Israeli Democracy Protects Palestinian Women
Female nudity in the movie Huda's Salon causes an Arab storm
(This article originally appeared in Arabic, was auto-translated by Google Translate).
Many Palestinians and Arabs went crazy over a nudity scene by Arab Israeli actress Maysa Abdel-Hadi in the movie Huda’s Salon, which premiered in Beirut last week (directed by Arab Israeli Hani Abu-Assaad). The movie says it is based on true events, in which a Palestinian woman, whose name is Huda and who owns a hair salon in Bethlehem, takes nude pictures of Palestinian women to blackmail them and force them to collect information for Israel’s intelligence agencies.
The Islamists were quick denounce movie. Hamas’s “Art Production Department” said the film was a “smear campaign against the struggle of the Palestinian people,” and its goal was “to collect funds drenched in the dignity of the struggling people from donor countries at the expense of the Palestinian cause.”
The film is co-financed by the Doha Film Institute, which operates with Qatari government funding, and Palestine Film, a Turkey-based association that operates with Qatari support. These contributors make Hamas’s attack on Qatari money, which also funds the Gaza Strip, surprising. Hamas itself lives off the “cause” funded by Doha.
The movie’s scenes are long and boring while the script sometimes takes a preaching tone, and had it not been for the strong performance of Maysa, Manal Awad and Ali Suleiman, the movie would have suffered immensely.
As for the nudity scene, which barely exceeds one minute, the scene does not include intercourse or hints at it. Huda (Manal) drugs an unsuspecting Reem (Maysa). While Reem sleeps, Hoda hires a man who strips naked and lies next to nude Reem. Pictures make it look as if the two naked actors were having intercourse. When Reem wakes up, Huda shows her the pictures and blackmails her into calling an Israeli intel agent to offer him whatever information she can get (on her family, neighbors or whatever she hears in Palestinian circles).
But the film is not about the Palestinian conflict with Israel. It does not depict armed Palestinian factions in a bad light. The movie rather paints an ugly image of Israel, thrashes the security fence calling it “a wall of racism,” and alludes to the difficulty Palestinians face whenever trying to leave the West Bank to Jordan, due to hardships they face in obtaining security permits from Israel. When Reem finally called her Israeli intel handler, all she asked him for was to help her obtain a permit so that she could escape the scandal that was chasing her.
The film also depicts the Palestinian "resistance" as operating efficiently, succeeding in counter intel, arresting suspects, and exposing the Israeli network. The “resistance” faction operates without institutions or laws, tries and executes Palestinians as it pleases, but the film does not address this angle, which can be contrasted — even if remotely — to when Reem’s Israeli intelligence handler refuses to issue her a travel permit outright, arguing that Israel was a state of institutions.
Huda’s Salon, however, brilliantly highlights the miserable situation of women in Arab societies, and the injustice that they face, even when they are the victims. Huda said she recruited the women who were in unhappy marriages. Reem told Hoda that she was crazy in love with her husband before marriage, but he changed after marriage and became obsessively jealous, suspecting that she was having affairs outside of wedlock.
Then disaster struck and Reem found herself a victim of Hoda’s pornographic images. Reem first turned to a close female friend, but the latter realized the enormity of the problem and scandal, and immediately distanced herself from Reem, asking her not to tell anyone that the two had met.
At home, Reem’s husband did not participate in any domestic work. He invited his big family to feasts, and reprimanded Reem for not getting along with his mother. Such is the life of an ordinary Arab woman: Strenuous domestic work and the possibility of a scandal at any minute that can tarnish her reputation and make an outcast out of her. Such situations offer anyone seeking to recruit female spies a good opportunity.
The message of the film does not matter to the “heroes” of the “Palestinian cause.” In the West Bank, a lawyer filed a complaint with the Palestinian Public Prosecutor, requesting that the film be “withheld from showing,” according to an Arab newspaper. The complaint stated that “Art is a message… we are not against art or freedom of expression. BUT,” the complaint added, “Whoever wants to serve the Palestinian cause must produce films worthy of the struggles and sacrifices of the Palestinian people.”
The complaining lawyer seemed unaware that the problem of the “Palestinian cause” is his “BUT,” which he associated with “freedom of expression.” The “Palestinian cause” will keep suffering as long as its champions believe that there is only one opinion that is national and honorable, an opinion that includes forcing women’s bodies covered.
My comment: If the “Palestinian cause” is as monolithic and oppressive, then it is better to get rid of such cause as soon as possible.
The Arab newspaper also reported that “the defendants from the film’s staff hold Israeli citizenship… Palestinian law does not allow them to be tried.”
Fortunately for those Arab Israelis, who oppose Arab society's oppression of women and their image and body, they live under Israeli sovereignty that protects their freedom of expression. It goes without saying that Israeli law did not censor the movie, even though the movie presented an ugly picture of the wall, the occupation, and Israel itself. This is the difference that results in the superiority of a free and democratic Israel versus a “Palestinian cause” that does not tolerate a naked body or a dissenting opinion.