The film the ABC doesn’t want you to see

Issue 
A Palestinian man is confronted by Israeli soldiers in Hope in a Slingshot. Community pressure has forced the ABC to reconsider

It is a film that advocates peace, yet the head of the ABC decided it was too controversial to be viewed by the Australian public.

In May, the ABC pulled the plug on an independent film documenting daily life of Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank.

Now, thanks to the power of public pressure, the ABC is reconsidering whether to broadcast Inka Stafrace’s documentary Hope in a Slingshot.

Letters are flying thick and fast to the ABC, asking the broadcaster to air Stafrace’s film.

Stafrace, now living in Malta, returned briefly to Sydney to garner support for her film.

Hope in a Slingshot follows the filmmaker’s travels through the West Bank, showing the despair people suffer during long waits at checkpoints, being stopped by the separation wall, the clashes with soldiers, imprisonment and arbitrary curfews.

The film has a strong focus on an Israeli pro-peace activist — a point of view rarely seen in a conflict that is often depicted as binary.

One of the strengths of the film is giving space to different view points, especially Israelis who are critical of their own government and committed to peace.

The reason given by ABC’s director of television, Kim Dalton, for pulling the film, was that an opposing viewpoint must be shown to meet the broadcaster’s charter of impartiality.

Stafrace, speaking at an August 27 Sydney Politics in the Pub panel on media bias, asked, “What did they want to show? People living happily under occupation?

“Do they want to give the impression that this is a just war, with equal power on both sides?”

Stafrace was critical of the way the conflict was often presented as having only two points of view when, as her film depicts, even among Israelis, there is a diversity of positions.

“Is the pro-peace point of view considered too dangerous to broadcast without a counterpoint?”, Stafrace said.

In the May 29 Sydney Morning Herald, Ari Sharp described the film as telling “the story of Palestinians living under what it terms ‘military occupation’ by Israel”.

That Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Palestine is a “military occupation” is not even a disputed fact.

Nor even is it a contentious fact under international law that this military occupation is illegal.

The United Nations has consistently ruled that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal, and in 2004 the International Court of Justice agreed.

When people such as Sharp pit the conflict in these terms, it becomes easier to see what the justice movement is up against.

[Abridged from an article that was first published in the Sydney City Hub.

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