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Gaza photo exhibit almost shut down

Event continues at Cinéma du Parc after 2,500 letters sent in protest

The company that owns the Galleries du Parc threatened to shut down a photo exhibit held at Cinéma du Parc this week called “Human Drama in Gaza,” before retracting its request.

On Monday, Cinéma du Parc received an email from its landlord, Gestion Redbourne PDP Inc., instructing the theatre to immediately remove all photos, documents, and bulletins related to the exhibit.

Lieba Shell, the legal representative for Redbourne, claimed in the email that the exhibition was in violation of the terms in their lease and threatened to take legal action against Cinéma du Parc if it did not comply with the request. She added that Redbourne would send security to the cinema in the evening to ensure the orders were obeyed.

Shell sent out another email Wednesday morning retracting their requests, stating that the exhibit is allowed to continue until February 28, as scheduled.

According to Jean-François Lamarche, program coordinator at Cinéma du Parc, between Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, over 2,500 letters were sent out from community members asking Redbourne to let the exhibition continue.

“Human Drama in Gaza” is an exhibition featuring 44 photos that document the events in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, the three-week assault launched by the Israeli military last winter. The assault resulted in approximately 1,400 Palestinian deaths, most of which were civilians.

The exhibition is organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and will be travelling to various cities across Canada.

According to Lamarche, this was the first instance in which the mall’s owner has tried to interfere with Cinéma du Parc’s exhibitions and programs.  
“In the past, we’ve had other expositions of this kind. The Gaza Strip has not been the subject of these other expositions, but human rights was. So we’ve had other pictures of war like this one and we think that everybody has the right to express their point of view,” said Lamarche.  
Grace Batchoun, VP (public relations) at CJPME, felt that Redbourne’s legal threat was inappropriate and offensive.  
“This exhibition is costing us over $25,000…. People love it and we have had excellent feedback. [Redbourne’s action] is illegal. The move on their part is clearly political. The owner at Cinéma du Parc has held over 40 exhibitions in the past few years and has had no complaints or issues,” said Batchoun.

Batchoun stated that Redbourne wanted to shut down the exhibit to stifle discussion of Israeli-Palestinian politics.

“They’re just trying to intimidate Cinéma du Parc and CJPME,” said Batchoun. “They don’t want the truth of Gaza to be exposed, and they don’t want any discussion of Gaza. There are about 1.5 million people suffering in [the Gaza Strip], and it’s an important issue.”

CPJME’s lawyer, Mark Arnold, agreed.

“Everything is political in this society. There was a war in Gaza, but in this country – Quebec included – we certainly have the right to freedom and free speech,” said Arnold.

CPJME and Cinéma du Parc are content that Redbourne has retracted its request but remain wary of Redbourne’s threats.  
“We’re very happy, but at the same time….the intimidation hurts. We wasted so much time and effort,” said Batchoun. “We’re a sizeable well-structured NGO, and we were able to reach out to the lawyer, we were able to react….but what about smaller NGOs? This injustice should not go unnoticed – many other people are living through it, but they don’t often get to be heard.”

Shell declined The Daily’s request to comment on the incident.