While most media attention has focused on the 23rd Israel Film Festival, which runs through tonight in New York City and played in Los Angeles in June and will run in Miami in December, another festival of Israeli celluloid, the Other Israel Film Festival, winds up tonight after a week-long run at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.
The festival showcases films about Israeli Arabs and the bulk of its offerings were produced with funds provided by the Israeli government, according to organizers, as are most films produced in the Jewish State. But the Israeli Consulate in New York has declined to actively promote the festival because it objects to its name, though it does mention the films on its Web site and in promotional emails.
David Saranga, Israel’s consul for media and public affairs in New York, explained his government’s position this way:
When it comes to the films, it’s great. We are happy that they give a platform to Israeli film. It’s an important festival. Our problem is with the name of the festival. At the moment they call themselves the Other Israel festival, it’s something problematic. I can’t put the name of the Israeli Consulate on an event which is dedicated to the other Israel. Because for me there is only one Israel.
Organizers find that explanation somewhat suspicious. Carole Zabar (of Zabar’s market fame) noted that the UJA-Federation of New York had expressed interest last year in supporting the festival but eventually withdrew its support. With respect to the Israeli government, Zabar said:
Israel should be so proud. This is something that’s amazing. For such a right-wing government, they are completely color blind on the films they support. They do lots of things that are controversial, much more controversial. They should be proud of that. That’s really a wonderful thing about Israel.
UPDATE: On Friday, the New York Times published a feature on Zabar, in which the smoked fish maven explains her support of the film festival.