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Everyone loves a boycott!

July 17, 2009 – 1:55 am6 Comments

kenloachBy The Hasid

Nothing like a hot coffee, a bagel, the AJN and news of a fresh cultural boycott to start one’s day, right?

Yes, dear readers, it’s that time of year again – MIFF! As British director Ken Loach has realised (he of the literally unintelligible My Name is Joe*), there is no better vehicle for really annoying, pointless political protest than an international film festival. All the requisite ingredients are there: various films from various middle-Eastern/African/Asian countries, pontificating intellectual filmmakers and filmgoers (er, myself included), the press… and of course: ‘contentious’ funding.

Here’s an excerpt from the AJN article, which sums up the whole fiasco quite nicely:

In a letter addressed to festival director Richard Moore, a keen supporter of Israeli films, Loach cited Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and “the massacres in Gaza” as his reasons for boycotting the festival, which gets underway on July 24.

The letter was co-signed by the film’s writer Paul Laverty and producer Rebecca O’Brien.

Earlier this month, an open letter from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was sent to MIFF organisers urging them not to accept funding from the Israeli government. In the letter, Loach was listed as one of the filmmakers who had expressed support for the boycott.

Earlier this year, Loach successfully lobbied the Edinburgh Film Festival to return a grant from the Israeli embassy, which was intended to help Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalow Ezer get her film shown at the prestigious festival.

Loach wrote in his letter to Moore: “This is not a boycott of independent Israeli films or filmmakers, but of the Israeli State.”

Wow, Ken! Really? The state of Israel is that much of a presence at the Melbourne International Film Festival? What next? You’ll no longer be frequenting your local Chinese restaurant because of the situation in Tibet / exploitation of children / shoddy construction standards in earthquake-prone regions? (Good. You need to lay off the MSG.) (OK. Chinese takeaway does not equal Israeli movie at MIFF. But you know what I mean.)

Enough sarcasm. I get where Ken’s coming from, even though I disagree with him. I’m crapped off about a lot of what’s happening in Israel, too. I want a country for Jews and a country for Palestinians. I want real, meaningful, lasting peace. That, in a nutshell, is a very superficial, early-morning run-down of my political proclivities.

But surely, anyone with a bit of saykhl** knows that boycotting a film (or a writer, or an acadmic) is not going to achieve anything. Even if that filmmaker’s efforts may be partially funded by a government whose practices one may find morally questionable. (Special shout out to every film about Aboriginal people ever made in Australia with Australian government funding, ever!)

Surely Ken Loach knows that the Israeli government funds films by Israelis and Palestinians; Christians, Jews and Muslims. Surely Ken Loach knows that art (films! music! visuals! writing!) is one of the most enduring and effective ways to change the way people think and understand the world, for the better. Surely Ken Loach knows that Israeli films submitted to international festivals are unlikely to be pushing an uber-right-wing agenda; but rather encouraging a more nuanced, complex understanding of contemporary Israeli life.

Ach. Why, why, why?

[Hasid claps hand to forehead in frustration]

Let’s hope that the MIFF committee and everyone else leaves Loach’s proposal well enough alone, where it belongs.

A gitn shabbes and happy weekend to all.

.

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* Below the belt? Perhaps. But that’s 105 minutes of my life I can NEVER GET BACK. Note to self: run for the hills when you hear the words “gritty realist Glaswegian drama”. RUN.

** saykhl = commonsense

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6 Comments »

  • eli says:

    Hasid,

    Lets not just be annoyed at Ken Loach and his antics in this instance. The concerted effort of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel,coupled with the ongoing attempts around the world to boycott Israeli goods and services, the recent British Governments decision not to renew the license to some British military manufacturers in supplying spare parts to the Israeli Navy as one example, may at the this point seem on the face of it purely political, anti Israel and solely aimed at the intelligentsia of the West.

    In reality, the continued barrage of these boycotts and and the publicity that it brings with it,is aimed at slowly infiltrating inseminating, and ultimately convincing the general public , most of whom have a shallow knowledge of the conflict but a deep sense of affinity with the “underdog”, of the supposed and perceived immorality of Israel,Zionism and Jews in general.

    It’s a pervasive technique that fits in completely with the Palestinian/Hamas/Hezbollah war of attrition on Israel. Its about eradicating Israel and Jews from the Middle East, not about a peaceful coexistence. All these groups have yet to acknowledge either in their own literature or verbal communication the right of Israel to exist.

