Anti-Zionist Jews protest at Hamilton’s Westdale Theatre over film postponement

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Published November 30, 2023 at 9:26 pm

Dozens of protesters showed up at the Westdale Theatre in Hamilton Thursday afternoon to speak out against the theatre’s decision to postpone a screening of the anti-Zionist documentary ‘Israelism’ that was scheduled to be screened December 6.

The Independent Jewish Voices of Hamilton (IJV-Hamilton) organized the protest of the theatre Thursday after the theatre’s board of directors abruptly cancelled a screening of the film, citing “significant changes in the social and political climate” since the booking was made.

The documentary takes a critical look at the changing North American Jewish relationship to Israel and features interviews with noted Jewish figures such as Noam Chomsky.

 

Westdale’s Fred Fuchs said the board made the decision to “postpone” the screening of the film, while leaving the door open to “revisit the possibility” of showing the documentary “once the social and political climate stabilizes.”

“The decision to postpone comes as a result of significant changes in the social and political landscape since the rental booking was initially confirmed, including the commencement of an international war, political protest in the City of Hamilton … and the extremely heightened tensions at this time in the local and broader community,” Fuchs wrote in a letter to IJV-Hamilton and Tikkim Olam Productions.

Fuchs also cited the ongoing hostage negotiations between the Hamas political organization in Gaza and the Israeli government as a reason to postpone the screening.

Rabbi David Mivasair believes the film should be screened as scheduled instead of being “snuffed out” by the Westdale board.

“It’s our story. It’s our lives,” he said on Twitter. “A film by Jews, about Jews, for Jews.”

IJV-Hamilton called the postponement of the screening the result of a “powerfully orchestrated campaign against venues across North America” and said the group plans on securing an alternate venue and screen the film as planned Wednesday, followed by a Q&A with co-director Erin Axelman and a panel of local IJV members.

Signs at the protest included one message that echoed Fuchs’ own statement on why the board felt the need to postpone the screening – “the current social and political climate is exactly why this is necessary” and “stop silencing anti-Zionist Jewish voices.”

Directed by Axelman and Sam Eilertsen, Israelism primarily follows two young American Jews – Simone and Eitan – who are raised to defend the state of Israel at all costs but become disillusioned with Israeli policies after service to the state. They join the movement of young American Jews battling the old guard over Israel’s centrality in American Judaism and demanding freedom for the Palestinian people. Their stories, combined with appearances from scholar-activists like Chomsky and West, reveal a generational divide among Jewish people in North America.

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