Government-Funded Hot Docs Releases Absurd Press Statement On Gaza Which Never Mentions Hamas Once, Falsely Claims Israel Holding Palestinian Hostages

April 22, 2024

The popular Hot Docs documentary film festival, which is funded by the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario, released a press statement on April 19 politicizing its upcoming event by formally taking a position on the war between Israel and Hamas.

The statement’s stated goal is to “creat[e] vibrant spaces where … critical exchange of ideas and perspectives can thrive” and to ensure that “understanding and empathy can flourish” as the event seeks to “bring our community together at a time of dire conflict.”

Unfortunately, the statement achieved the exact opposite result, as it engaged in a shocking display of flagrant bias and absurd ignorance of basic facts.

To start, the statement only explicitly referred to “Gaza” and “the Palestinian people” as those with whom it is expressed sympathy for. It made no direct mention of Israel, Hamas or its October 7 massacres of 1,200 innocents in Israel, or the massive Iranian missile attack against the Jewish state, which took place less than a week before the statement was published.

Hot Docs cannot be taken seriously by claiming that they “stand…for the human rights of all peoples to be respected,” while simultaneously being unable or unwilling to utter the word Israel or Hamas, the genocidal Islamic terrorist group responsible for the current war.

In addition to the 1,200 innocent people massacred in Israel on October 7 and the 253 others taken hostage by Hamas, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been displaced from their homes and as many as half a million are suffering from new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On October 7, Hamas gunned down nearly 400 innocent civilians — both Israelis and other foreign nationals — while attending a music festival, a celebration of the arts not unlike what Hot Docs purports to be about. Why are these innocent people unworthy of any mention? Do these Jewish lives not matter? And why would anyone trust the sincerity of a statement that seeks to erase their memory from existence?

The authors of the statement also appear grossly misinformed about basic facts.

Hot Docs called for “a release of hostages on all sides” as one of their policy proposals — implying that they believe Israel kidnapped and is holding innocent Palestinians captive the same way Hamas is currently doing with Israeli hostages. This is completely false. The only Palestinians held in custody by Israel are those either suspected or convicted of terrorist offenses. When the two sides engage in negotiations for prisoner-hostage exchanges, Israel is not offering to free “hostages” — it is offering to comply with Hamas’ maniacal demand to release dangerous, often murderous criminals from serving their time, as a desperate concession to try and save the lives of its people.

There is no comparison whatsoever between a legitimate sovereign state arresting violent criminals, and a genocidal terrorist group abducting everyone from newborns to the elderly — not to mention keeping them in abusive conditions, likely in underground tunnels — for no reason other than their nationality.

The statement also demanded that “humanitarian aid be made available to the people of Gaza.” Not to increase the amount of aid received, nor to improve the methods of getting it to the intended recipients — but merely that it be allowed in. In other words, the authors of the statement seem to believe that Israel is currently forbidding humanitarian aid from entering the Gaza Strip — a preposterous and outrageously false claim.

For months now, hundreds of aid trucks have entered the Gaza Strip each and every day — through Israeli territory and which has been facilitated by Israeli authorities. In fact, April saw the highest levels of aid entering the territory of any period since the war began. So why would Hot Docs make such a demand? Why wouldn’t Hot Docs call out Hamas’ repeated stealing of aid supplies intended for civilians — something even the Palestinian Authority has now acknowledged? Is Hot Docs actually consulting facts and sources before crafting comments, or merely treating vague propagandistic myths as its information?

Unfortunately, the latter seems more likely, as the statement also uncritically cited unsubstantiated and widely dismissed Hamas figures regarding the civilian death toll in Gaza. In reality, Israel has achieved a historically low 1:1.3 ratio of civilians to combatants killed — an unprecedented figure for the kind of intense urban warfare they are fighting against a guerilla group that actively employs a human shield strategy.

Perhaps most bizarre of all, the statement is very apologetic about having waited until this close to the event to weigh in on the war, observing that “our silence up until now on this crisis has left room for speculation and concern in the minds of our community.” It’s not clear of who exactly might have been distressed or withholding judgment on the conflict until they could hear how Hot Docs felt about it, but it is nevertheless interesting to hear that the statement was likely motivated by fear of the Hot Docs event becoming a target of the pro-Palestinian bully mob that has paralyzed much of society since October.

This is a very far cry from “maintaining a safe environment for filmmakers and audiences from different cultures and diverse perspectives, many of whom may be impacted by this tragic loss and suffering.” On the contrary, shamelessly capitulating to veiled threats in this manner is a surrender to a hate mob, and represents a stab in the back to the vast majority of Canadians who believe in peaceful dialogue, law and order, and genuine exchange of ideas.

It’s not clear if this statement represents the will of its board of directors, nevertheless, there is no reason for Hot Docs to have felt compelled to wade into the Hamas-Israel war, but since it has decided to do so, it failed spectacularly at providing any semblance of factual accuracy, context or balance.

Rather than creating a comfortable place for everyone and a platform for ideas and open artistic expression, all this statement has likely achieved is alienating, or perhaps even losing, a significant portion of Hot Docs’ audience.

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