Legendary British filmmaker Ken Loach lays out succinctly the case for the cultural boycott of Israel in this response to an open letter from the Israeli film maker Tali Shalom Ezer, published below (via the Russell Tribunal on Palestine).
Dear Tali Shalom Ezer,
From the beginning, Israel and its supporters have attacked their critics as anti-semites or racists. It is a tactic to undermine rational debate.
To be crystal clear: as a film maker you will receive a warm welcome in Edinburgh. You are not censored or rejected. The opposition was to the Festival’s taking money from the Israeli state.
The call for a boycott of Israeli cultural institutions comes from many Palestinians: writers, artists, journalists, lawyers, academics, trades unionists, teachers. They see it as “a contribution to the struggle to end Israel ’s occupation, colonisation and system of apartheid.” Who are we, that we should not heed their call? Your counter arguments were used against the South African boycott yet that proved eventually to be successful.
We remember that the Palestinians have been dispossessed for sixty years, houses destroyed, communities wrecked. Israel ignores international law, the Geneva Convention and many UN resolutions.
We saw with horror the recent massacres in Gaza , how the Israeli army used phosphorous bombs in populated areas, how UN food stores and shelters were destroyed. The Red Cross described strikes on medical crews and the injured denied attention. Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, wrote of the killing of people flying white flags and the annihilation of entire families.
Faced with such crimes, Israeli poet, Aharon Shabtai, writes: “I do not believe that a state that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural (event).”
Those who have attacked the boycott here are the usual suspects, old hacks and right wing extremists. One thought you were a man. They would embarrass you.
Please stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. I hope you enjoy the Festival.
Open letter from Tali Shalom Ezer to Ken Loach.
Dear Mr. Loach,
In the past 24 hours, I have been asked repeatedly to comment on your statement demanding to return Israel ‘s grant to our embassy in Edinburgh. I admit to have mixed feelings about your statement and all that it implies. As I have indicated in previous occasions, I have always been a member of the Israeli peace camp. Contrary to common perceptions in the media, ours is a large, strong camp – as I’d like to believe is the case amongst Palestinians.
I oppose, with all my heart, the Israeli occupation and settelments; I oppose an automatic resort to military solutions in times of conflict. I appreciate the wish to change the world by shunning what is perceived as an act of injustice, but I feel that what may seem right in theory, may be extremely wrong in practice.
In my opinion, every time a nation is subjected to a cultural boycott – be it a film or a lecture by an Israeli professor abroad – there is a tendency amongst its subjects to draw closer to more nationalistic elements; every time this happens, peace is farther away. Every time this happens, the concept of “A People that Dwells Alone” gathers more believers, and the conviction that the only way to survive is by strengthening the state’s military power, is reinforced. Every time this happens, moderate voices are hushed, art is weakened.
I do not know if you are aware of this fact, but Surrogate was filmed by Radek Ladczuk, a talented Polish cinematographer. For 21 years, Israel and Poland had no diplomatic relations; all I knew about the country came from the media and history lessons about WWII.
I approached Radek from purely artistic considerations. Our work, despite difficulties in verbal communication, has proven to me once more the power of art and the many points of similarity which join people together, everywhere. I have no doubt that collaborations of this kind promote dialogue and lessen prejudice.
To conclude, I just want to stress my deep appreciation for your work. I have been an avid fan over the years, and will be honored if you attend the screening of Surrogate, thereby showing the world that despite your opposition to Israel’s politics, you are a firm believer in the power of art, and the power of individuals to bring about change.
Tali Shalom Ezer