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Palestinian documentary censored by EPFL: The director responds

In November 2018, I was proud to have my film, The Truth: Lost at Sea, officially selected at the Palestine Filmer C’est Exister festival, and be invited as a guest of honor there. I remember many amazing students I met as well, who were volunteering at the festival.
So I was happy to hear that a screening was to be jointly organized between EPFL students and PFC’E, only to be unfortunately cancelled by the university administration shortly thereafter. It is outrageous, to say the least, that my film screening was cancelled at a university in particular, especially considering that universities are supposed to be the beacons of free ideas, thinking and debate, and platforms for freedom of expression. And it is indeed ironic, that my film especially was censored, since my film talks about propaganda. Propaganda, in its broadest sense, is the prevention of the truth from reaching the people, whether this happens through outright lies or censorship. So the truth here was lost, deliberately lost, and not at sea this time, but rather shamefully in the halls of the university’s administration.

This is also something that the heroic Palestinians of Gaza have uncovered to the world: They have exposed the lies of Western politicians and powers who always claim to uphold values of human rights. Their masks have fallen forever. The Western powers and governments have never upheld the value of human rights for Palestinians or many others. These so-called “universal rights” are reserved only for certain groups of people in the world. Similarly, freedom of speech and expression is a big lie in the West, and does not really exist. People are only allowed to talk about certain things. Yet once you talk about human rights for Palestinians for example, the masks fall, and we see police forces invading conferences, people being fired from their jobs, social media accounts being shut down or shadow-banned, universities preventing documentaries such as mine being screened, and more.

In my film, I mention that after the Israeli army illegally and barbarically attacked our humanitarian ship in international waters killing a number of my shipmates and wounding dozens, and as soon as four fully-armed cowardly Israeli “commandos” threw me down on the deck, the first thing they asked me was “Where is your mobile phone?”. It is clear they wanted to control the narrative right from the beginning, in order to censor the truth and their crimes. The EPFL university administration should be ashamed of itself for trying to continue the actions of those Israeli criminals where they failed.

I read the university’s response. To say it is silly would be a grave understatement. Clearly, there is no logical reason to censor my film, so they used the very vague and broad pretext of “tensions”. Theoretically, any idea in the world can cause “tensions”. So, would the university administration rather have the students stop thinking altogether, or debating anything which might, somehow, someway, in the future, cause “tensions”?! As was correctly pointed out in the Canard Huppé newspaper, the hypocrisy and double standards become crystal clear when considering that no “tensions” were used (as a flimsy excuse) on showing a Ukrainian film.

Yet the hypocrisy, and anti-Palestinian racism, clearly do not end there. On October 12, 2023, EPFL announced that it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israeli civilians, as well as all acts contrary to international humanitarian law”. On that date, Israel had already killed more Palestinian civilians than Israeli civilians were killed, and wounded thousands more, and would go on for seven months (so far) of massacres and atrocities against Palestinians in what the International Court of Justice has described as a plausible genocide. Yet till the date of this writing, there has been no such similar condemnation of Israel and its crimes by EPFL. Clearly, it seems that Palestinian lives aren’t worth mentioning in the eyes of the EPFL administration, are not worth the same value as Israeli lives and that all these acts are not “contrary to international humanitarian law”.

Finally, I would like to assure the university administration and other clowns like them, that they will fail as well in their censorship and suppression, just as the Israelis did. We will not be silenced. We will not stop fighting for the truth and justice, and will not stop fighting the forces of darkness. And we are currently preparing to break the illegal and inhumane siege of Gaza once again. Palestine will soon be free, from the river to the sea. And when it is, all of those who tried to silence Palestinian voices, censor the truth and effectively aid and abet the genocide -which really has been happening slowly over decades and culminating now in Gaza at a much faster pace- will be thrown into the garbage can of history, since that will be their shameful legacy. At that time, we will hold all of them accountable for their actions, and we will not forgive or forget.

Image Credit: Luciano (Freedom Flotilla for free Palestine), CC BY 2.0 Deed

Image Credit: OntheWay (Free Gaza movement), CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed

Par Rifat Audeh

A Palestinian-Canadian human rights activist, an award-winning filmmaker, and a media analyst. He is a survivor of the 2010 Freedom Flotilla which attempted to break the blockade of Gaza.

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