A new Netflix collection by and about Palestinians has drawn criticism for releasing films directed by supporters of BDS.
Netflix’s trove of Palestinian films has drawn ire from pro-Israel voices over the streaming giant’s release of movies directed by supporters of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Titled “Palestinian Stories,” Netflix announced last week the launch of a new collection of 32 films aimed at highlighting the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and in exile. As of Monday, 28 of the 32 films had been uploaded, with more to be added over the coming weeks.
Award-winning directors, including Basil Khalil and Elia Suleiman, will have their works featured on the platform.
“The diversification of our content sits close to my heart as Netflix works to become the home of Arabic Cinema, a place where anyone in the world can access great Arab stories,” Nuha El Tayeb, director of acquisitions for the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, said in a statement.
“We believe that great stories travel beyond their place of origin, are told in different languages and enjoyed by people from all walks of life and, with the Palestinian Stories collection, we hope to amplify these beautiful stories to a global audience.”
The collection was curated by Front Row Films Entertainment, a leading film distribution company in the Middle East and North Africa.
Backlash and support
Some pro-Israel figures and right-wing Zionist groups have attacked the streaming giant’s decision to promote Palestinian voices.
The Zionist group additionally linked twelve of the directors to an open letter this May titled “A Letter Against Apartheid,” which accused the Israeli government of perpetrating a “massacre” in Gaza and of protecting and encouraging “murder, intimidation and violent dispossession.”
Im Tirtzu’s CEO Matan Peleg stated on Monday that it was “disgraceful that Netflix is featuring propaganda films directed by BDS supporters whose sole goal is to slander and delegitimize the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Emily Schrader, a journalist and anti-BDS activist, said that “it is unfortunate that Netflix is giving a platform to directors who advocate division and bigotry in the arts,” and that Netflix was “elevating those who actively promote hatred and reject cooperation.”
Critics aside, Netflix’s decision to showcase Palestinian cinema received a smattering of praise online.
New Palestinian films and documentaries on Netflix beginning October 14th.— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) October 10, 2021
Educate yourself. Learn about the Palestinian experience. pic.twitter.com/tbxL0nddtx
Good to see Netflix placing Palestinians and Palestine "on the map." Some of the films I have seen but I am looking to watching many more. https://t.co/Sq7u3wGIhK— Louis Fishman لوي فيشمان לואי פישמן (@Istanbultelaviv) October 13, 2021
Plaudits for Palestinian films have been gaining traction with Western audiences in recent years.
In April this year, in the lead up to the Israeli attacks on Gaza the following month, the New York Times published an op-ed “Why Biden Must Watch This Palestinian Movie,” penned by former CIA director John Brennan. Brennan called on the US president to watch the “heartbreaking account” of Palestinians undergoing the “humiliating procedure every day” of enduring Israeli checkpoints.
Ameen Nayfeh, director of the short film ‘The Crossing’ in the Netflix collection, said it was a momentous occasion for Palestinian representation on the silver screen.
“This is why we make films, because we want our stories to travel, we want people to know about us,” Nayfeh told Reuters. “Now when you type Palestine in the search button on Netflix, you will see so many different titles that you can watch.”
“Before, when I would type Palestine I would get Israeli titles.”
Most of the Palestinian films will be broadcast globally, and all will include Arabic subtitles depending on the country they are released in.