Israel envoy slams filmmaker Nadav Lapid for criticising The Kashmir Files
Indian trolls have managed in 2022 what Idi Amin could not in 1976 when Operation Entebee was launched to free hostages: plant seeds of fear in Israel.
Israel’s ambassador to India has in an open letter said he was worried about the fallout of filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s criticism of The Kashmir Files on his team and on bilateral relations.
The celebrated Israeli filmmaker, who chaired the International Film Festival of India jury, had said at the closing ceremony on Monday that The Kashmir Files was “propaganda” and “vulgar”. The film portrays the attacks on Pandits in Kashmir in 1990 in a manner that seeks to demonise Muslims.
“You will go back to Israel thinking that you are bold and ‘made a statement’. We, the representatives of Israel, would stay here. You should see our DM (direct message) boxes following your ‘bravery’ and what implications it may have on the team under my responsibility,” ambassador Naor Gilon wrote on Tuesday.
The ambassador suggested that some of the responses in India cast doubts on the Holocaust, one of the most sensitive subjects for Israel. Gilon did not blame anyone other than Lapid. The backlash against Lapid’s statement has largely stemmed from the Hindutva ecosystem.
“My suggestion. As you vocally did in the past, feel free to use the liberty to sound your criticism of what you dislike in Israel but no need to reflect your frustration on other countries,” Gilon added, in the open letter to Lapid that he posted on Twitter. Israel’s official Twitter handle run by the foreign office retweeted the letter, writing: “To all of our friends in India, please read this important thread.’”
Lapid had said as the jury head from the stage in Goa: “We were — all of us — disturbed and shocked by the… movie Kashmir Files that felt to us like a propaganda vulgar movie inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.’’ When the Vivek Agnihotri film was released in March, critics in India had said that it contained factual inaccuracies, was propagandist and frightening in its communalism.
The film was endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made tax-free in several BJP-ruled states.
“The friendship between the people and the states of India and Israel is very strong and will survive the damage you have inflicted,” the Israeli ambassador wrote to Lapid on Tuesday.
“As a human being, I feel ashamed and want to apologise to our hosts for the bad manner in which we repaid them for their generosity and friendship.”
“As a son of a holocaust survivor, I was extremely hurt to see reactions in India to you that are doubting Schindler’s List, the Holocaust and worse. I unequivocally condemn such statements. There is no justification. It does show the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue here,’’ Gilon added.
The bottomline of the “long” open letter, the diplomat told Lapid, was: “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED.”
Before the ambassador tweeted, a member of the international jury of the IFFI, Sudipto Sen, had distanced himself from Lapid’s comments.
Sen said the jury had not said anything like this in its official presentation to the festival director or at the news conference where four of the five members were present.
“Both were our official collective opinion. As juror, we are assigned to judge the technical, aesthetic quality and socio-cultural relevance of a film. We don’t indulge in any kind of political comments on any film,” Sen said. What Lapid said was “completely in personal capacity”, he added.
The Modi government opted to sit back and watch even as some of its fellow-travellers questioned the rationale of the information and broadcasting ministry in inviting Lapid to chair the jury when his political positions are no secret. The Indian embassy in Israel, too, would have known about his work and the positions he takes.
Lapid had not questioned the carnage against Kashmiri Pandits and the subsequent exodus, but his critics in India accused him of doing so, prompting Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi to factcheck them.
“It is obvious for anyone to understand that Nadav Lapid at no point denied the Kashmiri Pandit exodus or dismissed it. The comments he made were about the way one movie that was nominated, namely, the Kashmir Files has treated the subject of the unfortunate events & made it a propaganda film,” tweeted the MP who had earlier this year visited the Valley to meet the families of Kashmiri Pandits slain by terrorists in a fresh spate of attacks on the community.
Although many Pandits have felt outraged by Lapid’s remarks, some prominent voices in Kashmir iterated their opposition to the film. PDP youth leader Mohit Bhan, a Pandit, said The Kashmir Files had reduced their chilling tragedy to a mockery.
“All because a director facilitated by the fringe and the Right-wing exploited the pain of Kashmiri Pandits for political gain,” he said. “I haven’t met a single Kashmiri Muslim who doesn’t recognise the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and doesn’t regret it. Many watched the movie and said to me, ‘Yes we recall the horror’. Unfortunately, the movie-makers allowed the genuine plot to hijack and defame an entire community.”
Additional reporting by Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar