“We’re shocked and dismayed to see how many mainstream cinemas … are hosting this year’s Israeli film festival, Seret, whose funders and supporters include the Israeli government and a clutch of pro-Israel advocacy organizations,” the cinema professionals said in a letter published by The Guardian on Thursday.
“Two months ago, a commission set up by the UN human rights council concluded that the actions of Israeli soldiers against Palestinian participants in the Great March of Return in Gaza may constitute ‘war crimes or crimes against humanity’. ‘Particularly alarming,’ said a member of the commission, was ‘the targeting of children and persons with disabilities’,” reads the letter.
“We cannot understand why cultural institutions continue to behave as if Israel is an ordinary democracy. It is not. Palestinians deserve better than this. UK cinemas should not be hosting Seret,” it reads.
Prominent British filmmakers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh are among the artists who have written the letter.
Other signatories include Amir Amirani (director, producer), Roy Battersby (director), Haim Bresheeth (writer, filmmaker), David Calder (actor), Prof Ian Christie (film writer, broadcaster), Dror Dayan (filmmaker), Helen de Witt (film programmer), Saeed Taji Farouky (filmmaker), Deborah Golt DJ (broadcaster), Ashley Inglis (screenwriter), Paul Laverty (screenwriter), Sophie Mayer (film critic, curator), Rebecca O’Brien (producer), Pratibha Parmar (writer, director), William Raban (filmmaker), Leila Sansour (director), John Smith (artist, filmmaker), and Penny Woolcock (filmmaker).
Earlier, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) had also called on all participants to withdraw from the Seret festival taking place in London, Brighton and Edinburgh, from May 6 – 17.
The Seret festival tries to falsely project Israel as “a melting pot of cultures, religions and social backgrounds,” rather than as an apartheid and colonial regime that has more than 65 racist laws discriminating against its indigenous Palestinian citizens, the Campaign said.
“In addition to Israeli ministries and diplomatic missions, the festival is also sponsored by racist, anti-Palestinian, Israeli government-backed agencies, including the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency,” the Campaign added, in a statement published by the BDS Movement’s website.
Last year, a wave of cancellations and boycotts hit a film festival in Tel Aviv over Israeli government sponsorship, with a total of 14 filmmakers, actors and other artists withdrawing or, if unable to do so, declaring support for the boycott.
Also in 2018, the Oscar-winning star, Natalie Portman, boycotted a ceremony in Israel that would have honored her.
The BDS movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations that were pushing for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”