    Although these boycotts maybe seen by some as no more than mere irritations designed to annoy and cajole some reactive Zionist supporters,they are in fact the means by whereby slowly by attrition they gain the sympathies of the non aligned majority opinion and allow the ensuing political correctness to complete the task.

  • Eri says:

    Spot on. i log on everyday because everything is interesting and thought provoking

  • Almoni says:

    In contrat to Eli, from a left viewpoint, I’d distinguish between a generalized boycotts boycotts of Israeli products such as cultural projects or films, and activities directly linked to the military and particularly the occupation of the west bank and associated repression of Palestinians.

    It also needs to be made clear that Loach is allied with various ultra-left factions in the UK, the bane of people who support a negotiated settlement. I’d agree, they are complete hypocrites and most of us on the left with any sense broke with them years ago.

    But I have no problem, for example, of arguing for a boycott of Caterpillar and what goes on with their products on the west bank or in the destuction of beduin homes. On the other hand…if it meant that we couldn’t send Caterpillar products to East Timor…it is always complicated when arguing for perfectly ethical behaviour in a globalised economy. But this problem should not be an excuse for not expressing political diappointment with Israeli politics.

    If anything, misconstrued actions such as Loach’s (which also add to his others sense of moral superiority, I am sure) only serve to provoke comments such as Eli’s concerning the intentions of criticism of Israel “the supposed and perceived immorality of Israel,Zionism and Jews in general.” This comment is highly overgeneralised. It may apply to some people but certainly not all critics of the occupation etc. There is no conspiracy against Israel lead by Hamas or Fatah as implied by Eli (and we can have a long argument about whether or not they recognise Israel or not, but this is not the place for it). For all the paranoia of many people, I’d strongly argue that for ‘people’ i.e. the press, media, academics letter writers and others it is not about Jews or Zionism. Of course there are the crazies, but they are not the ones who run the show.

    It is about bad Israeli politics AND frequently stupid Palestinian and Arab politics.( Who is more of an underdog is the subject of another discussion)

    Thus not all critics of the occupation and repression are fools and anti-semites.

    But to get back to the topic, I’d like to quote from the MIFF website about the importance of the right to free expression–

    The festival has a long tradition of programming films that examine various points of view on the Middle East including the Israel Palestinian question……MIFF understands that that this issue is a particularly emotional one for people but we will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult long standing historical disputes.

    http://www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au/news.php?newsitem=149

    Loach’s boycott in fact limits the potential for intelligent free debate and interaction in the public sphere, rather than turning it into a divisive slanging match. Self-censorship has only shot Loach in the foot.

    In response to his pressure for the Edinburgh festival to refuse 300 pounds from the Israeli government to sponsor an Israeli film-maker, former Channel 4 chief executive Sir Jeremy Isaacs said: “Ken Loach has always been critical of censorship of his own work, albeit it was many years in the past. The idea that he should lend himself to the denial of a film-maker’s right to show her work is absolutely appalling.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Loach#Political_activities

    Well put BUT, don’t let your anger over this act as a diversion from thinking and acting about 40 years of occupation and all the blown opportunties to solve the problem.

    2.50 am

    enough said.

  • The Hasid says:

    Thanks for your contribution, Almoni!

    I would follow the link you provided to the MIFF website, but it is down thanks to the efforts of Chinese hackers “protesting” the festival’s screening of the The 10 Conditions of Love. The irony.

  • ra says:

    An interesting aside that has not gained much attention here is the degree of personal feelings here. Crikey’s edition from 23 July contained these curious paragraphs:

    (Sol Salbe wrote) “But when Loach wrote to MIFF Director Richard Moore about the massacre in Gaza he probably wasn’t aware that Moore had a close connection there. Moore has an Israeli son who has recently finished his three-year Israeli Defence Force service during which time the IDF has often fought in Gaza. Moore was probably more scathing than he needed to be with Loach. When he further wrote “we will not participate in a boycott against the state of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China”, his words were taken by some to mean that Loach wanted him to boycott films from Israel.

    Chief among those who took it that way was the member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby. His assertion that Loach demanded the Melbourne Film Festival withdraw Israeli films was distributed all over the world. Danby’s straw-person argument against an imaginary ban got him lots of publicity. He concluded by saying that like many Melbournians he’ll be attending Israeli films like “Waltzing with Bashir”. Even though he got the name wrong, (it’s Waltz, not Waltzing) this is good news. This year’s Israeli sole feature film entry is Ajami which just won the Wolgin prize in Jerusalem the other day and it deserves any publicity, and audience, it can get.”

    (See Ben Eltham “Art and politics boil over for the Melbourne Film Festival” Crikey, 23 July 2009).

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