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Singapore bans film featuring Palestinian teen arrested after slapping Israeli soldiers

Singapore authorities say Radiance of Resistance, which features Ahed al-Tamimi, has a 'skewed narrative' which could cause 'disharmony'
Palestinian teen Ahed al-Tamimi enters an Israeli military courtroom in January (Reuters)

Singaporean authorities have banned a film festival this week from screening a documentary that features a Palestinian teen arrested last month after a video of her slapping armed Israeli soldiers went viral.

The 2016 film, Radiance of Resistance, tells the story of Ahed al-Tamimi, then 14, and her nine-year-old friend Janna Ayyad, often called the "youngest journalist in Palestine".

The one-hour documentary, directed by Jesse Roberts, an American humanitarian and filmmaker, was scheduled to be screened at the Singapore Palestinian Film Festival 2018 on Thursday.

But on Tuesday, the government's Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) cancelled the screening, saying that the documentary "explores the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of the two young protagonists, without a counterbalance".

"The skewed narrative of the film is inflammatory and has the potential to cause disharmony among the different races and religions in Singapore," the IMDA said in a statement. 

The IMDA classified the documentary as "not allowed for all ratings (NAR)".

An outright banning of films under NAR classification is rare in Singapore.

The Projector, an independent cinema hosting the festival, posted on its website a cancellation note of the film screening. It described the film as taking "an intimate look at [the Palestinian teens] everyday lives and their importance as the new generation of Palestinian non-violent resistance".

Adela Foo, the festival's organiser, told local journalists that she was "disappointed", but wouldn't appeal the IMDA's decision given time constraints.

"I think this was a really interesting film to show, but I also understand the concerns, given the current political situation," the 23-year-old student was quoted as saying in a Singaporean newspaper.

Prominent Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at described the cancellation of the film screening as "paternalistic" on his Facebook page.

"[IMDA] highly subjective appraisal that something is 'without counterbalance' is hardly a reason for censorship," he wrote.

"And did [IMDA] even consider that this documentary, Radiance of Resistance, exists to provide a balance, a corrective to the kinds of propaganda that Israel state television and the US-centric media produce about the Palestinians?"

An Israeli military court charged Ahed Tamimi, the film's main subject, with assault on Monday.

Israeli court indicts Palestinian teen filmed slapping soldiers
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Ahed's mother, Nariman, and her 21-year-old cousin Nour were also charged. 

Since her arrest, politicians, royals, and celebrities have spoken out for Ahed, now 16. Her father has said that his daughter's actions caught on video happened after Israeli soldiers shot her 14-year-old cousin, Mohammed al-Tamimi, with a rubber bullet in his face.

Mohammed was protesting against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital when he was shot on 15 December. He was placed into a medically induced coma. 

Singapore maintains friendly diplomatic and military ties with Israel that date back to 1966 when Israeli military advisers helped set up Singapore’s army.

Despite this, it was among 128 countries which voted in the UN General Assembly last month to reject US President Donald Trump's 6 December recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. 

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