An Open letter to the organizers of the 45th International Festival of New Cinema (Italy): Do not celebrate Israeli colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid!
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is writing to urge you not to host a retrospective of Israeli cinema at the 45th Mostra Internationale del Nuovo Cinema in Pesaro in June 2009. We understand that this retrospective is being organized in cooperation with the Israel Film Fund.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is writing to urge you not to host a retrospective of Israeli cinema at the 45th Mostra Internationale del Nuovo Cinema in Pesaro in June 2009. We understand that this retrospective is being organized in cooperation with the Israel Film Fund. Collaborating with the Israel Film Fund, an organization founded and supported by the Israeli government, and showcasing Israeli film on the international stage 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 in Gaza. You would be extending a gesture of “goodwill” to a colonial and apartheid regime which is violating Palestinian human rights with utter impunity.
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 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 41 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 11,000 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.
By hosting a retrospective of Israeli cinema under the aegis of the Israel Film Fund in your festival, you would be celebrating Israel while it brutally subjugates the Palestinian people and carries out its ethnic cleansing policies. You would be cooperating with an organization that has direct links to the Israeli government, which is currently facing calls for investigation regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity. You would be granting awards to Israeli directors while Palestinian filmmakers, musicians, artists, writers and poets, and ordinary individuals struggle to survive colonial repression meant to suffocate and crush them. We hope you agree that this is the opposite of everything that culture and filmmaking should represent.
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 recognises Palestinian rights and fully complies with international law . 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 weeks, throughout the world, groups of artists, comedians, filmmakers, students and academics 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 festival, 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.