Israeli filmmakers call on Locarno Festival to drop ‘complicit’ Israeli film

Israeli filmmakers and artists including Oscar-nominated director Guy Davidi and Turner Prize co-winner Tai Shani have urged Locarno International Film Festival to cancel its Thursday screening of an Israeli film due to concerns over its funding. 

My Neighbor Adolf was funded by the Rabinovich Foundation’s Israel Cinema Project, Israel’s largest film fund. Last week, Artists for Palestine UK revealed that the foundation contractually obligates filmmakers to undertake “that there is not and will not be in the film any presentation, statement or message that calls for … denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state [or] marking Independence Day or the day of the establishment of the state as a day of mourning”.

The group of Israeli filmmakers and artists cited leading human rights organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem who have all reported that Israel, far from being a “democracy”, is an apartheid regime.

The filmmakers and artists added: “this regime of oppression was founded through the violent displacement and dispossession of most of the Indigenous Palestinian population. That the Israeli state, its complicit institutions and influential lobby groups would want us as Jewish Israelis to remain silent on this systematic ethnic cleansing is not surprising. But storytellers accepting such censorial and unethical conditions for their film projects is an undeniable form of complicity in covering up this ongoing Nakba that Palestinians face.”

Earlier this week, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, called on “all film institutions, including international festivals, cinemas and distributors, to boycott films funded from 2022 onwards by the Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts’s Israel Cinema Project.”

Pointing to the foundation’s contractual conditions, PACBI said that “by dictating that any Israeli film producer seeking funding … must not portray on screen Israel’s perpetration of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, the Rabinovich Foundation is conditioning its funding on shielding Israel from international scrutiny and accountability.”

Both PACBI and the Israeli filmmakers emphasised that the content of any film funded by the Rabinovich Foundation is “not relevant” to whether or not it should be boycotted. Rather, according to PACBI, if there are “political strings” attached to a film’s funding, then “the film in question becomes clearly complicit in art-washing Israel’s colonial and apartheid system, contributing to its attempts to obscure or sanitize this reality.”

Israeli documentary filmmaker and film scholar Eyal Sivan added, “any film institution which screens such a film would be in breach of its artistic obligations. It is a cinema of misrepresentation which should have no place in any film festival.”

Read the letter in full below.

We, Jewish Israeli artists and filmmakers, call on Locarno Film Festival to cancel its planned August 4th screening of My Neighbor Adolf. The film was partly funded by the Rabinovich Foundation’s Israel Cinema Project, which attaches racist and explicitly political strings to its funding. The foundation contractually obliges filmmakers to undertake “that there is not and will not be in the film any presentation, statement or message that calls for … denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state [or] marking Independence Day or the day of the establishment of the state as a day of mourning”.

Israel is an apartheid state, as Palestinians, South Africans and legal scholars have long argued, and as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have in the last few years confirmed in detailed reports. Far from being a democracy, Israel is “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” as the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem puts it.

This regime of oppression was founded through the violent displacement and dispossession of most of the Indigenous Palestinian population. That the Israeli state, its complicit institutions and influential lobby groups would want us as Jewish Israelis to remain silent on this systematic ethnic cleansing is not surprising. But storytellers accepting such censorial and unethical conditions for their film projects is an undeniable form of complicity in covering up this ongoing Nakba that Palestinians face.

The largest Palestinian civil society coalition that is leading the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has called on international film festivals to refuse to screen Rabinovich-funded films for this reason. As stated in BDS guidelines set by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and agreed by Palestinian society, the content of any cultural product including films is not relevant to whether it is boycottable. In the case of My Neighbor Adolf, it is the political conditions attached to the funding of the film that is the issue.

We refuse to be silent while the Israeli regime of apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism oppresses Palestinians and while its public institutions such as the Rabinovich Foundation engenders racism and complicity among filmmakers. We echo the Palestinian call for the boycott of Rabinovich-funded films, and we call on Locarno Film Festival to cancel its complicit screening.

