While still applauding John Michael McDonagh, director of the acclaimed Irish film The Guard, for his choice to cancel his appearance at the Haifa International Film Festival, we feel it is important to relay some information to other film industry professionals.
Here are a few facts that are not common knowledge among film industry professionals:
Israeli Jewish citizens enjoy privileges like the legal protection of a democracy, well funded schools, universal healthcare, modern separate roads and high status in society with full protection of the Israeli Army. A full 20% of the population (1.2 million) in the unoccupied area of Israel is comprised of Palestinians who carry an Israeli ID card. These people must be content with “Jim Crowe” types of laws that enforce housing restrictions, discrimination, underfunded schools, and restrictive marriage laws.
Approximately 2.4 million Palestinians live in the Israeli-controlled West Bank. Israel has constructed an intricate system of sectors within this area. Hundreds of ghettos are isolated from other areas using a system of sniper towers, patrol roads, cement walls, layers of barbed wire, electric fencing and arbitrary and permanent military checkpoints. Man-less drones and frequent night raids inflict fear on a population where approximately half are children.
Israel’s treatment of the 1.5 million people in Gaza has been to bulldoze once-productive farmland and bomb buildings that held preschools and universities. As the borders have been sealed shut, Gaza has been forced to depend on UN schools, and to subsist on what food supplies Israel decides to let in. Consequently, Gazan’s are kept alive, but with a caloric intake that Israel hopes will create a decrease in the birthrate.
Israel, meanwhile, is using cultural events to create a false image of itself as a progressive, artistic nation with a European flavor. The Haifa Film Fest is a part of this larger effort.
The call to boycott was made in 2005, by the majority of Palestinian Civil Society. The boycott is an urgent call to people of conscious to act to hold Israel accountable for how Israel treats the Palestinian people. Powerful governments have failed to act, and in fact, have instead enable some of Israel’s most violent aggression.
Part of the boycott is of Israeli cultural institutions such as the Haifa film fest. Participating in the film fest is seen as an act of condoning Israel’s apartheid system. This system closely resembles the now-defunct system of apartheid once seen in South Africa. The call to boycott asks filmmakers to refrain from participating.
Boycotts have achieved results in the past. The California grape boycott in the 1960’s helped win union rights for fruit pickers. Mahatma Gandhi’s independence moment in British India employed boycotts to great success. Musicians refused to play “Sun City,” a segregated resort in South Africa, making the world aware that apartheid there must be stopped.
Many other film festivals competitions exist. We believe it is not considered an honor to participate or to place in the Israeli contest. It is an indication that the film maker ignored the call to boycott, and chose to stand instead on the side of the oppressor. The level of the music may be sublime, and that is all the more reason not to validate Israel’s cruel apartheid government by participating. Entertaining films should be used to promote justice, not to enable and legitimize occupation and segregation.
Boycott efforts doubled after Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010. As the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, was changing course and heading away from Israel at high speed, Israeli commandos killed nine volunteers at close-range, execution-style. This tragedy happened in International waters. Many highly respected musicians cancelled their concerts in Israel, or became outspoken in favor of the boycott.
(1) Current demographic figures show: 1.2 million Palestinians with Israeli ID; 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza; 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank; 5 million Israelis excluding Palestinians
REFRAIN from SHOWING YOUR FILM AT THE HAIFA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL!
Israel commits crime of apartheid: "Inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."