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May 12, 2022 2:07 pm

Kate Winslet Explains Involvement in Controversial Documentary About Israel-Hamas Conflict by Hamas-Linked Director

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Kate Winslet. Photo: Mingle Media TV / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Actress Kate Winslet has addressed her participation in a controversial new documentary about last year’s 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip that was co-directed by a filmmaker with longstanding ties to the terror group, the UK’s Jewish News reported Wednesday.

“That my participation could be interpreted as taking a stand on the rights and wrongs of one of the world’s most tragic and intractable conflicts never entered my thinking,” the Academy Award-winning actress told the Jewish News. “War is a tragedy for all sides. Children have no voice in conflict. I simply wanted to lend them mine.”

Winslet narrates “Eleven Days In May,” which is currently in theaters in the United Kingdom. The documentary is about the Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip who were killed during the May 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict. It was co-directed by British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom and Mohammed Sawwaf, who runs a Gaza-based production company.

On social media, Sawwaf has promoted claims of Israeli “apartheid” and celebrated the Palestinian killing of an Israeli soldier and the launching of rockets against civilian targets in Israel. He attended the Hamas-run Islamic University in Gaza, and a ceremony honoring his family was attended by Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh. Sawwaf’s father is a former editor of Hamas’ daily newspaper al-Jil, where the filmmaker formerly worked, and is currently a member of Hamas’ religious council, according to The Jewish Chronicle.

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In 2014, Hamas leaders presented Sawwaf with an award for “countering the Zionist narrative” through his work and being able to “penetrate European public opinion,” the JC added.

Winterbottom, who did not visit the Gaza Strip for the film, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that “Eleven Days in May” was made “from the point of view of people in Gaza,” while also comparing the bombings in Gaza to the war in Ukraine. Israel is not mentioned in the trailer and synopsis of the film, and reportedly only one or twice in the documentary.

Winslet, who worked with Winterbottom on the 1996 film “Jude,” told Jewish News that she joined the project after Winterbottom invited her to narrate the production, which received support from the British charitable organization Oxfam and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

“I’ve trusted Michael for over 25 years, so put my faith in him to ensure the final product befitted these admirable humanitarian organizations. The decision seemed simple,” she told the outlet. “I did not speak to anyone else involved. I’ve been a supporter of UNICEF and Oxfam’s work protecting innocent children for decades and therefore offered my services on a no-fee basis, instead requesting a donation be made to Oxfam.”

Asked about its own involvement in the film, UNICEF told the Jewish News: “Following an approach from Michael Winterbottom and Revolution Films, we provided guidance on how to respect the rights of children mentioned or participating in the film. UNICEF has had no communication at all with Mr. Mohammad Sawwaf, the film’s co-director. UNICEF did not contribute to scripting or financing of the film, has no formal association with the film, and the views of the film are those of the filmmakers, not of UNICEF.”

According to the Jewish News, the documentary opens with one-sided news reports promoting claims about “Jewish settlers trying to expel Palestinians from their home,” “vigils aggressively broken up by Israeli security forces,” “the expulsion of (Arab) residents in East Jerusalem” and “heavy-handed tactics by Israel police.” Winslet then narrates, “Israel loaded up its fighter jets and the bombardment began.”

There is mention of only seven rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, when in reality thousands were fired towards Israel, killing 13 Israelis, including two children. One of the teenagers featured in the film was shown on social media wearing a Hamas military uniform and training with weapons, The Jewish Chronicle noted. He was killed on May 10, 2021, next to his father, a Hamas military commander. The film also omitted that another victim shown was one of seven killed by Hamas rockets that fell short in Gaza, as well as claims that others were killed while fighting against Israel.

On Wednesday, StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson expressed his disappointment in the documentary and Winslet’s involvement.

“At best, Kate Winslet got dragged into a propaganda project so biased that Islamist terrorists praised it. At worst, she was complicit with the director who supports the terror group,” he tweeted.” Either way, this film does nothing to further peace. The opposite.”

Filmmaker Richard Trank, executive producer of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s film division Moriah Films, told the Jewish Chronicle: “I am deeply concerned about the fact that nowhere in the film is the point of view of Israelis who were subjected to thousands of Hamas missile strikes coming from Gaza.”

“It also appears that Michael Winterbottom relied solely on materials provided to him by known Hamas sympathizers who have repeatedly tweeted support for attacks on Israeli citizens,” he continued. “As a documentary filmmaker myself … it is shocking to me that Mr. Winterbottom never visited the places that his film is examining. I am disturbed that he did not attempt to speak to Israeli parents and Israeli children — both Jews and Arabs — who suffered from the daily bombardment of Hamas missiles. To tell only one side of an extremely complicated story is not documentary filmmaking but propaganda.”

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