Palestinian Filmmaker: End Israel Cultural Boycott
Palestinian Filmmaker Elia Suleiman Calls For End To Cultural Boycott Of Israel
Middle East News Service
[Middle East News Service Comments: A mirror image of the desire by some Israelis and their “right-or-wrong” supporters to tar all Palestinians with the same brush, exists on the other side. I encountered it myself on more than one occasion. There are those who would totally deny the legitimacy of anything Israeli or anyone who support the existence of the sate of Israel in any way shape or form. As Canberra pro-Palestinian activist Michael Shaik described in a public meeting in Melbourne, such a politically fundamentalist position works against the interest of the Palestinians.
In this particular instant, the fact is that a large proportion of Israeli filmmakers have pro-Palestinian sympathies has been deliberately ignored by some who for one reason or another want to boycott anything and anyone Israeli. That is stupidity of the highest order. It is good to note that one of the most acclaimed Palestinian directors has come out against such blanket bans that serve to deny the links that are essential for any solution to conflict. It is also noteworthy that MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, has featured Suleiman’s letter prominently (See text below.) Hopefully this will get at least as much publicity as the boycott call –Sol Salbe.]
Last update - 03:19 20/10/2006
Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman calls for end to cultural boycott of Israel
By Goel Pinto
One of the most acclaimed Palestinian cinema directors, Elia Suleiman, announced yesterday that he has withdrawn his support for a Palestinian petition calling for a cultural boycott of Israel.
In August, against the background of the war in Lebanon and the ongoing military operations in the territories, a Palestinian petition calling for a boycott of Israeli cultural institutions was circulated. The petition urged international artists to participate in the boycott because of these institutions' "refusal to oppose the occupation ... which is at the root and is the cause of this colonialist conflict."
Among the international cultural figures who heeded the call were British filmmaker Ken Loach, who won the Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival with his film "The Wind that Shakes the Barley." As a result of the boycott, Loach has turned down an invitation to attend the Haifa film festival.
Yesterday, however, Suleiman wrote: "I hereby suspend my signature from the petition of Palestinian and Lebanese artists which calls for a boycott,"explaining that this boycott "was supposed to have been [of] all cultural activities participated in and sponsored by the state of Israel."
Instead, Suleiman charged, "certain" artists, signatories to the petition, have boycotted Israeli filmmakers "known to these petitioners as artists who strongly support Palestinian and Lebanese resistance ... Yet these filmmakers have been boycotted, ordered away, deserted as people of the plague because they happen to carry the Israeli identity."
Suleiman did not specify which Israeli artists he was defending or cite any specific cases. However, over the past three months, the petition has been highly effective, and Israeli filmmakers have been prevented from participating in international film and dance festivals.
Suleiman, who won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes for his film "Divine Intervention" in 2002, accused Palestinian artists of "putting up checkpoints and demanding IDs to select who goes in and who goes down on his or her knees, blindfolded and facing the wall."
"Who will be next on the witchhunting list?" he wondered, describing this sort of activity as a form of "cultural execution."
Letter by Palestinian director Elia Suleiman
By Elia Suleiman
October 19, 2006
Lord, forgive them, for they know what they do!
To whom it may concern, I hereby suspend my signature from the petition of Palestinian and Lebanese artists, which calls for a boycott of, what was supposed to have been, all cultural activities participated in and sponsored by the state of Israel. I signed and vehemently supported this petition against the barbaric Israeli war of destruction of Lebanon and it's continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
My suspension comes in protest of the practices of certain artist petitioners who recently participated in cultural activities around the world. Such practices involved the boycott of filmmaker (individuals) known to these petitioners as (individual) artists who strongly support Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, align themselves with these struggles in political and cultural domains and whose artistic work testifies to nothing but that; artists whose moral and intellectual stands and artistic production haunt segregation walls and promote and engage in Palestinian and Arab culture around the world.
Yet these filmmakers have been boycotted, ordered away, deserted as people of the plague because they happen to carry the Israeli identity.
Whether misguided by anger and frustration due to the latest episode of Israeli military's monstrosity, by nationalist sentiments, or even by sheer ignorance, I am nevertheless appalled that these Palestinian and Lebanese artists, themselves victims of Israeli military policies and layers of occupations, can turn at such ease and mimic the power of authority of their own oppressors and conduct exclusionist policies, excommunications and random intellectual lynching, all of which is tinted by chauvinism and other heresies that stem from the dark side of nationalism.
If the involved artist petitioners suffer from a short sightedness that reaches only the frontiers of identities, they should be aware that they now themselves have commenced putting up checkpoints and demanding IDs to select who goes in and who goes down on his or her knees blindfolded and facing the wall.
Given who these Israeli artists are and the nature of their political work, in the name of whom and for what sacred collective cause did the respected petitioner artists and filmmakers line their fellow Israeli artists and filmmakers on the wall for a cultural execution?! And after the easy to reach easy to frame 'comrades' are sacrificed and gotten rid of because of who they happen to be, one cannot but wonder who will be next on the witch hunting list?!
I wish that the suspension of my signature will not itself become the centre of debate or finger pinpointing. I also wish that I am neither approached nor reproached for my decision by my fellow petitioners. I rather hope that the suspension can raise questions and initiate an evaluation of the text of the petition and the course of it's application.
And rather than an immediate response for my decision, I call upon the petitioners to take time and reflect upon themselves the issues raised here.
I call upon them as I will call upon myself to enter a process of self evaluation enhanced with a critical approach of one's own consciousness as to what composes the red lines of moral and political boundaries. I say this because I believe that should one extend his or her sight beyond one's own checkpoints, and should one's vision pierce through the walls he or she reincarnates for him or herself, she or he might find that it is not at all a question of identity that one should uphold in the quest for truth and justice. It is instead a question of identification. It is a quest coated inside out with the pleasures and pains which extend and communicate our individual humanity with the rest of humanity. Isn't that after all what art is all about?
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