- The Observer, Saturday 20 July 2013
The award-winning film director Mira Nair has rejected an invitation to attend the Haifa International Film Festival, saying she will only visit Israel“when the walls come down”.
In a series of messages that Nair posted on Twitter on Friday evening, she said she was backing the Palestinian campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel in protest at its 46-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
She had been invited as a guest of honour at the Haifa festival following the release this year of her latest film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. “I will not be going to Israel at this time … I will go to Israel when occupation is gone,” she wrote. “I will go to Israel when the state does not privilege one religion over another. I will go to Israel when apartheid is over.”
The 30-year-old Haifa festival, to be held in September, bills itself as Israel’s leading cinematic event. Its website says its home, the Jewish-Arab city of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast, “has become a symbol of coexistence, tolerance and peace, ideals that the Haifa festival wholeheartedly promotes”.
Neither Nair nor the organisers of the festival could be reached for comment yesterday.
Artists, performers and academics routinely come under pressure from pro-boycott campaigners to refuse invitations to visit, lecture or perform in Israel. Nair’s support was “very valuable”, said Samia Botmeh, of thePalestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. “It helps to highlight the struggle against colonialism and apartheid.”
Nair, who lives in New York, has won many awards for her films, which include Monsoon Wedding and Vanity Fair. The most recent high-profile boycott success was the refusal of physicist Stephen Hawking to attend a conference in Jerusalem in June.