This week’s Washington Jewish Week has a short piece about a counter-protest against the TIFF protesters. For those who don’t know, a group of filmmakers, artists and academics protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s holding a special focus on Tel Aviv. The protest document, called ‘The Toronto Declaration’ has rankled many of Israel’s aggressive supporters for making a comparison to apartheid South Africa and the general characterization of the state.
Now, a group of mostly Hollywood directors, actors and writers have written a letter protesting the Toronto Declaration, calling it an effort at ‘blacklisting’. I personally have some problems with the wording of the Toronto Declaration, but the counter-protest and the Washington Jewish Week piece distort what the Declaration said. It is hardly a ‘blacklisting’, as the protest does not call for any restrictions on Israeli films or filmmakers. The focus on Tel Aviv does not appear to be part of a focus on Israeli film, but rather part of an advertising campaign, as noted by Roger Ebert, who is not a signatory to either petition. Not surprisingly, Israel wants to draw attention to the realities of the occupation, and this is part of a new effort.
The aspect of the Washington Jewish Week piece that I find to be most pernicious is the attempt to discredit the signatories of the Toronto Declaration, partly through a subtle racism. Five signatories are named, Jane Fonda, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Julie Christie, and Alice Walker. First is Jane Fonda, who for most people self-identified as “pro-Israel” will dismiss as a lefty radical who supported the Viet-Cong. Belafonte, Glover, and Walker are all black. This seems like an effort to characterize blacks as enemies of the Jews, as the number of African-Americans on the list is not very large. Furthermore, a significant proportion of the signatories are Jewish, and there are a number of Israelis on the list as well. As for other celebrities, there is Viggo Morternson, Howard Zinn, Slavok Zizek, Ken Loach who are all as notable as Julie Christie.
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I have not written posts lately because I have moved to the US and am still transitioning. However, this morning I received an e-mail from Ta’ayush activists that today settlers from the settlement of Susia have attacked Palestinan Susya.
My translation of the message follows:
This morning, Ta’ayush activists escorting Palestinian farmers in Safa received a message about settlers concentrated in the area of Susya because of the expected evacuation today of the illegal outpost Givat HaDegel nearby. Due to the concern about acts of revenge by settlers toward local Palestinians, two Ta’ayush activists went to the area. One the way, it became evident that our worry was justified. A group of 12 settlers had come to the tents of the Harani and Nawajeh families. The settlers threw rocks, hit men and women, and smashed a solar panel (one of their main sources of electricity). Also, they broke the video camera of a Palestinian activist. Four soldiers arrived shortly after the attack started, but didn’t succeed – or perhaps didn’t particularly try – to stop it. Only the arrival of additional forces caused the settlers to leave the area. Of course, not one of the settlers was detained or arrested. When we arrived, the attack was over, and all we were able to do was calm the families, sign a report, lodge a complaint with the police, switch video cameras, and organize activists to stay at least through the night. But it was this that the soldiers were in a rush to prevent. The soldiers that were unable to interfere with the settler attack on Palestinians told us it was a Closed Military Zone, and that we had to leave the area. When we refused, one of the activists was arrested for ‘insulting a public servant’! He was released after a short interrogation by the Hebron police, and then he returned to Susya.
At the moment, everything is quiet there, and for the time being some international activists and Israelis are staying in Susya. The Palestinians lodged a complaint with the police, but unfortunately, the soldiers who were there reported to the police that there had been no attack. Apparently, not only are all the Palestinians and international activists who were with them liars, but the soldiers were also able to ignore the damage, destruction of property, and broken video camera.
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