Golda: Call for boycotting Helen Mirren's 'whitewashing' Israel PM biopic

Golda: Call for boycotting Helen Mirren's 'whitewashing' Israel PM biopic
3 min read
20 September, 2023
Golda Meir's life has been dramatised in a film, pro-Palestine activists think such a presentation is a distortion of history and describe the former PM as an 'architect of Israeli apartheid'.
Golda Meir was one of the most controversial figures in Israeli politics [Getty/file photo]

A film depicting the life of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir has sparked a huge backlash in the UK with calls for boycotts of cinemas when the movie is released.

Starring Helen Mirren, Golda, will hit theatres on 6 October but has already faced calls for a boycott from the London-based Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other pro-Palestine groups.

Meir - prime minister from 1969-1974 - is viewed as a titan figure in Israeli politics but was also hugely controversial, particularly among Palestinians.

The PSC Deputy Editor Ben Jamal told The New Arab that he thinks presenting Golda Meir as such an admirable figure is a distortion of history.

"Golda Meir was one of the architects of Israeli apartheid and an anti-Palestinian racist who once denied the actual existence of a Palestinian people," Jamal told The New Arab.

"No one who cares about the facts of history and the rights of oppressed people will want to attend showings of this film."

Mirren stars as Meir, who died in 1978, in a film set during the 19-day 1973 War between Israel and Arab states Egypt and Syria. The war was viewed as an existential moment for the Israeli military due to its early setbacks.

Pro-Palestine activists voiced concerns over the representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Meir's role in it.

Critics have argued that the film is a romanticised depiction of Israel's first woman leader, who Palestinians say was instrumental in military abuses against their people.

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Before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 - resulting in the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians - Meir was pivotal in providing funding to Jewish immigrants to Palestine. Some of these immigrants joined Jewish militias, responsible for brutal attacks on Palestinian villages, such as Deir Yassin.

"This funded the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians and the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 into the refugee camps they languish in, up to the present day," the PSC said in a statement. 

Meir was born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1898 and moved to the US as a child before emigrating to Palestine in 1921. There she held a Palestinian passport. Her statement that there "is no such thing as the Palestinian people" has elicited strong reactions to the film.

Denmark-based Israeli musician Jonathan Ofir commented on Meir's portrayal, noting her "macho, chauvinist, denialist attitude which is intrinsically inherent in Zionism".

Taghrid Al-Mawed, who runs the Palestine Refugee Project, highlighted the film's potential harm, saying that Meir's intent to "wipe out" Palestinians failed and their voice remains strong.

Golda is directed by Director Guy Nattiv, one of only two Israeli filmmakers to win an Academy Award, who now plans to make a movie on Iranian women athletes rebelling against the government.