Signed:
Haim Bresheeth-Zabner (filmmaker, scholar), Guy Davidi (filmmaker), Dror Dayan (documentary filmmaker), Avi Hershkovitz (filmmaker), Ohal Grietzer (composer), Liad Hussein Kantorowicz (artist, musician), Yosefa Loshitzky (author, film scholar), Jonathan Ofir (conductor, violinist), Michal Sapir (musician, writer), Eyal Sivan (filmmaker), Tai Shani (artist)

Israel’s largest public film fund attaches political strings to its funding

The Rabinovich Foundation obligates filmmakers to whitewash apartheid and ethnic cleansing

Since launching in 2015, Artists for Palestine UK has advocated for artists and arts organisations to refuse professional engagements with Israel’s complicit cultural sector. We have helped publicise much information in support of arts professionals taking these stands.

We have now obtained a full copy of the standard contract of the Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts’ Israel Cinema Project that filmmakers must sign before receiving funding. Rabinovich’s Cinema Project is Israel’s largest film fund.

We are publishing an excerpt of the contract, which shows that the fund insists that filmmakers pledge not to acknowledge Israel’s apartheid or ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. 

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Service of thanksgiving for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to be held at Fleet Street church

A service of thanksgiving for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is to be held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, on Tuesday 28th June at 11.30am. Doors open at 11am and the service is open to all.

Shireen Abu Akleh was a much loved and respected Palestinian journalist. She was killed by Israeli forces in May, as she arrived, wearing a clearly marked press vest, to report on an Israeli incursion in occupied Jenin. Her case has been referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

St Bride’s has had a long association with the press, ever since the emergence of the first newspapers in London’s Fleet Street. It is known as the ‘journalists’ church‘ for its remembrance of journalists, especially those in danger or who have been killed.

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Leading artists demand accountability for Israel’s killing of Palestinian journalist

Pedro Almodovar, Susan Sarandon, Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo, Eric Cantona, Miriam Margolyes, Jim Jarmusch, Naomi Klein and Peter Gabriel call for “meaningful measures to ensure accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and all other Palestinian civilians.”

*photo of Shireen Abu Akleh by AFP

More than a hundred artists, including Hollywood stars, acclaimed authors and prominent musicians, have condemned Israel’s killing of esteemed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Actors Susan Sarandon, Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo, Kathryn Hahn and Steve Coogan are among the signatories to an open letter calling for “full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it”. 

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Protect the Right to Boycott

In another attempt to stifle effective protest, the government will be bringing to Parliament new anti-boycott legislation in the coming months. With new laws put in place, it will become illegal for public bodies to use divestment and procurement bans against oppressive and corrupt regimes, or companies whose actions are destroying the planet.

As artists and cultural workers, and as citizens, we strongly affirm our collective commitment to boycott Israeli apartheid until Palestine is free, regardless of government legislation. This antidemocratic bill risks blocking campaigners from seeking accountability when institutions and corporations are involved in violations of international law. Artists for Palestine UK is proud to be one of more than 40 organisations which have come together in the Right to Boycott Campaign to oppose the government’s measures. Below is our Campaign’s founding statement. Please share it widely. 

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Artists’ Solidarity: against censorship, against dismissal, for Palestine.

Defend Alistair Hudson, Defend the Whitworth Gallery.

More than half of the artists participating in British Art Show 9 in Manchester have withdrawn in support of ‘political freedom and artistic expression in cultural institutions and universities across the UK’. Their letter is reproduced in full, below.

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Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo, and Gael García Bernal among those supporting Emma Watson’s Palestine solidarity post  

They’re joined by Jim Jarmusch, Peter Capaldi, Harriet Walter, Viggo Mortensen, Maxine Peake, Asif Kapadia and many others.

Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo, Gael García Bernal, Jim Jarmusch, Peter Capaldi, Maxine Peake, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Coogan, Charles Dance and Harriet Walter are among the film professionals speaking out in support of Harry Potter actor Emma Watson.

Last week, Watson shared a post with the words ‘solidarity is a verb’ over an image that featured Palestinian flags. Widely praised, this message of solidarity also provoked the fury of Israeli officials. 

