[Marxism] Vanessa Redgrave backtracks on Zionism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
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.

Vanessa Redgrave
Julian Schnabel
Martin Sherman

[*]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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