Boycotts are the new tool of pressuring Israel

The debate over film-maker Ken Loach’s pressure on the Melbourne International Film Festival to refuse Israeli government funding continues. The festival’s director expressed his view last week in the Guardian. Today, Loach, his producer and writer respond:

When we decided to pull our film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film festival following our discovery that the festival was part-sponsored by the Israeli state, we wrote to the director Richard Moore detailing our reasons. Unfortunately he has misrepresented our position and did so again last week on Comment is free by stating that “to allow the personal politics of one film-maker to proscribe a festival position … goes against the grain of what festivals stand for”, and claiming that “Loach’s demands were beyond the pale”.

This decision was taken by three film-makers, (director, producer, writer) not in some private abstract bubble, but after a long discussion and in response to a call for a cultural boycott from a wide spectrum of Palestinian civil society, including writers, film-makers, cultural workers, human rights groups, journalists, trade unions, women’s groups and student organisations. As Moore should know by now the Palestine Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was launched in Ramallah in April 2004, and its aims, reasons, and constituent parts are widely available on the net. PACBI is part of a much wider international movement for “boycott, divestment, and sanction” (BDS) against the Israeli State.

Why do we back this growing international movement? Over the last 60 years Israel, backed by the United States, has shown contempt for hundreds of UN resolutions, the Geneva convention and international law. It has demonstrated itself to be a violent and ruthless state, as was clearly shown by the recent massacres in Gaza, and was even prepared to further challenge international law by its use of phosphorous weapons. Israel continues to flout world-wide public opinion; the clearest example of its intransigence is its determination to continue to build the wall through Palestinian territories despite the 2004 decision of the international court.

What does the international community do? Nothing but complain. What does the United States do? It continues to voice its “grave concern” while subsidising the Israeli state to some $3bn a year. Meanwhile “on the ground” – a good title for a film – Israeli settlers continue to take over Palestinian homes and lands making a viable Palestinian homeland an impossible dream. Normal life, with basic human rights, has become a virtual dream for most Palestinians.

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