Now, more than forty figures from the world of film – including multi award-winning screenwriter and producer James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Oscar-nominated directors Asif Kapadia (Amy), Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay) and writer/producer Oren Moverman (The Messenger) – have endorsed Watson’s message. 

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Emma Watson support for Palestine: Israel advocates increasingly desperate as public figures speak out

Artists for Palestine UK statement

We welcome Emma Watson’s statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is another sign of a groundswell of change. Over the last twelve months there has been a decisive shift in global opinion. The facts of Israel’s system of apartheid have been recognised by Human Rights Watch and the leading Israeli human rights organisation, B’tselem.  Israel’s attacks on Palestinians last May were met with worldwide outrage. Farewells to Desmond Tutu, who defended Palestinian rights so passionately, have reminded us of the threads that connect the Palestinian experience to struggles for liberation everywhere.

It is a sign of the Israeli government’s increasing desperation that a simple expression of support for Palestinian rights should provoke immediate and baseless smear tactics from Israel’s former and current Ambassadors to the UN, Danny Danon and Gilad Erdan.

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Dear Black Eyed Peas: Where’s the Love for Palestinians?

Dear Black Eyed Peas,

We are a network of artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers and cultural producers who support Palestinian human rights. We are shocked to hear that you are scheduled to perform in occupied Jerusalem on November 29th.

In the city where you are scheduled to play, indigenous Palestinians are subject to constant state violence. The forced expulsion of Palestinian Jerusalemites from their homes is a war crime. In May this year, the Israeli army’s unprovoked incursion into the Al-Aqsa mosque injured over 300 Palestinian worshippers. Together these crimes ignited protests all over Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, only to be swiftly followed by Israeli F16s bombing the Gaza Strip – killing 260 Palestinians, 129 of them civilians including 66 children and 40 women. 

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Leading writers support Sally Rooney decision to refuse publication in Israel

Photo: David Levenson

Seventy prominent writers, poets and playwrights from several continents, have signed a letter endorsing Sally Rooney’s decision to turn down an offer with an Israel publishing house, describing it as

“an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians”. 

Among the signatories are award-winning Irish authors Niamh Campbell and Kevin Barry; Rachel Kushner, Eileen Myles and Eliot Weinburger from the US; Monica Ali, Caryl Churchill, China Miéville and Kamila Shamsie from the UK. 

The writers say that in May this year Rooney was one of more than 16,000 artists who

“… condemned Israel’s crimes in ‘A Letter Against Apartheid’. Israeli apartheid, they said, is ‘sustained by international complicity; it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’. ”

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Susan Sarandon, Claire Foy, Mark Ruffalo, Eric Cantona call for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights groups

More than 100 public figures urge the international community to protect Palestinian human rights defenders.

Musicians Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Jarvis Cocker and Massive Attack, film directors Laura Poitras, Jim Jarmusch, Costa Gravas and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, actors Mark Rylance, Tilda Swinton, Simon Pegg, Richard Gere, authors Philip Pullman, Naomi Klein, Irvine Welsh, Colm Tóibín and Monica Ali — are among dozens of high profile figures who have signed a statement [1] criticising the Israeli government for launching what they say is:

“An unprecedented and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders beginning with the designation […] of six leading Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” groups.” 

The statement goes on to warn that the Israeli military order that outlaws six “most eminent” Palestinian organizations in the occupied West Bank:

“…puts at risk not just the organizations themselves, but the entire Palestinian civil society and the tens of thousands of Palestinians they serve everyday.”

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The Whitworth Gallery, lobby groups, and the right to speak about Palestine

In response to pressure from lobby groups that seek to deny the basic facts of Palestinian experience, last week the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester removed a statement that formed part of ‘Cloud Studies’, an exhibition on environmental violence by Forensic Architecture.

We wholeheartedly welcome the gallery’s subsequent U-turn and the reinstatement of the group’s statement of solidarity with Palestine, within days, following public outcry and thousands of letters of protest.

We believe this case is instructive as to the modus operandi of the UK’s pro-Israel lobby groups. It also illuminates the damage done when UK institutions accept at face value the claims of some self-appointed groups to represent the view of an entire ethnic group, and are unwilling to acknowledge the political nature of complaints about Palestine-related speech.

