Joint Israeli-Palestinian film broadcast simultaneously on Channel 2 and Ma’an

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United by the small screen, Israelis and Palestinians will transcend their divisions this week when “Under the Same Sun,” a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is broadcast simultaneously on Israel’s Channel 2 and the Palestinian Ma`an television stations.

The film, which was produced by an Israeli and directed by a Palestinian, was shot in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem and stars actors from both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Production credit is shared by Amir Harel, and Israeli who worked on the Academy Award-nominated “Paradise Now,” which depicts the preparations of a pair of Palestinian suicide bombers; and Search for Common Ground, an American non-governmental organization that does conflict resolution work.

Set in the near future, it focuses on how two business leaders cope with the unique political and personal challenges posed by operating in societies where there is a strong stigma against working with the “other side.” 

Harel commented that he sees the film as a mirror of reality. 

“A small part of it is our projection of the possible future. It’s more like a wish that reality would resemble in a way,” he said.

“It’s a fictional story but the underlying issues are real,” Sharon Rosen, co-director of the Jerusalem office of Search for Common Ground, told The Media Line. “We wanted to be able to convey the underlying, the intangibles; to build hope that something like this could happen.”

Leading actor Ali Saliman told The Media Line that he enjoyed working with his Israeli counterpart, adding, “We had never worked together but it felt natural.”

“Under the Same Sun” was received positively in the United States and the United Kingdom, where it has already been screened in London, but it’s unclear what the local population of Israelis and Palestinians will think.

Tsvika Kleinman, who already viewed the movie, said it is very realistic.

“As an Israeli, I know for sure it is possible — and already happened in the past, as shown in the movie — to bring hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the streets and create a movement that would put pressure from the bottom up,“ he told The Media Line. However, Kleinman believes that creating such a grassroots movement is more of a challenge for Palestinians.

A Palestinian businessman from Jerusalem told The Media Line that the film is very close to reality: his reality in particular.

“This topic is very sensitive for us to talk about because there are people who will destroy our reputation,” he said, referring to those who adhere to an anti-normalization with Israel campaign, adding that his company was targeted two years ago when he was accused of working with Israelis. He said it took him a very long time to recover his losses.

A businessman in the Palestinian territories told The Media Line that there are joint business projects between the conflicting sides, but it’s not something that is often publicized. There are a variety of opinions on the Palestinian street about “normalizing” with Israel, but the Palestinian National Authority has not given a public statement for or against such work.

Search for Common Ground’s founder and president, John Marks, hired the Palestinian director and Israeli producer in 2011 after an extensive month of searching for the right team. He hopes that Israelis and Palestinians will realize that most people on both sides want to bring an end to the conflict.

“I still believe that peace is possible,” he said, “and I wanted to make an entertaining dramatic film that showed that. Who knew when we started this project two years ago that there would be active peace talk again taking place?”

Palestinian hunger striker to be released next month, protests continue

A Palestinian prisoner on a long-term hunger strike in an Israeli jail will be released in March.

The Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Thursday sentenced Samer Issawi to eight months in prison for violating the terms of his release under the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap. Issawi was charged with illegally entering the West Bank.

Since Issawi has served more than six months in prison, he will be eligible to leave prison on March 6.

Issawi has been on a hunger strike for more than 200 days and is said to be near death.

He was released in the 2011 prisoner swap to free captive soldier Gilad Shalit but was later rearrested.

At least 1,000 Palestinians demonstrated near a West Bank prison on Thursday — the latest rally in support of Issawi and three other inmates on long-term hunger strikes.

Protests in support of the four hunger strikers have been held throughout the West Bank since last week.

The protesters threw stones at Israeli security forces and burned tires after being stopped at the military checkpoint in the West Bank Palestinian town of Beitunia, according to reports. They were marching to the Ofer Prison near Ramallah.

Police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Two Israeli journalists were injured by stones during the clashes. At least 29 Palestinian protesters also were injured by rubber-coated bullets, according to the Palestinian Ma'an news service.

The four long-term hunger strikers are being held in administrative detention, under which a prisoner can be held without charges for up to four months. The administrative detention also can be renewed.

Hamas delegates told to leave Bulgaria

Bulgarian security forces ordered a group of Hamas officials visiting Sofia to leave the country.

Ma’an, the Palestinian news agency, on Friday quoted a statement by Hamas which said that delegates from its parliamentary party, Ismail al-Ashqar, Salah al-Bardawil and Mushir al-Masri, left Bulgaria shortly after being told to go.

The three men arrived in Bulgaria on Feb. 13 for a five-day visit meant to show that representatives of Hamas, a designated terrorist group in Bulgaria and the rest of the European Union, were increasingly welcome in Europe, Ma’an reported.

According to the Hamas statement, the men entered Bulgaria “officially” but in statements Thursday, a spokesperson for the Bulgarian government said the men had not been invited to Bulgaria nor met with Bulgarian officials.

Ma'an quoted the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy to Bulgaria as saying that he was informed by the Bulgarian foreign ministry that it “regretted” the presence of the Hamas delegation and made the decision to ask them to leave. Ma’an said the Hamas group was invited by Bulgaria's Center for Global and Middle East Studies.

The PLO and Hamas are rivals for Palestinian power.

The head of the center, Mohammed Abu Assi, told the Bulgarian news site Dnevnik that the visit was meant to “improve Bulgaria's image in the Arab world” after the country's government “made a blunder” by blaming Hezbollah for a 2012 bus bombing which targeted Israeli tourists in Burgas and killed six people. Hezbollah denies the accusations.

Egypt intercepts Gaza-bound missile shipment

Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula reportedly intercepted a shipment of American-made missiles destined for the Gaza Strip.

After receiving intelligence on the weapons shipment, the Egyptian Interior Ministry raided a location south of El-Arish, Ma'an, the Palestinian news agency, reported on Friday.

According to the report, security forces discovered six U.S.-manufactured missiles being prepared in the city, just south of Gaza, for smuggling into the Palestinian coastal strip.

The missiles were 75cm long, with a 40cm diameter and a range of two kilometers, Ma'an reported. Some were for use against tanks and the others were anti-aircraft.

Late last month, Egyptian armed forces foiled an attempt to smuggle 17 French-made TDI model rockets into the Gaza Strip, the Egypt Independent quoted an anonymous military source as saying.

According to the report, Egyptian military forces, in cooperation with local Bedouins, stopped the smuggling attempt in northern Sinai. The rockets intercepted were caliber 68 mm, which have a range of 1.86 miles.

Israeli troops fire at Palestinians near Gaza border

Israeli troops fired at armed Palestinians who came too close to the border fence with Gaza despite warnings.

At least seven people were injured, two seriously, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

Ma’an identified most of the men as farmers.

The IDF spokesperson’s office said that the troops feared that the men were approaching the border fence in order to lay down explosives in an attempt to attack or kidnap soldiers. The troops opened fire after repeated warnings, according to reports.

In a separate incident, tank shells reportedly were fired at suspected Palestinian terrorists near the Karni Crossing.