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Open Letter of Palestinina Filmmakers

Open Letter of Palestinina Filmmakers

Feb. 7th, 2006

Last month, forty Palestinian filmmakers and cultural workers signed a letter addressed to Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy at the Europeaid Office in Brussels regarding their concerns about the Euromed Audiovisual II Project and suggested a meeting in which they could exchange views about the proposal. The letter was sent via fax, email and a hard copy via regular mail. Alarmingly, no one from Euromed responded to the letter, let alone even acknowledged it.

The major concerns outlined in the letter were twofold:

1) That this entity calling itself the Ramallah Film Institute is in fact not registered in Palestine: Euromed lists the partners of the project to be the New Foundation for Cinema and Television (Israel) and the Ramallah Film Institute (Palestinian Authority). Attached is an official letter from the Palestinian Ministry itself stating that the Ramallah Film Institute is not registered anywhere within the Palestinian Authority. The Ramallah Film Institute, aside from having no relationship with the local Palestinian cultural community is, in fact, an Israeli-registered organization.

2) The fact that the Israeli partner is a government organization (established by the Ministry of Education, Culture & Sport with the assistance of The Israel Film Council) - a government that continues its illegal and harsh occupation of Palestine and continues to deny Palestinians their rights. In addition, the New Foundation for Cinema and Television has refused to openly reject occupation nor work actively for its removal. (Our objections are not with individual Israelis nor with organizations that work towards Palestinian freedom but rather with government organizations such as the New Foundation for Cinema & Television who refuse to recognize our rights).

A follow up letter was sent to the E.U office three weeks later and was also subsequently ignored. Clearly the concerns of forty of Palestines preeminent artists, including those we have defined Palestinian cinema itself internationally including Elia Suleiman, Hany Abu Assad, Rashid Masharawi, and Mai Masri mean nothing to the Euromed Project. Clearly the fact that the former board members of the Ramallah Film Festival, like George Khleifi, who quit because financial reports were not given to the board when requested, appears to be meaningless to Euromed. And the interest and concerns of Palestines numerous community and cultural organizations have no value.

Two months ago, in December, when rumors first emerged that this project was forming, Adam Zuabi himself was requested to provide more information about the project to an e-mail list of filmmakers. He chose not to respond and to this day has not addressed us nor provided any information about the project, including its upcoming launch at the Berlinale.

The question is, why was this letter disregarded? Why were the concerns of Palestinian individuals working in the cultural scene, many who have previous experience working with the Ramallah Film Festival in the past, thrown to the side?

We are forty Palestinians we are from here, we live here, we work here, we part of this community. We refuse to be ignored. We do not want well-funded projects imposed upon us from the outside without any regard for our concerns. It is a slap in the face of Palestinian filmmakers, intellectuals and cultural workers who have been working for decades to be seen as independent, respected artists. We have contacted Euromed professionally and openly. We demand acknowledgement.

Adam Zoabi (and his Ramallah Film Institute) is free to do whatever he wants. That is his right. And Euromed is free to support whoever they choose. And we are very aware that joint Israeli-Palestinian projects are sexy and lucrative, especially in Europe.

However Palestine is not a jungle and there are people in this community who are working very hard to better our situation. Financial transparency and accountability is vital to this. We are working against organizations who believe that financial records are private rather than public. We ask organizations who claim to serve the community to actually have a relationship with that community. And organizations who wish to publicly claim they are registered within the Palestinian Authority to actually be registered. Throwing funding and/or projects at less wealthy countries who are struggling with corruption and supporting projects that are not rooted within the community nor take into consideration the concerns of the local community they purport to be helping hurt the Palestinian community considerably.

We demand that Euromed immediately correct its statement and all publicity and other materials which falsely claim that this project (Greenhouse) is a partnership between Israel and the Palestinian Authority before the grand launch at the Berlinale in Germany. This is not a partnership between an Israeli organization and a Palestinian Authority organization. Euromeds Greenhouse Project is a partnership between two Israeli-registered organizations and we demand that this be amended in their publications and that the name of Palestine is not used to promote a partnership which actually does not exist and which only serves to benefit a few individuals rather than the community it claims to be serving.