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Artists must reject ‘bothsidesism’ – because it serves the powerful and entrenches injustice

Artists for Palestine UK is troubled that the British Actors Network (BAN) has chosen to host an organisation that is funded by the UK government and currently promoted by education secretary, Gavin Williamson, called ‘Solutions Not Sides’. The event is billed as an educational workshop for actors that aims to promote ‘conflict resolution’ as an approach for understanding the situation in Israel-Palestine. 

A recent report by Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “the crime of apartheid and persecution” against the Palestinian population. We are saddened that BAN, an organisation that is working to challenge abuses of power in theatre and film, does not recognise that it is inappropriate and misleading to apply a conflict resolution model while the very grave crimes of apartheid and persecution – with all the violence and trauma these entail – persist.

When BAN invited expressions of interest from the acting community in a Solutions Not Sides event, we were highly critical because the framing appeared not to centre Palestinian lives.  We were delighted that BAN responded to our criticism on social media by publicly inviting us to submit an alternative event proposal for consideration.  Since sending a proposal for an event for and by artists on anti-racism, internationalism and Israel-Palestine, we have heard nothing.  In a follow up letter to Helen Raw, the person behind BAN, we outlined our concerns.

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Thousands of artists call for an end to complicity with Israeli apartheid

It is as if a dam has burst. The last few days have seen an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity with Palestinians from artists and cultural organisations around the world.  Half a century ago, there was massive support for a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa. Now, artists and cultural workers are mobilising on a similar scale against Israel’s system of apartheid, calling variously for boycotts, practical acts of solidarity with Palestinians and, in particular, an end to co-operation with cultural organisations that are complicit with apartheid.

On May 23rd, ‘Against Apartheid’, a letter signed by many leading Palestinian authors and artists, was endorsed by more than 16,000 international artists, writers and actors including Sally Rooney, Deborah Levy, Cornelia Parker, Alejandro Iñárritu, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Richard Ford, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alia Shawkat, and Tony Kushner. The letter, which referenced the 2021 report by Human Rights Watch which found Israel guilty of ‘crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’, said:

‘We call on activists, and especially our peers in the arts, to exercise their agency within their institutions and localities to support the Palestinian struggle for decolonization to the best of their ability. Israeli apartheid is sustained by international complicity, it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’.

May 25th saw more than 500 visual artists each posting a statement with the hashtag #VisualArtsforPalestine. The statement pledged to

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Israel Must Be Held To Account For Ongoing Violence Against Palestinians

We share with millions our anger at the indiscriminate and pitiless bombing of the Gaza Strip; at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah; at the armed invasion of the Al-Aqsa compound during the holy month of Ramadan; at the brutal attacks on peaceful protests in the Occupied West Bank, and on Palestinian citizens of Israel in towns within Israel. All this must stop immediately.


The violence the Israeli authorities are meting out is the same violence that has displaced, repressed and fragmented Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948, when over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly removed from their homes. Israel’s policy of forced displacement, and the ongoing police repression that punishes any form of protest or peaceful resistance by Palestinians, has been taking place in many forms for decades, often without it registering in our news media. Continue reading

Celebrated film director Ken Loach wrongly condemned by Oxford students

We are alarmed that students at Wadham College and St. Peter’s College, Oxford have condemned trailblazing anti-racist film director Ken Loach by applying the discredited and discriminatory IHRA definition of antisemitism to quotations which they have taken out of context and which Loach has clarified comprehensively. 

These moves are part of a wider attempt across the UK and abroad to use the IHRA to silence discussion of Britain’s well-documented historical role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as well as its ongoing support for Israeli apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism. Without openly discussing and reckoning with this history, we cannot hope to alter its course.

Ken Loach’s work has, over decades, consistently exposed inhumanity, inequality and injustice, from Cathy Come Home (1966) and Kes (1969), to I, Daniel Blake (2016). His award winning films have shone a light on the struggles against fascism in Spain, austerity in Britain, British colonial rule in Ireland and movements for justice in Latin America.

