Maxine Peake, Liam Cunningham, Juliet Stevenson and Helena Kennedy QC are among 36 filmmakers and others who have signed a letter protesting the hosting of the Seret London Israeli Film and TV Festival in UK cinemas, due to the involvement of the Israeli Embassy. The letter, published in Wednesday’s edition of The Guardian, says that cinemas are providing a platform for “a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations”. Full letter and signatories below.
The director of the award winning feature ‘In Between’, one of the films programmed by the Israel-sponsored festival, has also signed the letter. The festival claims to reflect Israel as a “melting pot of cultures and religions”. But Maysaloun Hamoud, who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has withdrawn her film, and in a statement to Artists for Palestine UK said: “I do not want my film, or my name, to be used to portray an image of Israel as a “melting pot of cultures and religions”. The arts, the filmmakers’ letter says, are “being employed to give an apparently acceptable face to a brutal reality”.
The letter in the Guardian follows protests over the weekend by artists and human rights defenders in Scotland where the festival held its first screening. In a statement reported in the Scotsman, the producers of the Israeli festival argued that the Festival “Sets out to open up lines of communication and understanding”. But a representative of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said the festival was “a ‘re-branding’ and ‘art-washing’ exercise, organised while Palestinians continue to live under a brutal military rule”
The images above show cameraman Yaser Murtaja on April 6, the day he was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper in Gaza.
Guardian’s letters page:
‘Israel using culture to mask brutality, say film-makers, journalists and artists’
While large numbers of unarmed protesters in Gaza are killed or maimed with impunity by Israeli snipers, (Report, 28 April), this week the ‘Seret London Israeli Film and TV Festival’, co-sponsored by the Embassy of Israel and the World Zionist Organisation, will occupy venues in London, Brighton and Edinburgh. It will use the appeal of cinema to promote Israel as “a melting pot of cultures and religions”.
Israel deliberately and routinely denies media freedom to Palestinians. On April 6, Palestinian cameraman Yaser Murtaja was killed by an Israeli sniper as he filmed the “Great March of Return” in Gaza. On the same day six other photojournalists wearing press jackets were injured by the Israeli military. Since then photographer Ahmed Abu Hussein has been shot dead. This is not an anomaly. Last year Israeli forces assaulted 139 journalists and detained a further 33. In 27 cases they destroyed or sabotaged equipment. They closed down 17 media outlets. Palestinian journalists and film-makers are thus victims of systematic persecution based on their ethnicity.
Art, media and culture are being employed to give an apparently acceptable face to a brutal reality. We, filmmakers, journalists and artists, call on our cinema, media and cultural institutions to uphold basic ethical standards: they should refuse to provide platforms for national celebrations sponsored by a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations.
Dr Bashir Abu Manneh Academic
Candace Allen Writer, director
Leah Borromeo Journalist & filmmaker
Prof. Haim Bresheeth Documentary filmmaker
Victoria Brittain Author & journalist
Julie Christie Actor
Liam Cunningham Actor
Dror Dayan Documentary filmmaker
Helen de Witt Film programmer
Tam Dean Burn Actor
Gareth Evans Curator, producer
Yasmin Fedda Film director
Simon Fisher Turner Composer
Maysaloun Hamoud Film director
Ashley Inglis Screenwriter
Aki Kaurismaki Film director
Peter Kennard Artist
Helena Kennedy Barrister, broadcaster
Michel Khleifi Film director
Peter Kosminsky Writer, director, producer
Paul Laverty Screenwriter
Mike Leigh Writer, director
Ken Loach Film director
Hettie Macdonald Film & television director
Miriam Margolyes Actor
Laura Mulvey Professor of Film
Rebecca O’Brien Film producer
Andrew O’Hagan Writer
Maxine Peake Actor
Omar al-Qattan Film producer
William Raban Professor of Film
David Roger Production designer
Juliet Stevenson Actor
Saeed Taji Farouky Documentary filmmaker
Harriet Walter Actor
Roger Waters Musician
Susan Wooldridge Actor and writer