We challenge David Fisher and the New Foundation for Cinema and Television to openly reject occupation and the illegal actions of their government and come out in support of the full rights of Palestinian to be free and equal. We call on those who can pressure Israel from within, especially artists and cultural institutions, who have mostly stood silent for years in the face of wanton destruction, oppression and injustice, and perhaps even benefited from occupation, to make their voices heard. We ask that Israelis no longer stand silent in the face of terrible injustices taking place. We believe that it is high time that Israeli institutions wake up to realities and fulfill their moral obligation to resist occupation, and begin to protest the actions of their state. It is time that the international and Israeli communities wake up to the challenge.

And we ask the international community and fellow artists to consider carefully the implications of participating in the Greenhouse Project (Euromed Audiovisual II, proposal Nr. 15). We would hope that, considering that we live under a harsh military occupation and an apartheid system, that it is understandable why we would not want to work with organizations that are part of the same government that imposes this system on us.

Cultural support cannot come in the form of charity or to make oneself feel better without addressing the root causes of the problems and ignoring the concerns of the Palestinian community. To us, this is not only un-desirable, but also objectionable. We have worked and will continue to work with those that have struggled with us to change political realities, to help us improve our lives and who have been mutually respectful.

Attached:
-Original Letter to Europeaid Office
-Follow up letter to Europeaid Office
-Official Letter from the Palestinian Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs stating that the Ramallah Film Institute is not registered
-Translation of letter from Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs

------


(Original letter to Europeaid Office)

Jan. 2, 2006


Catherine COLOMB-NANCY
Europeaid Office de Cooopération A
Rue de la Loi, 200
B-1049 Bruxelles
Belgique


Dear Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy

We, the undersigned, a group of Palestinian filmmakers and cultural workers, are writing to you to kindly request your attention to a matter of some importance.

We have just learned of your Short List for the Euromed Audiovisual II, for the development of documentary film. Among the short-listed recipients are the Ramallah Film Institute (Palestinian Authority) & The New Foundation for Cinema and Television (Israel) (proposal Nr. 15).

We realize how important this funding can be for the development of documentary film practices in the region and especially in Palestine. However, in order for Palestinian filmmakers to benefit from such an opportunity to develop their film careers, we believe this funding must be channeled in an acceptable framework, that is transparent, trusted, and rooted in the community.

We have two major concerns about this proposal. First, we would hope that the Euromed funding would be directed to a reputable and trustworthy Palestinian institution. This is not how most who work in the Palestinian film and arts community feel towards what is termed the Ramallah Film Institute, a project administered by Mr. Adam Zuabi. Second, we have great many reservations regarding the partnership of the aforementioned institute with the New Foundation in Israel, a government-funded organization.

On the latter issue, we would like to note that partnering or collaborating with Israeli government sponsored institutions is a very sensitive issue here in Palestine due to such a partnership assuming an equal relationship between two such partners when in fact one is supported by a government that occupies the other. A great many promising projects have failed to achieve their goals because they failed to take into consideration the complexities involved and thus alienated the majority of the communities targeted. We wish not to see the Euromed project end as a failure. On the contrary, we believe that such an opportunity for funding can play a major rule in nurturing documentary film practices in Palestine but money alone cannot achieve this. In order for this to happen we need the community of filmmakers to believe in the project and to trust in it enough to participate in it.

The main issue at hand is that we Palestinian filmmakers, many of us based in Ramallah, have never even heard of the Ramallah Film Institute. We do not know who they are, what their purpose is, and seriously question the legitimacy of such an institution as it seems not to be registered in Palestine, either as a school, an organization, or a company.

We also have many reservations stemming from previous activities carried out by Mr. Zuabi in the name of Palestinian cinema and Palestinian filmmakers. In particular, his work as the director of the Ramallah Film Festival has significantly alienated the local community and many cultural organizations in Palestine. One example is that after requesting of him to provide financial reports following last years Ramallah Film Festival, his entire board of directors resigned as they were never provided with this important data involving the project. Therefore, we would like to raise these concerns and to signal the reservations of a great many established cultural figures here towards any project involving Mr. Zuabi, before the Euromed fund decisions are finalized.

We are writing to you kindly asking that you take these concerns into account before you arrive at a decision. We would be grateful for the opportunity to meet with you or any other official in charge of this project in the organization. We believe such a meeting or exchange of views and concerns can greatly assist in ensuring that the Euromed project will succeed in achieving its goals.

