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Sunday, 19 July 2009

we are forced to make a choice

Good news. Director Ken Loach has withdrawn his movie from the upcoming Melbourne International Film Festival due to the involvement of the Israeli Embassy. Ken Loach films are always pretty popular on the indie-circuit, and I've seen some I've loved, some I thought were Okay, and some I absolutely hated.

From an article on AFP comes the following:
This is not Ken Loach’s first principled stand on the issue: the Edinburgh Film Festival returned money to the Israeli embassy after Ken Loach asked it to reconsider Israel’s sponsorship. However, it does not seem that Melbourne’s festival organisers have any intention of following suit. We hope that Australians will protest in their own way and send a message to our government and institutions that we are not supportive of any cultural or business arrangements with a racist state
The correspondence, as appeared on the AFP site, is also throughout this post. Click on the images to enlarge. Ken Loach, writer Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O'Brien from Sixteen Films all signed them, however, the festival organiser only directed his reply to Rebecca O'Brien - interesting, or maybe that is standard.

An excerpt from the first letter states:
As you are no doubt aware, many Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel.
The letter then lists some of the reasons which can be found throughout this blog and anywhere except mainstream media. It continues:
The Israeli [my emphasis] Poet, Aharon Shabtai, has said:
"I do not believe a state that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural event"
This is not a boycott of independent Israeli films or filmakers but of the Israeli state [my emphasis].
The response from Richard Moore outlines the other sponsors of the events from various countries including Taiwan, China and Korea; films that have been submitted by Middle Eastern directors, including Palestinian films and wonderfully sympathetic Israeli films such as "Lemon Tree". It includes the fact that it has focused on the ongoing occupation and the results thereof for quite some time.
Loach, O'brien and Laverty respond thusly:
We understand Israel is and has been festivals, including some which have shown our films. However, situations change. It is the Palestinians themselves, writers, artists, academics, people from all walks of life, who are calling for our support. We are forced to make a choice by those suffering such intolerable oppression.

The boycott of apartheid South Africa suffered similar criticisms to the ones you know make. But who would now say it was wrong?
Read all of the letters (they are short) to get more information, and to realise that Loach, et al. know that their own governments have been just as guilty of war crimes. They finish by saying
But the cultural boycott called for by the Palestinians means that remaining sympathetic but detached observers is no longer an option. You either support the boycott or break it. For us the choice is clear.

I think that the anti-apartheid movement around the world in support of human rights in South Africa gained so much momentum because the people of the world who could see that atrocities were being committed on a continual basis were not being protested by their governments. Though, the South African cricket team did not play against Australia fro a very long time. The same with this situation. In fact, western governments, particularly Australia and the United States, overtly support this suppression and oppression. So, good on Ken Loach, and let's hope that Australia one day politically matures and becomes independent enough that it too can follow in footsteps of the organisers of the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Obama, ironically enough, stated there were many people out there on the wrong side of history. I feel, and I hope that in the future in more peaceful times we will be able to look back and level this observations at the supporters of any form of occupation around the world.

Of course there are many young or youngish people who are supporting the Palestinians in their fight for their rights, but a vast majority have been doing it for many years, are in their sixties at least, and are not what I would term radical. Here is Dennis James in Gaza talking about his reaction to seeing Palestinian fishermen being attacked by the Israeli navy, and how he thinks American attitudes have shifted. The news comes via AFP and Mondoweiss.


If anyone in Melbourne would like to help the AFP out at the Melbourne International Film Festival in protesting about the treatment of people in Palestine, the following has been posted on their website:
Supporters of Palestine will be staging a nonviolent protest at the opening of the film festival at 6.30pm on Friday 24 July outside Hamer Hall, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne and giving out protest cards to people attending the screening of the Australian film “Balibo”. Please join us. Other sessions will be picketed over the two weeks of the festival and if you wish to help distribute cards, please contact Moammar at

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr