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The Nizar Hassan story / By Haim Bresheeth [University of East London]

Professor Haim Bresheeth is a filmmaker, photographer and a film studies scholar, at University of East London since early 2002. Before coming to UEL, Prof. Bresheeth was Dean of the School of Media, Film and Cultural Studies, at Sapir College, Israel.


Occupation magazine
The Nizar Hassan story
 By Haim Bresheeth
A letter
12 February 2008



First, Apologies for the length of this message. I have collected many sources on the continuing saga of Nizar Hassan at Sapir College, Israel. For those new to the topic, I am telling the basic facts of the story in blue, below. Those of you who are already acquaited with the facts, can skip the BLUE text. The whole thing is now gearing up to the endgame - Tzahor has written to a number of us a couple of days ago, saying he is preparing the sacking letter. Nizar is in hospital in Germany with some serious health problems, so cannot even read the emails or access the net, and is limited to his mobile. I spoke to him for a long time a couple of days ago, and he is, despite his poor health, totally determined to fight this and win. If he will be sacked, as seems certain, he will take this to the media, and the courts. He has a realistic chance of winning in the industrial tribunal. I just hope his health improves soon.

Nizar has asked me to thank you all for all the support, letters, phone calls, emails, blogs and whatnot - it is all crucial in this struggle, which he (and we...) undertake not just on behalf of one filmmaker, but also on behalf of very important principles, which Israeli academia now openly shuns, disregards, or even makes fun of. Many Israelis, academics and intellectuals, political activists, students - have joined this campaign. I will try and keep you posted, at least for the time being.

Basic facts of the story:

Nizar Hassan, a renowned Palestinian filmmaker, and a fierce critic of Israel's brutal occupation, has been working at the Sapir College, Israel for a number of years. This is a school I have set up, so I know it rather well - it is the only school where such views were allowed to be heard, and a Palestinian filmmaker was employed in key position within Israel. Nizar has been crucial, both in his films and hius teaching, establishing a deeper knowledge and understanding of Israel within Palestine, and vice versa. This he has done with sensitivity and a great sense of duty, and as such is a voice of sanity in the desert of the unreal, to paraphrase Zizek...

Almost a year ago, shortly after the murderous incursion of Israel into Lebanon and Gaza in Summer 2006, Nizar has encountered a student of his in class, uniformed and armed. As he has asked students to avoid coming to his classes in such fashion, he has asked the student to not come like this for the next class. The student was unhappy about this request, and argued with Nizar. Nizar then said (in Hebrew) 'Yes, Commander', which translated into English sounds bad, and is the equivalint of Yes Sir, in the military context. The student has then decided to complain, and also spoke to the media.

A campaign of lies, propaganda and hate was then unleashed in Israel against Nizar, and indirectly, against Sapir college which employs him. Reportedly, the Chief of Staff has phoned the President, Prof. Zeev Tzahor, to demand the sacking of the Palestinian lecturer, and Tzahor was summoned before the Knesset Education committee, to face similar demands. Right wing students marched through the college with racist slogans anf flags of Israel, demanding immediate dismissal. Under this intense pressure, Tzahor set up a commission of Inquiry, made up of three academics, and asked it to examine the case and make recommendations, saying he will accept its recommendations even before it actually met. The Commission sat a number of times, and produced a three page report, a copy (in Hebrew) of which is attached as PDF to this email. An English
translation of the Report will be available within 24 hours. The Commission hardly looked into the facts - only four lines deal with the facts, rather shoddily, while the rest of the report is an unbalanced ideological attack on Nizar Hassan, and by implication, on Palestine. Such a report - please read it - could not have been concocted anywhere in the free world, and shames the college and its management, to the best of my understanding. It is indeed a unique document, blaming Hassan for not liking the Israeli army, its uniform, flag and tradition, that the Commission calls an 'inseparable part of the Israeli experience', totally overlooking a number of key facts: The so called IDF is an army of brutal occupation, in control of the whole of Palestine in the last 40 years, and responsible to innumerable killings, extra-jusicial murders, mass bombing in a number of Arab countries - I will not go on telling you what you all know. The second fact is simply that legally speaking, Nizar Hassan as well as over one million Palestinians are Israelis by citizenship, and they surely do not see the IDF as their army; rather they see it for what it is - an army of illegal occupation and oppression.

Despite its ideological blindness and conceptual poverty, not to mention irrational argument, the Commission has basically asked that Nizar Hassan apologises to the student as a vehicle of resolving the conflict. This Hassan was more than prepared to do, as he has not intended to hurt the student's feelings, but to sensitize him to the slight difference between the army and civilian life. However, he was not able to do this - Prof. Tzahor has sent him a letter demanding not an apology to the student as a human being, but more importantly, to the flag and the uniform! This of course was treated with derision and disbelief not just by Nizar, but by many Israeli academics, both in Israel and abroad. A website including the letters, in Hebrew and English, will be ready within days. Currently Prof. Tzahor intends to sack Nizar Hassan before the end of this week, and he has not been deterred by the letters at all.

The links below are varied: many are right wing, racist and anti-Arab blogs, which have taken up the struggle aginst the new antichrist in Israel - a film studies professor... While reading them can cause severe health difficulties, it is also good to see what kind of lies, hysteria and hate one has to deal with. Please do not blame me for the contents...

Please send this to friends and colleagues. The top two are including less lies and are more balanced reports in Haaretz daily, Israel's Guardian.




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