Legendary Palestinian actor and film director Mohammad Bakri

Letter from Mohammad Bakri to PM Netanyahu:

What is this equality you suddenly speak of? Your empty speech has no basis in reality. For the sake of both the peoples living here: resign.

To Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.

I saw you speak, and I thought how happy I’d be had I believed even one word that came out of your mouth. Much water has flowed to the sea since you warned Israeli Jews, in a live broadcast a few hours before the polls closed, from the flood of Arabs heading out to vote. The lie was soon found out, and now too the lie in your words is clear.

I am a citizen of Israel, and I am proud of my artistic and personal accomplishments. I achieved them not thanks to you, but thanks to my work and my talent and my insistence on sticking to my principles. For the latter, I have paid, and still pay, a heavy price. I am boycotted and ostracized solely because I dared to come out against the occupation and the moral crimes committed during Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002.

The Israeli government did everything in its power to persuade the nation that my film “Jenin, Jenin” was a web of lies and manipulations — and it succeeded. You turned me into a traitor and a hater of Israel; you placed the mark of Cain on my brow. (People in the street ask me, “Where did you disappear to? Why don’t we see you on the screen anymore?” And I’m usually ashamed to tell them the truth).

So what is this equality, this democracy, you speak of? How can someone like me, who believed his whole life (and who still believes) in the right of both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, to live side by side in love and respect and equality, be a full partner and work shoulder to shoulder with my Jewish Israeli brothers when you’ve stripped me of the right to open my mouth and the ability to provide food for my children?

How can I believe your statements when on the ground the occupation continues to flourish, and plans for building thousands of apartments for Israeli Jews in the West Bank are published day after day? How can I believe them when in reality, you’ve demolished houses in Ramle’s Dahamesh neighborhood again and again, persecuted its young men and women and beaten them with batons?

Unlike you, I genuinely dream of a future for our children — one without an army, without wars, without despair, without the Islamic State, without crazy fanatics. I dream of a shared life, without hatred, without oppression of the other — a life of genuine, mutual love and respect.

Your empty speech has no basis in reality. You’ve proven with your deeds that not a word of it will come true as long as you are in power. For the sake of both the peoples living here: Resign.

Mohammad Bakri • Aug 03, 2016


Originally published at www.haaretz.com.