Nakba film streams on Netflix despite Israeli threats

Farha depicts the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, when at least 750,000 were forced from their homes.

Woman and man stand next to a lecturn with 'Farha' written in Arabic on the backdrop
Producer Deema Azar and actor Ashraf Barhom introduce Farha during the ninth edition of the Palestine Cinema Days festival, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on November 7, 2022 [File: Film Lab Palestine/Handout via Reuters]

A Jordanian film depicting the ethnic cleansing of Palestine during the 1948 Nakba, when Zionist forces declared the creation of the State of Israel, has begun airing on Netflix despite attacks from Israeli politicians.

Farha is directed by the Jordanian filmmaker Darin J Sallam, and is a rare portrayal on a Western entertainment platform of the events of the Nakba, when Zionist military forces expelled at least 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands and captured 78 percent of historic Palestine.

Netflix has stuck by its decision to carry the film on its streaming platform, where it became available to view on Thursday.

That is despite an Israeli campaign to stop it from appearing on Netflix, with Avigdor Lieberman, a right-winger who is the outgoing Israeli finance minister, suggesting that state funding should be withdrawn from a theatre in Jaffa that plans to show the film.

Jaffa, or Yafa as it is known in Arabic, was one of the biggest cities in historic Palestine until most of its 120,000 residents were expelled during the Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic. A third of the city remains Palestinian today.

Academics and human rights organisations have extensively documented the events of the Nakba and the atrocities committed against Palestinians, and the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Wednesday to officially recognise Nakba Day.

Despite that, Israel’s culture minister, Chili Tropper, said Farha showed “lies and libels”, and the plans by Al-Saraya, the Jaffa theatre that plans to screen it, “a disgrace”.

“I call on the theatre’s management to change their decision to screen the film,” the minister added.

Sallam and the film’s producers, Deema Azar and Ayah Jardaneh, released a statement following the ministers’ attack on their film, criticising what they called “the accusations to discredit Farha”.

“The film’s writer/director, Darin J. Sallam, had an urge to tellt his humane and personal story that she carried with her since her childhood and to share it with the world,” the statement said.

“The film exists, we exist, and we will not be silenced,” it added.

The theatre director did not immediately respond to a request by the AFP news agency to comment on the screening.

Netflix picked up Farha after it featured in the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

It tells the story of a 14-year-old as her village comes under attack by Israeli forces, who are depicted executing civilians.

Depictions of the events of the Nakba cause controversy in Israel, where approximately 20 percent of the population are Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Israel also occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinian territories it seized in 1967.

Most recently, Israeli director Alon Schwarz faced a backlash from fellow Israelis over his 2022 documentary on the Tantura massacre, in which Palestinian residents were killed in a coastal Mediterranean village in the northwest of what is now Israel.

INTERACTIVE What is the Nakba infographic map
(Al Jazeera)
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies