Do not celebrate Israeli colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid! Open letter to Neues Kino, organizers of the new Israeli film series in Basel
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is writing to urge you not to accept Israeli government funding for the hosting of a one-month series of new Israeli films beginning in June 2009. We understand that the program for the film series indicates that it is being organized in cooperation with the Israeli embassy in Switzerland. Collaborating with the Israeli government just as Israel ended its bloody war against the occupied Gaza Strip, would be tantamount to endorsement of the heinous war crimes it has committed and is still committing in Gaza. You would be accepting blood money from a colonial and apartheid regime which is violating international law and Palestinian human rights with utter impunity.
Israel’s brutal military assault on the Gaza Strip left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, predominantly civilians, 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 neighbourhoods and vital civilian infrastructure to rubble and partially destroying scores of schools, including several run by the UN, where civilians were taking shelter. This criminal assault comes after 18 months of an ongoing, crippling 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 UN organizations are now calling for a war crimes investigation into Israel’s military assault on Gaza.
The recent brutal attack on Gaza is yet another mark in Israel’s long and vicious colonial history. For the last 42 years, Israel has been militarily occupying the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Despite the “peace process” which began 16 years ago, Israel routinely violates the Palestinians’ most fundamental human rights with impunity, as documented by local and international human rights organizations. Israel extra-judicially kills Palestinian leaders and activists; keeps over 8,000 Palestinians imprisoned, including numerous members of parliament; it is destroying Palestinian homes; killing Palestinian children; and uprooting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian trees. As we write, 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. Israel denies millions of Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their lands. Moreover, Israel maintains a system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens reminiscent of South African apartheid.
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 boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it recognizes Palestinian rights and fully complies with international law . Indeed, as the prominent filmmaker Ken Loach said recently, “who are we, that we should not heed their call?”
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. In response, in the past few months, groups of artists, comedians, filmmakers, students and academics throughout the world have consolidated their efforts to show solidarity with the occupied Palestinians, to condemn Israel’s war crimes and its apartheid regime, and to call for effective political action such as boycotts, divestment drives, and sanctions (BDS). Many prominent international cultural figures including John Berger, Ken Loach, Arundhati Roy, Roger Waters, John Williams, among others have declared their support for the boycott. Other high profile international artists, including Sting, Bono, Snoop Dogg, and Jean Luc Goddard, have also heeded our call and cancelled their gigs or participation in festivals in Israel.
As was the case in South Africa, where international solidarity played a crucial role in bringing down apartheid by boycotting the economic, sports and cultural institutions of apartheid, we sincerely hope you will deny Israel a platform at your cinema, until it fulfils its obligations under international law and fully recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to live in full equality and freedom in their homeland.