Why we should boycott and protest the Israeli Film Festival

Israel uses cinema to shore up its carefully manufactured international image as an enlightened “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” – a world away from the fanaticism of the settlements, the separation wall, the checkpoints, and the siege and butchery of Gaza.

Film festivals like the Israeli Film Festival are an attempt to culture-wash Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. The goal is for the international public to see Israel as a civilised country committed to peaceful, artistic pursuits – not as the warmongering power oppressing an entire people, that it really is.

People sometimes criticise cultural boycotts like this on the grounds that art can foster dialogue and lead to progressive change.

But leading to progressive change for Palestinians isn’t why Israel sponsors cultural festivals. The Israeli Film Festival is put on by the Australia-Israel Cultural Exchange, opened in 2002 by current Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu – the politician responsible for the butchery we have witnessed in Gaza, who has said he will never grant Palestine full sovereignty.

The films which best promote Middle East peace are those the Israeli state wants to ban, not the ones it wants to promote.

A boycott against the Israeli Film Festival is a powerful, non-violent mechanism to oppose Israel’s projection of soft-power in the battle for world-public opinion.

Filmmakers and others who want to fight for Palestine justice through art should refuse funding from the Israeli government, and not participate in festivals like the Israeli Film Festival.

The NSW Police’s attempt to ban the protest outside the Verona Cinema in Sydney on August 21 only makes widespread support of the boycott, and of the protest itself, more important.

(Nick Riemer is a member of the Sydney-based Sydney Staff for BDS group which is one of the groups supporting the demonstration outside the Israeli Film Festival’s opening night at the Verona Cinema, Oxford St, Paddington on Thursday August 21, 5.30pm.)

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