Wednesday, September 11, 2013

OPEN LETTER: Peter Greenaway, Boycott the 29th Haifa International Film Festival in Israel

British film director Greenaway asked to boycott Israel
Dear Peter Greenaway,

It is with great disappointment that we have learned you plan to speak and present a masterclass at the 29th Haifa International Film Festival (HIFF) in Israel.

We are hoping you will boycott the HIFF, which runs from September 19-28, 2013.  We urge you to join Mira Nair and other filmmakers who have chosen to boycott this festival. Just last July, Nair tweeted “I stand w/ Palestine for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) & the larger Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Mov't.” [1]

The HIFF bills itself as Israel's leading cinematic event. On its website, the HIFF says its home, the Jewish-Arab city of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast, "has become a symbol of coexistence, tolerance and peace, ideals that the Haifa festival wholeheartedly promotes".  This is a false statement however, as the festival does nothing to stop the intolerance and non-peaceful reality of Israeli apartheid.  In fact, the HIFF receives generous funding from the Israeli government in order to operate as part of a public relations campaign run by the Israeli government called “Brand Israel,” designed to create a sanitised, glittering image to obscure its sordid, ongoing crimes against humanity.  According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson, the objective of this rebranding campaign, which "could include organizing film festivals," is to convey the message that "a better image for Israel and a better performance of that image is part and parcel [of] Israel’s national security. Contrary to popular belief, national security is not just based on military power, it’s also a strong economy and a strong image" [2].

The HIFF might invite filmmakers from Gaza and the West Bank, they might even guarantee them a special permit to enter Israel, as well as highlight their films.  The HIFF will however, remain silent about the illegal siege on the civilian population of Gaza, the brutal military Occupation, the land theft, restriction on education and  hospital access, child imprisonment, administrative detention and other gross violations of international law committed by Israel.  

Acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir explained why she refused the HIFF’s invitation to her to screen Salt of This Sea in Haifa:

“I think its important for artists to insist they are part of their communities.  You can’t give someone special privileges if they participate in your events and then say nothing about the entire rest of the population.  Those are government funded institutions.  If it's private I say, okay, you have to say something, what’s your stance on occupation.  What’s your stance on refugees?  Because if you can’t say you feel refugees have the right to return, then why the hell am I going to screen my film in a place where my own father is not allowed to attend?  You can understand, it’s a bit weird to be invited to screen your film in a place my own mother and father are not allowed to go. “ [3]

Peter Greenaway, would you please join your colleagues, Mira Nair, Ken Loach, John Greyson and John Michael McDonagh in the boycott of Israel? In addition to these filmmakers,  British documentary producer, Stephen Gargan of Gaslight withdrew the film Sunday from the HIFF stating:

‘We are withdrawing our film in support of the boycott and to alert people in Ireland and Britain to the crimes against humanity daily being perpetrated by Israel on the Palestinian people.’ [4]

Peter Greenaway, you have the opportunity today to stand with the Palestinian people’s campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.  Please cancel your appearance at the Haifa International Film Festival.


We are a group, of over 1300 members, representing many countries around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.

[3] Ethan Heitner interview with Annemarie Jacir. pp. 8-12  Jan 2,2012
[4] Gaslight boycotts Israeli film festival, Sept 20, 2002