Calls to Boycott the Haifa International Film Festival

Open Letter to John Michael McDonagh from Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

Dear John Michael McDonagh,

We write you this letter in the hope that you will carefully consider cancelling your participation in and the screening of your film “The Guard” at the Haifa International Film Festival in October 2011 in Israel. Your participation will undoubtedly be interpreted as a political statement in support of Israel’s harsh and illegal apartheid.

As described by the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI), “the Festival is sponsored by Israel’s political establishment, from the Minister of Culture and Sport to the Mayor of the city of Haifa. The Israeli Haifa elite celebrates Haifa as “a city that has become a symbol of co-existence, tolerance and peace,” in flagrant contradiction to the realities of segregation, discrimination, and racism suffered by the native Palestinian residents of Haifa, and in denial of Israel’s violent history of ethnic cleansing in that city.” [1] Thus, by screening “The Guard” at this festival, you would be lending your support to the Israeli government and its policies of apartheid, occupation and war crimes against the Palestinian people.

The PACBI call to boycott has been made by over 200 Palestinian civil society organisations, and has been endorsed by filmmakers and artists such as Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Roger Waters, Pixies, Iain Banks, Leftfield, Arundhati Roy, Elvis Costello, Naomi Klein, John Berger, Breyten Breytenbach and Gil-Scott Heron among others. Indeed, since 2006, Ken Loach has refused to participate in the Haifa Film Festival or any other cultural events in Israel while this terrible oppression of the Palestinian people continues. [2] [3] [4]

Over 200 artists in Ireland, including great directors and actors, have signed a pledge to boycott Israel. [5] These artists refuse to allow their work to be exploited by an apartheid state that disregards international law and universal principles of human rights. Attending cultural events in Israel truly is a political statement in support of apartheid, and against human rights. Please be aware of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s statement in 2005 that “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”

The BDS (Boycott, Divesment and Sanctions) movement has reached global proportions and people around the world are joining in solidarity with the oppressed people who live under Israel’s harsh, oppressive, racist apartheid system.

There are many reasons not to participate in this film festival, some of them follow. The recent International Red Cross report on the siege of Gaza demonstrates how terribly damaging it is to Palestinians. [6] The siege most definitely constitutes human rights abuse. Also, the UN Report of 200found that Israel commited war crimes in its assault on Gaza in 2008/2009, including using white phosphorous on civilians and using human shields. [7]

In the light of last year’s murder of humanitarian activists by the Israeli military and the ongoing illegal and immoral siege of Gaza, as well as the occupation of Palestine, it is profoundly important that Israel not be allowed to profit from artists visiting the state until it upholds international law. Apartheid was wrong in South Africa and is wrong in Israel; please take a stand against it. [8] [9]

Our sincere hope is that you honour both your craft and human rights, and refuse to cross the picket line drawn by the Palestinian call for cultural boycott and cancel your film screening in Israel.


Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

We are a group of 774 members representing many nations around the globe, who believe that it is essential for artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.

[1] Israeli International Festivals: Occasions for Whitewashing Oppression or Resisting it?

[2] Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

[3] After the Flotilla Massacre: Cultural Boycott of Israel Takes Off

[4] Filmmaker Ken Loach Joins the Cultural Boycott of Israel

[5] IPSC “Irish artists’ pledge to boycott Israel”

[6] Gaza Closure: Not Another year!

[7] UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

[8] Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) study : Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

[9] United Nations Report on Movement and Access in the West Bank

OPEN LETTER to George Clooney: Say NO to Haifa International Film Festival

Dear George Clooney,
Arts and culture have become an important weapon in the Israeli government’s public relations campaign, and in 2006, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an initiative called “Brand Israel,” to salvage Israel’s deteriorating image abroad.

The Haifa International Film Festival is an arm of the Israel Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both of which are happy to exploit your good name as part of their effort to re-Brand Israel as a normal country by showing its “prettier face”–its vibrant cultural and artistic community. Thus, Israel is portrayed as an enlightened center of arts and technology, thereby concealing the ugly facts about its occupation, racial discrimination and grave violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian rights.
It came to our attention that the film you directed “The Ides of March,” will be the “opening film” at the Haifa International Film Festival.

Mr. Clooney, we urge you to follow the example of the renowned filmmaker Ken Loach, who declared in 2006 that he would decline any invitation to the Haifa International Film Festival, or other such occasions, as an acknowledgment of the Palestinian call for boycott, which Palestinians have been driven to pursue “after forty years of the occupation of their land, destruction of their homes and the kidnapping and murder of their civilians.” Loach was responding to the 2006 call by Palestinian filmmakers, artists and others to boycott state sponsored Israeli cultural institutions and urged others to join this campaign.

Since the Haifa International Film Festival has made no attempt to dissociate itself from Israel’s apartheid policies, we can only assume the festival organizers and sponsors are happy to screen films under the patronage of the State of Israel and/or its institutions. Meanwhile, the charges of war crimes against Israel hang thick in the air worldwide.

The apartheid wall, shown in these photos, is just one aspect of Israel’s illegal suppression of the other half of the population that is not Jewish. That other half is oppressed in atrocious ways that amount to war crimes. An estimated 7 million or more Palestinians live as refugees. Refugees that are denied their full legal right to return to their homes. Refugees that live in poverty and squalor, through no fault other than that they are not Jewish. They were expelled, in order for a jewish state to be formed. That state, globally, more and more, is known as “Apartheid Israel.”

George Clooney, please be on the right side of history, the side that eventually will win. The side that contributes, each person in their own small way, to the abolishing of apartheid.

Gaelic Neilson
member “Don’t Play Apartheid Israel
(A group of over 770 people united to stop apartheid in Israel)


JOIN THE Haifa International Film Festival: A Call to Boycott

Here’s the Program for the Festival – if you see a director/film from your country, please contact them and request them to boycott apartheid Israel

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