NEW YORK (Jun. 28)
William Bennett, chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH), said last week that a film about Palestinian women produced under a $120,000 grant from the NEH was a “political tract” and his agency therefore had “no rightful business in funding” it.
Bennett made the statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after receiving a complaint from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) claiming that the film was “unabashed propaganda for the Palestine Liberation Organization.”
“I have seen the film, and I personally think the Anti-Defamation League is right,” he said. “Nothing of this film is in the humanities; there is no understanding, nor appreciation of the discipline of the humanities to be gained by viewing the film,” he added.
An NEH spokesman noted that the money for the film was granted in 1980, before Bennett’s term as chairman had begun.
FILM ‘GLORIFIES’ PLO
The 30-minute film, “Women Under Seige,” prepared for use in high schools and colleges, “glorifies the PLO,” said Nathan Perlmutter, ADL’s national director, in a statement released last week.
It is the last in a series of three films entitled “Reformers and Revolutionaries: Middle Eastern Women,” produced by Elizabeth Fernea of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Perlmutter said that “obviously, American taxpayers never intended their money to be used for such a purpose,” and called for an investigation to determine how the grant was approved.
Perlmutter said he not only found it “peculiar” that a federal agency dedicated to the humanities provided funds for a film “which promotes a terrorist organization which has killed and hijacked Americans, among others,” but that the NEH did so when United States policy forbids “recognition of, or contact with, the PLO,” according to the statement.
ISRAELIS DEPICTED AS VILLAINS
The film focuses on the experiences of six Arab women in Rashadiya, a “PLO camp” in southern Lebanon. “The Israelis,” in the film, he said, are depicted as a foreboding off-screen presence, unseen villains who evicted the women from their homes and invade and bomb their present habitations, while the PLO guerrillas are pictured as victims transformed into idealistic revolutionaries dedicated to democracy and freedom.”
Perlmutter said there was no attempt to give “another side of the controversy or to discuss the terrorist acts which provoke retaliation.” Rashadiya, he noted, was among the PLO strongholds used as staging grounds for the March, 1978 terrorist attack on the Tel Aviv-Haifa road in which 36 civilians were killed.