NEW YORK (Mar. 1)
There are many backstage elements of Oscar night you won’t see: The dress fittings, jittery practice speeches, last-minute makeup mishaps. And this year, add political tensions in the Middle East.
“Paradise Now,” which is up for an Oscar on Sunday night in the foreign language film category, has enraged some Jewish activists with its depiction of suicide bombings.
The film, directed by Israeli Arab Hany Abu-Assad, follows two terrorists as they prepare to detonate explosives on a bus in Tel Aviv.
Representatives of The Israel Project, an international non-profit devoted to educating the media and public about Israel, condemned the nomination this week and initiated an effort to revoke the honor.
“People don’t watch the Oscars for a political statement,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the Israel Project’s founder and president.
“But these are very important messages to be sending to society about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.
“When a culture gives awards to people who humanize terrorists, it puts others at risk for future terrorist acts,” she said. “It’s a message that terrorism should be tolerated and embraced.”
A petition seeking to revoke the nomination (www.petitiononline.com/060201/petition.html?tr=y&auid=1431368), distributed by The Israel Project, has garnered more than 33,000 signatures to date.
In addition, the group will stage news conferences this week — one in Jerusalem and one in Los Angeles — and run a full-page ad in the Hollywood news magazine Variety.
Wednesday’s Jerusalem press conference featured several relatives of terrorism victims; Friday’s Los Angeles event will bring Nonie Darwish to the podium. Darwish, 57, is a daughter of Egyptian Lt. Col. Mustafa Hafaz, who led fedayeen operations in the 1950s in Gaza, and was named a martyr after Israeli forces killed him in 1956.
The Israel Project’s offensive also includes reprinting a letter by Yossi Zur, whose 16-year-old son Asaf was killed by a suicide bomber March 5, 2003 — exactly three years before the awards show.
In his letter, Zur questioned the implications of the film’s selection.
“What exactly makes “Paradise Now” worthy of such a prestigious nomination?” Zur asked. “What sort of message would an Academy Award triumph send to more than one billion viewers around the world?”
He added: “This movie attempts to deliver the message that suicide bombings are a legitimate tactic for those who feel they’ve exhausted all other means of resistance.”
The nomination of “Paradise Now” has also raised issues of Palestinian statehood, as only internationally recognized countries may compete in the foreign language category.
On the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Web site, the film’s country of origin is listed as “Palestine.” In other news releases, however, the academy refers to the designation as the “Palestinian Authority.”
Officials at the academy couldn’t be reached for comment.