Yesterday #IStandWithKenLoach was trending on Twitter.  It is heartening to see such expressions of support for the celebrated director who has stood with so many others.

As dozens of artists wrote in a statement of support for Ken Loach on Monday:  ‘We cannot fight racism, including antisemitism, by demonising and silencing supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Artists for Palestine UK

Artists stand with Ken Loach and against McCarthyism

“We are deeply troubled to learn of a McCarthyite campaign demanding Oxford University cancel a public event with director Ken Loach discussing his distinguished career in film. The campaign to silence a world-renowned artist, which has been active behind the scenes and which became public at the last minute, is using the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism to try to prevent a cultural event from taking place. If any further evidence were needed to demonstrate how a vaguely worded definition is being deployed to silence critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians — then this is it. We have been warned by respected Palestinian academics, Israeli scholars, leading experts on antisemitism, dozens of progressive Jewish groups, and others that this definition is being used as a political weapon. We cannot fight racism, including antisemitism, by demonising and silencing supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Signed:

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Brian Eno: Artists must call out Germany’s anti-Palestinian witch-hunt

A 2019 parliamentary resolution has had a chilling effect on critics of Israeli policy. Now the cultural sector is speaking up.

  • This article was published in The Guardian under the title ‘Artists like me are being censored in Germany – because we support Palestinian rights’.

I am just one of many artists who have been affected by a new McCarthyism that has taken hold amid a rising climate of intolerance in Germany. Novelist Kamila Shamsie, poet Kae Tempest, musicians Young Fathers and rapper Talib Kwelli, visual artist Walid Raad and the philosopher Achille Mbembe are among the artists, academics, curators and others who have been caught up in a system of political interrogation, blacklisting and exclusion that is now widespread in Germany thanks to the passing of a 2019 parliamentary resolution. Ultimately this is about targeting critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians.

Recently, an exhibition of my artwork was cancelled in its early stages because I support the nonviolent, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The cancellation was never publicly declared, but I understand it to have been the consequence of cultural workers in Germany fearing that they and their institution would be punished for promoting someone labelled as “antisemitic”. This is the work of tyranny: create a situation where people are frightened enough to keep their mouths shut, and self-censorship will do the rest.Advertisement

But as my own story is relatively minor, I’d like to tell you about my friend, musician Nirit Sommerfeld.

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Palestinian artists & cultural organisations call on internationals to cancel engagements in Israel

Palestinian artists and cultural organisations in Gaza and beyond have written an appeal for solidarity from all those who work in the arts internationally. We are proud to publish their letter below.

We members of the Palestinian cultural and artistic community in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip, across historic Palestine and in exile make this heartfelt appeal to our fellow artists from around the world to cancel all scheduled performances, exhibitions and appearances in Israel, or sponsored by the Israeli government or complicit Israeli institutions, whether in-person or online, for as long as Israel’s regime of military occupation and apartheid persists. 

In the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law are proceeding with unprecedented impunity. Even in fighting the pandemic, Israel is revealing its appalling racism, a fact that should trouble people of conscience everywhere.

Israel has dumped Palestinian laborers suspected of having coronavirus at military checkpoints “with no regard for their health or safety,” as video footage shows. It has destroyed a makeshift Palestinian clinic that was planned to care for coronavirus victims in the occupied Jordan Valley. It has also denied COVID-19 testing to entire communities of Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, and irrefutably discriminated in making updated and accurate coronavirus information available in Arabic to the Palestinian community in a timely manner. 

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Leading artists condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian cultural centres & call for sanctions

Photo: Edward Said National Conservatory of Music by Ahdaf Soueif for PalFest

  • Massive Attack, Steve Coogan, Peter Gabriel, Maxine Peake, Philip Pullman and Benjamin Zephaniah are among 60+ cultural figures to put their names to an open letter condemning attacks on key Palestinian cultural centres.
  • The letter says the attacks are ‘part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions’ by the Israeli government. 
  • Brian Eno: ‘These raids … seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture ’
  • The artists call for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’ against Israel.

Signatories to the letter include:

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