Tunisian director Nadia El Fani's visit to Israel for the Democracy and Religion Forum which is being held at the French embassy for the third time this year has elicited harsh reactions from Tunisian media and filmmakers.
"I'm shocked by Nadia El Fani's presence in Israel, her behavior is disgraceful," wrote director Mounir Baaziz on the Association of Tunisian Filmmakers official website.
He added: "Nothing can justify her presence in Israel. Normalization with the colonial State of Israel is a crime against the Palestinian people but also against the nations in the world fighting for their social and political freedom."
Just a few days before her arrival in Israel El-Fani noted: "We did not have a revolution so that we could once again hide behind prejudice. The idea is to enable dialogue. I have always expressed my support for the Palestinian people and I'm going to Israel because I know there are people there who we can have a dialogue with.
"My initial inclination was to cancel my visit as the reactions to the visit were violent and aggressive. After that I told myself that I would not give in. As one who is used to causing antagonism, I come to Israel wholeheartedly."
According to the director who, during the Second Lebanon War signed a petition calling for an academic and cultural boycott on Israeli institutions, the current invitation to take part in a forum which will be held in Tel Aviv was accepted after a great deal of consideration.
"I consulted with my Palestinian friends and reached the decision to break the rule I set for myself which was that I would never set foot in Israel. This isn't an Israeli invitation; it's an invitation from a French forum."
El-Fani further added: "I think that it's good to voice controversial statements. If I wish to defend secularism, which I see as a universal principle, I don't believe it's right to make an exception out of Israel…I have always opposed Zionist Israel and I have not changed my opinions which I express when given the opportunity to do so; and I will do it in Tel Aviv too."
El-Fani claims that the reactions to her proposed visit to Israel as published in the newspapers and online media presented the topic in a shameful way. "I feel betrayed and disappointed by the reactions," she added.
El-Fani will present her film at the forum which will open on June 5 at the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv.