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Montco Judge Overrides Attempt by Bryn Mawr Film Institute to Cancel Showing of Israeli Film

The show will go on.

Bowing to pressure from Students for Justice Palestine and Faculty for Justice in Palestine at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges,  The Bryn Mawr Film Institute canceled an Israeli film Monday to be shown Tuesday as part of the annual Israeli Film Festival.

Lawyers Jerome Marcus and Lori Lowenthal Marcus with the Deborah Project then sought an emergency injunction to prevent the cancelation of “The Child Within Me.”

Montgomery County Judge Richard Haaz granted the emergency injunction late Tuesday afternoon. The film will be presented as scheduled.

“It was a terrible, horrible experience for the Israeli Film Festival, which spent the last year lining up the appropriate movies to screen and venues to show them in. And then the day before a screening, they were notified it was canceled,” said Lowenthal Marcus.

Lowenthal Marcus said there had been a contract that the Bryn Mawr Film Institute breached.

“That’s the legal part of it,” said Lowenthal Marcus. “The other side of it is there was tremendous pressure of violent protests.”

“And they celebrated their victory (when BMFI canceled),” she said. “The relief we sought was extraordinary relief. It’s a very high standard. We were able to prove in court that the film festival would be irreparably harmed if the screening was canceled at the last minute when people had known about the festival for weeks, had purchased their tickets, had arranged their schedules, and frankly, it would have been a terrible blow to the Jewish community because the bad guys because they threatened violence, would have prevailed. However, the law still matters in America.”

The BMFI had issued a statement announcing the cancelation but did not respond to DVJournal’s request for further comment.

“Bryn Mawr Film Institute is not a political organization. We don’t endorse or oppose any causes. In past years, we have not regarded hosting a screening from the Israeli Film Festival as a political partnership or taking a stance on any issues. This was our feeling when we arranged the 2024 screening many months ago. However, as the situation in Israel and Gaza has developed, it has become clear that our showing this movie is being widely taken among individuals and institutions in our community as an endorsement of Israel’s recent and ongoing actions. This is not a statement we intended or wish to make. For this reason, BMFI is canceling the sole screening of the music documentary “The Child Within Me.”

“BMFI is a safe place for civil and nuanced conversations about diverse stories. For the well-being and safety of all patrons, BMFI will not be a location for anger and violence. For those who wish to partake in an IFF screening, there are upcoming screenings at other venues.”

The court order overrode this decision.

Jason Holtzman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, welcomed the court order.

“The court injunction was granted (so) the film is going to be screened tonight, which we’re really happy about,” he said.

But the cancelation of the Israeli film “is something that never should have happened,” said Holtzman. The film festival “should never have been forced to spend their time on this. But I am pleased they were successful, and the film will be shown tonight.”

Asked about the possibility of protestors, Holtzman said he has every confidence in the Lower Merion police to keep everyone safe.

But other events have been canceled due to fears of violence from pro-Palestinain protesters.

Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, posted on social media Tuesday, “I got invited to participate in a debate on the Hamas-Israel war to take place in Washington. It just got canceled for security reasons. In other words, it’s not safe to debate this issue in the nation’s capital. That’s where we are in 2024.”

Other recent cancelations included a concert by Jewish singer Matisyahu in Chicago, which was canceled in March, a meeting of a Republican group with an Israeli official in Houston, and an expo about Israeli real estate was canceled in Brooklyn.


Haverford College Students Host ‘Israel Apartheid Month’ Events

Imagine you’re a Jewish student at a small, exclusive college on the Main Line, where other students are hosting a seminar blaming Israel for allegedly using COVID “as a tool for settler colonialism in Palestine.”

That’s what’s happening at Haverford College this week, part of the school’s “Israel Apartheid Month.”

The Jewish Federation is among those decrying the meeting, which is espousing antisemitic tropes that harken back to Medieval times when “blood libel” was a common antisemitic myth and used to justify pogroms (attacks) against Jews.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia called on Haverford College officials to condemn the student-organized campus event entitled “COVID in Times of Genocide: How Israel uses COVID as a Tool for Settler Colonialism in Palestine.”

“The event’s title dangerously and inaccurately implies that Israel spread coronavirus to advance its global control, repackaging a centuries-old antisemitic trope that Jews take advantage of global crises as a means for their own gain and advancement. In this case, the event’s narrative takes on a new form of the antisemitic blood libel trope, accusing Jews of committing ritual murder and perpetuating the harmful stereotype of Jews as evil and conniving,” the federation said.

“Higher education institutions have a responsibility to establish college campuses as a space for free speech and critical thinking. However, it must be rooted in academic integrity rather than disinformation.

“Haverford College and institutions of all sizes have a responsibility first and foremost to protect the safety of their students. This event and the tension on campus that has led to Jewish students and faculty being vulnerable and victimized constitutes a failure of leadership.

“There should be no tolerance for student events that permit dangerous antisemitic tropes and threaten the safety of Jewish students and faculty, particularly when antisemitism is at an all-time high on college campuses following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel,” the nonprofit said.

“We urge Haverford College to take immediate action to show its Jewish students and community members that there is zero tolerance for the spread of misinformation and hate on its campus.”

College officials justified allowing students to hold their event.

“At a time of wide-ranging responses to current global matters, our campus is navigating the complexities of learning in community, articulating political and social points of view, and strengthening the relational bonds that allow learning and expression to happen in a safe environment,” said Chris Mills, a Haverford spokesman.

“Haverford supports its community members’ rights to expressive freedom, including around political matters. The ability to challenge ideas and understand conflicting views is foundational to our academic mission. We also expect that even the most well-intentioned individuals will make mistakes in these arenas, and even–and especially–in those moments, we aim to provide learning opportunities that will lead to greater empathy, mutual understanding, and constructive citizenship in a world that is struggling to reach peaceful solutions to conflict,” said Mills.

Jason Holtzman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, told DVJournal, “At a semi-prestigious university you would think that students would be smarter than this. But going into conspiratorial, libelous rhetoric is very dangerous and disturbing.”

The students “should have more critical thinking skills than to buy into conspiratorial claims like this. It’s really dangerous.”

Rav Shai Cherry, senior rabbi at Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, said, “Can’t we expect more from our elite college students than to traffic in a regurgitated blood libel? Is there no commitment to honesty or accuracy in political protests in the age of TikTok?”

“It’s pure insanity,” Holtzman added. “I can’t believe the college would allow this event to go on when antisemitism is at an all-time high on college campuses.”

Haverford is not the only area campus where some students apparently are embracing antisemitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel. The president of the University of Pennsylvania resigned after trying to defend that institution’s policies before Congress.

Haverford College, founded in 1833 by Quakers, has about 1,400 undergraduate students.

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