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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Gandhi film plays to Palestinians
Ben Kingsley
The film's star, Ben Kingsley, was at the premiere in Ramallah
The award-winning 1982 film Gandhi is being released across the West Bank and Gaza to try to persuade Palestinians to embrace non-violent resistance.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and actor Ben Kingsley, who starred as the pacifist Indian leader in the film, attended the premiere in Ramallah.

The project is being co-sponsored by Jeff Skoll, one of the founders of the internet auction site EBay.

Reports say some Palestinians who saw the film were largely sceptical.

Our dream is a year from now, we will have 5,000, no, 20,000 Gandhis. Young Gandhis. Palestinian Gandhis
Kamran Elahian

The epic film about non-violent resistance to British rulers in India will be shown in free screenings in the Palestinian territories, including refugee camps that are strongholds for militants and armed groups.

The film will also be shown to Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and be distributed on DVD to youth groups.

Powerful theme

Mr Skoll said the initiative had the backing of the Palestinian leadership.

Ben Kingsley (left) and Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (rights) backs the film's distribution

"We met with President Abbas, who was nice to us and supported the project," he told the audience in Ramallah.

Kamran Elahian, an Iranian-American businessman who helped produce the Arabic-language version of the film, said its central theme remains relevant.

"The message [of the movie] is fresh. People should and will be affected by it."

But many of those who saw the film were unconvinced.

"There are too many differences," said 21-year-old Dea Opahi. "If we stopped resisting Israel, it would probably confiscate all the land left to us."

Mr Elhanian however believed Palestinians could follow Gandhi's example.

"Our dream is a year from now, we will have 5,000, no, 20,000 Gandhis. Young Gandhis. Palestinian Gandhis," he said.

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