WeHo City Council Votes Down Measure Halting Screening of Anti-Israel Film

April 2, 2019
Photo courtesy of StandWithUs.

The West Hollywood City Council voted down a measure on April 1 that would have stopped the upcoming screening of an anti-Israel film inside the city council as part of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speakers series.

WEHOville reports that while Mayor John D’Amico and Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Horvath expressed skepticism about showing the movie, Councilmembers John Duran, John Heilman and Lauren Meister voted to move on with the April 16 screening as planned. Meister said during the city council meeting that she didn’t think the documentary featured any “anti-Semitic commentary.”

“I received a lot of letters starting with ‘I’m disappointed and angry.’ Well, I have to be honest, so am I,” Meister said.  “I am disappointed and angry and embarrassed that with everything going on in this country that we are seeing this level of intolerance in West Hollywood. I am embarrassed that we are contemplating shying away from controversy because it’s an uncomfortable topic.”

D’Amico wanted to hear more feedback from the community before proceeding with the screening; Horvath questioned why it was necessary for the city to “spend resources” on screening the film when it is shown at various academic institutions across the country.

The co-producer of the film, Cal State San Bernardino media studies professor Ahlam Muhtaseb, said during the meeting that the film was created after talking to a wide variety of people over a span of 10 years. However, some members of the West Hollywood community, such as Los Angeles National Organization for Women leader John Erickson, argued, that it wouldn’t be right to show a film that the Jewish community finds offensive, per WEHOville.

Dillon Hosier, chief advocacy officer for the Israeli-American Civic Action Network, wrote in the April 2 email news blast for The Israel Group, which describes itself as “a nonprofit that protects Israel in the diaspora by developing and launching initiatives to cripple the boycott (BDS) movement against at Israel,” that the pro-Israel community is remaining upbeat despite the council’s decision to go on with the screening.

“Mayor John D’Amico and Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Horvath voted to review the City’s event sponsorship process, whereas Councilmembers Duran, Heilman, and Meister voted to keep the status quo and allow ‘1948’ to be shown as planned,” Hosier wrote. “Our opposition won a small victory when Councilmembers Duran, Heilman and Meister voted for a pro-Israel film to be screened at some unspecified in the future in an attempt at ‘balance.’”

Hosier added that the “pro-Israel community outnumbered the opposition 10 to 1” at the meeting and that there “were tall stacks of letters and emails that were sent to the councilmembers expressing disgust and anger” at the screening.

“We built a strong and diverse coalition of over a hundred people that we know we can count on in the future, we experienced the importance of showing up and participating in the democratic process, and we showed the City of West Hollywood that we’re here, we’re watching them, and we won’t stay silent,” Hosier wrote.

“1948” was originally scheduled to be shown on December 12; it was postponed after Congregation Kol Ami Rabbi Denise Eger spearheaded an effort to have the screening canceled.

On March 19, when the city announced that the film would be shown on April 16, Eger wrote in an email to the city council that she was “shocked.”

“The film ‘1948’ is unbalanced and nothing but propaganda,” Eger wrote.

“1948” was shown at UC Irvine on January 31; Debra Glazer, the Orange County representative for StandWithUs, told the Journal in February that she had attended the screening and the film “demonizes and delegitimizes Israel and Israelis and seeks to undermine the basic rights of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancestral home” by portraying Israelis as “war criminals and monsters, creating ill will and potentially putting Jews and supporters of Israel in danger.” StandWithUs senior executive Gary Ratner spoke during public comments at the April 1 city council meeting.

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