Palestinian activists tried to derail an ambitious European documentary shot in Jerusalem this week, complaining that the film would reinforce an image of Israeli sovereignty over the deeply divided city.
Producers of the Franco-German “24h Jerusalem”, which sets out to depict a day-in-the-life of the troubled city, said on Friday that their plans had been badly disrupted by a last minute campaign of “intimidation and harassment”.
“We very much regret what has happened, but we are still here and we will carry on shooting,” said producer Thomas Kufus, hoping to recapture the success of his ground-breaking 2008 project - the day-long “24h Berlin” film.
One of the co-producers, Germany’s Bayerischer Rundfunk, said their staff had faced an “onslaught of menacing calls” and threats to “inflict bodily harm”, accusing Palestinian activists of trying to prevent Arabs from telling their stories.
With some 70 camera crews working across the city from 6.00 a.m. on Thursday to 6.00 a.m. on Friday, the project is one of the most ambitious documentaries ever shot in Jerusalem and had the blessing of the local Israeli authorities.
However, some Palestinian politicians and militants accused the filmmakers of failing to coordinate properly with their own authorities and said the film would present a united Jerusalem under full Israeli control.
Israelis seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, later annexing the land and pronouncing the city as their undivided capital in a move that has never been internationally endorsed.
Palestinians want to establish a capital of their own in East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy shrines.
“This is not one city, it is two cities,” said Dimitri Diliani, spokesman in East Jerusalem for the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds sway in Palestinian self-rule areas of the nearby West Bank.
“The whole idea of accepting the occupiers’ claims that this is one city is totally wrong. This has political ramifications,” he told Reuters. He denied accusations that opponents of the film had threatened any of those involved.
The producers said a handful of Palestinian cameramen and technicians had dropped out just before shooting started. More damagingly, some of the Palestinian locals they had hoped to feature in the film had withdrawn at the last minute.
“We have very strong material from the Israeli and European teams … The Palestinians are still shooting, so we are very much working on having an equal standard in this project,” said Kufus, conceding that this meant the documentary would not be filmed over a single 24-hour period as originally hoped.
The spat over the documentary, which is part-funded by the Arte television channel, has highlighted fierce opposition within some Palestinian quarters to anything that might smack of a “normalisation” of Israeli control.
Cultural events, such as a U.N.-backed concert last July, have had to be abandoned in the face of pressure from activists who say any efforts to build bridges between communities should be resisted until the Israeli occupation ends.
Kufus said the problems he had faced with his film showed the ever-present tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
“They just cannot work together. It is impossible,” he said, adding: “Everything that happens here is connected to the conflict, especially on the Palestinian side.”