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In 2017, the science fiction film, In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain directed and produced by Larissa Sansour two years earlier, was shown at the Barbican, London.

Gillian Merron, the then chief executive of the Board of Deputies, an umbrella organisation representing British Jews, accused the Barbican of promoting antisemitism by giving screen time to this film.

I've seen a short clip of this film and it appears simply to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shown from the Palestinian viewpoint rather than being antisemitic through the medium of science fiction. The film portrays the story of a resistance group attempting to revive a forgotten civilisation.

Can someone who is familiar with the full film and the IHRA advisory on antisemitism explain why the Board of Deputies have taken this view by reference to the film itself?

(To my mind, to be pro-Palestine is an entirely different proposition from being antisemitic. And to be an anti-semite is to be anti-Judaism. In this way, islamophobia is more accurate about what the prejudice is against. It's also notable that British universities have robustly spoken against adopting the IHRA definition as it, in part, conflates criticism of Israel with prejudice against Judaism).

For instance, most people watching The Planet of the Apes realise that this is a critique of slavery and racism without thinking that black people are apes.

I mean, why go for the anti-Semitic label when it could quite conceivably and truthfully be described as pro-Palestine?

After all, wherever there is a conflict then there are two sides to a story. This is why in any court case there is the defendent and the litigant; the defence and the prosecution and the prosecutor

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    I think a more accurate title for what you're asking would be "Why is 'In the future, they ate from the finest porcelain' considered anti-Semitic?" You're right that being pro-Palestine and being anti-Semitic are two completely different things, but they're also not mutually exclusive.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 7, 2020 at 7:44
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    Hello Mozibur Ullah, why did you roll back the edit I made? I added links, cleaned up wording, and focused the title on what you're actually asking.
    – SQB
    Jul 7, 2020 at 8:13
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    I have to agree with the other commenters, unfortunately; we don't need 'Palestinian-scifi' or 'nonwestern-scifi' tags. Maybe the second one at a stretch, as it would apply to sci-fi anime as well, but I don't see that first one getting any use at all. Aside from work tags, we don't add tags for a single question.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 7, 2020 at 8:22
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    You might think those tags are more useful but that's not how we use tags on this site. The question is about the work and so it should have the work tag, genre tags are rarely used and are not to be used to classify works into genres which is really how you're trying to use them here.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 7, 2020 at 8:22
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    Post locked to put a stop to this edit warring. Since you don't seem to be familiar with this site's tagging conventions, perhaps you should accept guidance from users who are.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 7, 2020 at 8:39

1 Answer 1

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According to quotes in this article in the Guardian and this review, the film portrays aliens landing in what is now Israel and planting fake archaeology which points to Jewish occupation in ancient times:

the story follows a resistance group fabricating a history, laying claim to territories of a “counterfeit people” by burying seemingly valuable porcelain plates for future archaeological excavations to discover, consequently creating a nation. The protagonist, a “Narrative Terrorist” working on behalf of the resistance group, is driven by the memory of her younger sister, murdered callously as collateral damage by the opposing forces.

On one hand this is clearly labelled as fiction, and (AFAIK) nobody is claiming that it presents a real historical scenario. On the other hand the subtext is clearly a de-legitimisation of the state of Israel. This is certainly not just "the Israeli Palestinian conflict shown from the Palestinian viewpoint".

The IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is not the only definition. Attacks on the legitimacy of the state of Israel are also widely considered to be antisemitic. If the film existed in a vacuum then it would not be an issue. However it actually exists within collection of delegitimisation and revisionist theories:

Palestinian media, schools, and mosques routinely reinforce the message of denial. According to the prevailing Palestinian narrative, the Jews are pathological liars who have invented their history, thieves without rights to any part of the land—“a foreign body,” as [Iranian president Mahmoud] Abbas put it. Among the fabrications in this narrative: that there was no ancient Jewish presence here—that’s a Zionist lie, too; the massive archeological findings attesting to that presence were all faked; no temple stood on the Mount; and the Holocaust was a Zionist invention intended to extort Western support for a Jewish state.

This seems to be why Gillian Merron is quoted in the Guardian article as saying:

Accusing Jews of falsifying our connection to Israel smacks of antisemitism and is of grave concern.

Accusing any group of falsifying their claim to legitimacy can only be considered an attack on the group as a whole. For instance, gay people are attacked on the grounds that their sexuality is "just a lifestyle choice". Attacks on the Rohingya are justified by claims that they are really Bangladeshi immigrants. And for that matter some people attack Palestinian identity in the same way.

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