Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Thursday, March 2, 2006
Mendellevich is one of three fathers who are petitioning the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to withdraw a Palestinian film from this year's Academy Awards nominations.
"Paradise Now" is one of four nominees for best foreign language film. "This is the first Academy Award nomination for Palestine," the Oscar.com website says. The reference to "Palestine," which is not a nation, offended some U.S. Jewish groups.
According to the Oscar.com website, the film follows two young Palestinian men for 27 hours, as they prepare themselves for a suicide bombing mission. It is a sympathetic look at suicide bombers.
"Maybe they called it 'Paradise Now,'" Mendellevich said, "but for us, the families, it's 'hell now.'"
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, the film won a Golden Globe award last month for Best Foreign Language Film.
Mendellevich and two other fathers -- Yossi Zur and Ron Kerman -- in conjunction with the Israel Project, a non-profit group that aims to strengthen Israel's image, launched a petition calling on the Academy to drop the film from the nominations.
In a month's time, they have collected some 34,000 signatures on the petition from around the world, including a couple from Saudi Arabia, said Zur, who lost his 16-year-old son Asaf in a suicide bombing on the number 37 bus in Haifa. Kerman lost his daughter Tal in the same attack, which killed a total of 17 people.
The petition will be hand-delivered to the Academy on Friday by Nonie Darwish, who was raised in Gaza and Egypt. The daughter of a terrorist, Darwish is now an American citizen who frequently speaks out against terror and has signed the petition.
"As an Arab-American mother, I say the time for 'peace is now' and not 'paradise now,'" Darwish said in a statement. "There is nothing new and nothing to add to the Middle East tragedy by yet again trying to understand terrorists."
"I think the movie actually conveys very dangerous messages," said Zur in a telephone interview. The message is that "since the Palestinians have tried everything and failed, their last resort is suicide bombing [and] therefore it is justified," said Zur.
"It's very dangerous, not only for Israel, but for the world," he said.
While the movie's critics say they respect freedom of speech and artistic expression, they believe that nominating the film puts a seal of approval on the message of suicide bombers, Zur said.
Ironically, the third anniversary of the blast that killed the children is Sunday, March 5, which coincides with this year's Academy Awards ceremony.
Requests for a response from the Academy went unanswered. The Academy is not expected to revoke the film's nomination, however.
Most theaters in Israel boycotted the film, but the three fathers viewed it at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque, where the movie ran for a month.
"The film ends with a homicide murderer [suicide bomber] sitting in the bus surrounded by [Israeli] soldiers. It ends with a bright screen," said Mendellevich. "We are living in this bright screen every day."
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