[Marxism] Vanessa Redgrave backtracks on Zionism
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Tue Oct 6 19:33:29 MDT 2009
NY Review of Books
Volume 56, Number 16 · October 22, 2009
Let Israeli FIlms be Shown
By Vanessa Redgrave, Julian Schnabel, Martin Sherman
To the Editors:
A group of prominent filmmakers has protested the Toronto Film
Festival's choice of Tel Aviv, in its "City to City" section showcasing
films from and about a particular city, as "a propaganda campaign on
behalf of...an apartheid regime."[*] Their letter declared that the
signatories were not protesting against the Israeli filmmakers who were
included or their films. Their stand seems to us to be improperly
thought out and to have distressing implications.
The protesters use the term "apartheid regime." We oppose the current
Israeli government, but it is a government. Freely elected. Not a
regime. Words matter.
In their letter the protesters say that "Tel Aviv is built on destroyed
Palestinian villages." True. Just as much of America is built on
obliterated Indian property. Are they implying that Tel Aviv should not
exist? At least not in its present form? Which would mean that the State
of Israel (the original State of Israel, not including the occupied
territories) should not exist. Thousands of Palestinians have died
through the years because the Israeli government, military, and part of
the population fervently believe that the Arab states and, indeed, much
of the world do not want Israel to exist. How then are we halting this
never-ending cycle of violence by promoting the very fears that cause it?
The injustice and cruelty inflicted upon the Palestinians over decades
are immense. Many great powers, most notably the Soviet Union and Great
Britain, have collaborated in this injustice, just as, if only by their
silence, they played havoc with the lives of Jews during the Third Reich
and the ensuing Holocaust.
Many Israelis are aware of this history. Many citizens of Tel Aviv are
particularly cognizant of the situation of the Palestinians and are
concerned about their government's policies and their country's future.
And none more so than the Tel Aviv creative community. This is
exemplified by Israeli films that criticize their government's behavior,
and some startling Israeli theater pieces, such as the Cameri Theatre's
Plonter, seen earlier this year in London. The Israeli peace bloc, Gush
Shalom, and many Israeli human rights groups and advocates are based in
Tel Aviv. Some 10,000 Israeli citizens demonstrated in Tel Aviv against
the military attack on Gaza in January this year, a fact not reported by
the BBC World News or CNN.
These citizens of Tel Aviv and their organizations and their cultural
outlets should be applauded and encouraged. Their presence and their
continued activity is reason alone to celebrate their city. Cultural
exchanges almost always involve government channels. This occurs in
every country. There is no way around it. We do not agree that this
involvement is a reason to shun or protest, picket or boycott, or ban
people who are expressing thoughts and confronting grief that,
ironically, many of the protesters share.
If attitudes are hardened on both sides, if those who are fighting
within their own communities for peace are insulted, where then is the
hope? The point finally is not to grandstand but to inch toward a
two-state solution and a world in which both nations can exist, perhaps
not lovingly, but at least in peace.
The year 2009 is the tenth anniversary of the founding of the
Barenboim-Said West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. We hope that those who
protest Israeli inclusion in film festivals will take note of this
example of the power of art freely expressed and available to all, and
reconsider their position.
[*]Editors' note: The Toronto Film Festival ran from September 10 to
September 19; a list of Israeli films featured in the City to City
section is available at
www.tiff.net/filmsandschedules/programmes/citytocity. For the full text
of the protest letter and a list of its signers, see
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