Boycott the Israeli Forum for International Documentary Co-Productions
Occupied Ramallah, 13 May 2009
Open Letter to International Television Executives and Producers
Occupied Ramallah, 13 May 2009
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is writing to urge you not to participate in any form in the Israeli Forum for International Documentary Co-Productions, to be held in Tel Aviv at the end of May. Palestinian filmmakers and artists have widely condemned attempts to whitewash the crimes of the state of Israel through events such as the Forum. We understand that this event is organized by Documentary Marketing Foundation (CoPro) whose funders include the Israel Film Council, an official part of the Israeli Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports.
This event is organized and officially supported by the state to bring international attention and exposure to Israeli documentary filmmakers and portray Israel as a place of great documentary film production. It is part of a larger “rebranding” Israeli campaign to cover up and disguise the reality of Israel as a colonial and apartheid regime that has since its very inception violated Palestinian rights and international law with great impunity.
CoPro claims that it “maintains direct and persistent contacts with broadcasting organizations, funds and public councils, and strives to intensify the commitment to documentary filmmaking among elected representatives in the Israeli parliament (Knesset members) and government.” In 2005, CoPro was awarded the Knesset Chairman‘s Prize for its work in promoting Israeli film around the world. Participating in an event that is designed to promote Israel in such a manner is, at best, an implicit endorsement of its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights. In the face of this grave brutality and wretched colonial oppression, filmmakers and artists should stand against such injustice and work to oppose it - not sustain and whitewash it!
This event comes at a time when Israel has just completed a brutal military assault on the Gaza Strip that left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 were children, and injured another 5380.  The 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees who were expelled from their homes by Zionist forces in 1948, were subjected to three weeks of relentless Israeli state terror, whereby Israeli warplanes systematically targeted civilian areas, reducing whole neighborhoods and vital civilian infrastructure to rubble and partially destroying a leading university and scores of schools, including several run by the UN, where civilians were taking shelter. This Israeli war of aggression came 18 months after an ongoing, crippling, illegal Israeli siege of Gaza which has shattered all spheres of life, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to describe it as “a prelude to genocide.” International human rights organizations and the UN have called for a war crimes investigation into Israel’s military assault on Gaza.
Far from being an exception, Israel’s latest atrocities in Gaza are part and parcel of its consistent strategy towards the Palestinians. To claim otherwise would ignore our contemporary history. Since its establishment on the ruins of Palestinian society 61 years ago, Israel has routinely violated fundamental Palestinian rights with impunity, as documented by local and international human rights organizations. Israel extra-judicially kills Palestinian leaders and activists; keeps over 11,000 Palestinians imprisoned, including numerous members of parliament; systematically demolishes Palestinian homes as a form of collective punishment; indiscriminately kills Palestinian civilians, including children; and uproots hundreds of thousands of Palestinian trees. Until now, Israel continues to build illegal Jewish colonies on occupied Palestinian land and an apartheid infrastructure of Jewish-only roads, blockades and the separation Wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice at the Hague in 2004. Furthermore, Israel continues to deny millions of Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their lands and maintains a system of institutional racial discrimination, reminiscent of South African apartheid, against its own Palestinian citizens.
By taking part in the Israeli Forum for International Documentary Co-Productions, you would be celebrating Israel while it harshly subjugates the Palestinian people and carries out its ethnic cleansing policies. You would be cooperating with an event and an organization that has direct links to the Israeli government, currently facing calls for investigation regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In the face of decades of such unrelenting oppression, Palestinian civil society has called upon people of conscience throughout the world to take a stand in support of our struggle for freedom and the realization of our inalienable human and national political rights by heeding our call for a boycott against Israeli academic and cultural institutions . Virtually all Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural figures stand behind this call  and have urged their colleagues worldwide to boycott Israeli cultural and arts institutions due to their complicity in perpetuating Israel‘s occupation and other forms of oppression against the Palestinian people. Prominent filmmakers of the caliber of Ken Loach  and Jean-Luc Godard  have heeded this Call.
As was the case in South Africa, where principled international solidarity played a crucial role in bringing down apartheid by boycotting the economic, sports and cultural institutions of the apartheid state, we sincerely hope you will not participate in this festival. Refusing to abet, contribute to, or whitewash Israeli apartheid is a moral duty incumbent on all people of conscience who want to see a just peace reign in our region.