Sincerely yours,

1. Sobhi al-Zobaidi, Filmmaker & Academic. Ramallah, Palestine
2. Annemarie Jacir, Filmmaker & Curator, Ramallah, Palestine
3. Najwa Najjar, Filmmaker, Ramallah, Palestine
4. Elia Sulieman, Filmmaker, Paris/Nazareth, Palestine
5. Hany Abu Assad, Director, Netherlands/Nazareth, Palestine
6. Rashid Masharawi, Palestinian Filmmaker
7. Mai Masri, Filmmaker, Nablus/Beirut
9. Raed Al-Helou, Filmmaker, Ramallah
10. Ismail Habbash, Filmmaker, Ramallah
11. Rowan Faqih, Filmmaker, Ramallah
12. Ahmad Habash, Director/Animator, Ramallah
13. Nizar Hasan, Filmmaker, Nazareth
14. Raed Andoni, Producer, Ramallah
15. Hanna Elias, Director, Los Angeles /Ramallah
16. Dr. Alia Arasoughly, Filmmaker, Sociologist of Culture (Cinema)
17. Hanna Atallah,Filmmaker, Ramallah,Palestine
18. Abdel Salam Shehada, Filmmaker, Gaza
19. Emily Jacir, Artist, Rome/Ramallah
20. Dima Abu Ghoush, Filmmaker, Ramallah
21. Fatin Farhat, Director, Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah
22. Adania Shibli, Writer, London/Jerusalem
23. Shadi Zmorrod, Theater actor and Director, Palestine
24. Liana Badr, Minstry of Culture, Palestine
25. Hicham Kayed, Filmmaker, Lebanon
26. Khaled Katamish, Director, El-Funon Dance Troupe
27. Noora Baker, Activity Coordinator, Popular Art Center, Palestine
28. Mohammed Atta, Director, Wishah Dance Troupe, Palestine
29. Iman Hammouri, Director, Popular Art Center, Palestine
30. Tareq Abu-Lughod, Filmmaker, Amman
31. Issa Freij, D.P., Filmmaker, Jerusalem
32. Azza Al Hassan, Filmmaker, Amman, Jordan
33. Nahed Awwad, Filmmaker, Ramallah
34. Saed Andoni, Producer/Director, Ramallah
35. Ghada Terawi, Filmmaker, Palestine
36. Rawan Sharaf, Production Designer, Jerusalem, Palestine
37. George Khleifi, Filmmaker & Academic, Ramallah
38. Kamal Aljafari, Cologne/Ramle, Palestine
39. Reem Fadda, Director, Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA)
40. Khaled Elayyan, Alkasaba Theater, Ramallah

-----


(follow up letter to EU)

Jan. 29th, 2006

Dear Ms. Carla Montesi

We sent a letter to Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy three weeks ago but did not receive any response nor acknowledgement of our letter. We have also tried calling her office but received no answer.

The attached letter is a petition from 40 Palestinian filmmakers who are very concerned of the short listing of a partnership proposal between the Ramallah Film Institute and the New Foundation for Cinema and Television (Israel).

We have voiced our reasons for our concerns in addition to the fact that the Ramallah Film Institute is only an Israeli-registered Institution in Jerusalem and is not registered in the Palestinian Authority as is noted in the Euromed proposal. Aside from meaning that it is therfore not eligible for funds allocated to the Palestinian territories, it is also misleading on the part of both the Ramallah Film Institute and Euromed.

We would very much like to further discuss this matter with you. Our letter of three weeks ago was sent to Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy via fax, email, and regular mail. We would be very appreciative if there was some kind of acknowledgement of our correspondence.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Najwa Najjar, Annemarie Jacir and Sobi Zobaidi
on behalf of the Filmmakers and Cultural Institutions

ccd: Catherine Colomb-Nancy

----

translation of official document


Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestinian National Authority
Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs

(December 31st, 2005)


To : Mr. Falah Abu Al-Rob
Director of Licensing Department - Ministry of Culture

Subject: Ramallah Film Institute

Regarding the above-mentioned subject, we inform you that the Ramallah Film Institute is not officially registered in the Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs, and we support that you will not deal with the Institute until they officially register.


With thanks,

Fadwa Al-Shaar
General Administrator for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Palestinian National Authority


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