Israeli film about terrorist-defending lawyer put on Oscar shortlist sparks rage

December 18, 2019 by Arye Green -TPS
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An Israeli film about Lea Tsemel, a lawyer who has defended terrorists, has made the shortlist for an Academy Award nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category, sparking rage in Israel.

Preparations for the opening ceremony of Karama Palestine 2019 – The Fifth annual Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival in Gaza City. Gaza, Dec 4, 2019. Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the announcement Monday.

The film “Advocate,” directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, follows Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel as she provides legal assistance to defendants, most of whom were subsequently convicted with terrorism. The film includes archival footage of past cases Tsemel was involved in during her five-decade-long career as well as two contemporary cases.

The film has received harsh criticism in Israel for its positive portrayal of Leah Tsemel as a human rights activist, despite her actions to defend terrorists.

After the film won the Docaviv competition last May, bereaved families of those murdered by terrorists opposed the award. Mifal Hapayis, the national lottery that funds a cash prize for Docaviv, subsequently stopped funding the festival and attempted to rescind the film’s award. However, the national lottery’s funding to the festival has since resumed.

Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev likewise criticized the “choice to make a movie focusing on a lawyer who represents, supports and speaks in the name of many who undermine the existence of the State of Israel, use terrorism against its soldiers and people, and receive legal and public support from Tsemel.”

The Choosing Life Forum of Bereaved Families and the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu strongly condemned the Academy’s choice to place the film on the Oscars shortlist, saying the filmmakers are “benefiting from the blood of innocents.”

“Those who benefit from the conflict and from the blood of innocents found yet another way to profit. As it isn’t enough that there are attorneys who make a living defending the terrorists who murdered our loved ones, now these immoral filmmakers are celebrating this blood industry and are using it to advance their own careers,” they stated Tuesday.

“The lack of humanity of these so-called cultured individuals exceeds all imagination,” they added.


One Response to “Israeli film about terrorist-defending lawyer put on Oscar shortlist sparks rage”
  1. Maurice Solovitz says:

    with respect to those who protested the choice. Israel is a democracy that values freedom of speech and the rule of law. Sometimes that makes for some uncomfortable choices. Are the detractors going to decide who gets representation in court and who is simply strung up on the nearest tree? In Judaism we have an expression. “The ends never justify the means.” A state must make compromises to survive but there are minimal standards, even terrorists get to enjoy those standards.

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