish women, including a Russian-Israeli woman who had proudly served in the IDF. We also held a panel discussion after the film with the two young film producers, as well as Andrew Kaplan who teaches at Gray Academy, and Florencia Katz, a “veteran” immigrant from Argentina who works at the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. Certainly, the Israel issue was one small aspect of the film. Other topics discussed included the history of Jews in Manitoba, religious observance, and more.

We do not agree with Leah Gazan’s opinions on Israel, but she did not mention them in the film. Rather, she spoke about how being the child of a Holocaust survivor shaped her identity and the importance of keeping that legacy alive and also the encouragement of her Lakota-Chinese mother in preserving Leah’s Jewish heritage.

Bradley seems fixated on one voice in the film while ignoring the others. We are also curious as to why he wrote this letter now, several months after its screening at the Rady Centre’s Tarbut.  He did not attend our event.

The young woman who had served in the IDF said that although she has built a new life in Canada, Israel will always be her home. She also spoke of how important Israel itself is to Jews worldwide, and in particular referred to the many terror attacks and the importance of a strong IDF and a strong defence overall.

Yes, there was a young woman in the film who expressed some opinions that we personally disagree with. We need to be able to engage in dialogue without demonizing those who disagree with us. While she spoke disparagingly about Birthright, another young panelist spoke positively of her visit to Israel.

Andrew spoke about the positive and warm environment that he, as a self-identified Queer Jew experiences at the Gray Academy and how different that was from the climate he grew up in.

Florencia compared various aspects of the Winnipeg Jewish community to that of Buenos Aires where she grew up and also spoke joyfully about her two decades in Winnipeg and the great work she does.

We know that our community does not speak with one voice. We also know that there are individuals in our community – on the far right as well as the far left whose opinions may be upsetting– especially when it comes to Israel. We believe it is a mistake to ignore the fact that those voices exist.

Belle Jarniewski, Executive Director, Jewish Heritage Centre

Mark Kantor, President

Daniel Stone, Past President and Chair of the Programs and Exhibits Committee

 

 

 
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