Friday, September 11, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Goes to Toronto: When Uri Avnery is Defending Israel, You Know Things are Bad

Also, Hirsh Goodman's eloquent statement of the obvious: Israel is not an Apartheid State. He should know; he came from one. It's abhorrent to compare the willful, racist atrocities committed against South Africa's Black majority and and Israel's security measures imposed on a Palestinian minority who Israel is endlessly negotiating with to make accommodations.

Back in Toronto, sane voices are demanding to be heard. "Several prominent members of the film industry have spoken out against these attempts to isolate and disparage Israel while ignoring films from countries such as China and Iran. They include Minnie Driver, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Ivan Reitman, Robert Lantos, Saul Rubinek and Simcha Jacobovici. Their quotes on the distasteful attack against Israeli artists and the deligitimization of Israel appear in a news release issued by UJA."
Please click on read more at the bottom of this post
david brumer

The Boycott Revisited - Uri Avnery
When I receive a missive that is dripping with hatred of Israel, that portrays all Israelis (including myself, of course) as monsters, I fail to envision how the writer imagines peace. The view of Israel as a monolithic entity composed of racists and brutal oppressors is a caricature. Israel is a complex society, struggling with itself. Reading some of the messages sent to me, I get the feeling they are not so much about a boycott on Israel as about the very existence of Israel. Some proposals, like those for a "One State" solution, sound like euphemisms. If one believes that the State of Israel should be abolished and replaced by a State of Palestine or a State of Happiness - why not say so openly? Of course, that does not mean peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine presupposes that Israel is there. (Dissident)

Israel Is Not an Apartheid State - Hirsh Goodman
Since the first Durban Conference in August 2002, it has become fashionable to use the word "apartheid" as an adjective to Israel. We have the "apartheid wall" and "apartheid roads" and are regularly called an "apartheid state," as alluded to by former President Jimmy Carter in his recent book Peace not Apartheid. Israel is not an apartheid state. I know. I came from one. To compare Israel to apartheid South Africa demonstrates ignorance and, in many cases, malevolence. There is a clash of nationalisms over territory, not the imposition of economic and social slavery though a codex of laws aimed at discrimination for the benefit of a tiny minority of the country's population. Yes, in some places there are separate roads for Palestinians and the separation barrier is hideously ugly, but these are responses to security problems, not the imposition of a pre-meditated discriminatory system. Apartheid South Africa meant total economic exploitation by two million whites who enslaved and systematically discriminated against people ten times more numerous than them. Apartheid South Africa carried out more judicial hangings than any other country on earth. It was a place where people disappeared into the night never to be heard of again if they opposed the regime, including anti-apartheid activists from among the Jewish community. It was a dark, horrible regime of fear with no intention of ever making peace with the black people. Say what you may about Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, at least the sides are engaged in some form of conciliatory process, at least people on both sides can see a theoretical resolution of the problem. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 9 Sep09)

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) officially opens today amid a cloud of controversy created by a group that opposes TIFF's spotlight on movies from Tel Aviv. Group members say that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, even though Tel Aviv is celebrating its 100th anniversary and the city's first neighbourhood was founded in 1887, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. They also say that TIFF is participating in an Israeli propaganda campaign by highlighting Tel Aviv films. It would be hard to think of anything more insulting to Tel Aviv's talented film makers.
Now several prominent members of the film industry have spoken out against these attempts to isolate and disparage Israel while ignoring films from countries such as China and Iran. They include Minnie Driver, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, Ivan Reitman, Robert Lantos, Saul Rubinek and Simcha Jacobovici. Their quotes on the distasteful attack against Israeli artists and the deligitimization of Israel appear in a news release issued by UJA.
The anti-Israel position taken by opponents of the TIFF City to City program has also received the cold shoulder from several newspaper editorials and writers. Please see below for editorials in the Globe and the Star, today's column by Star entertainment reporter Peter Howell and the powerful opinion piece in today's Globe written by Robert Lantos.
Tel Aviv tiff at TIFF
Artists for Censorship
Give these movies a chance
Theres justice and then theres propaganda
Since we last wrote to you and urged our community to purchase as many tickets as possible for the Israeli films featured at the festival, sales have been brisk and tickets were, for a time, sold out. A new block of tickets has opened up and we urge you, once again, to see as many Israeli films as possible in order to stand with Israel against untruthful and unwarranted attacks. Please contact the TIFF box office by clicking below.
Thank you for your support and you can be assured UJA Federation will continue its intensive efforts, throughout the festival, to battle those who seek to boycott and damage Israel.
David Koschitzky,Chair, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto

below are the anti-israel signatories:
Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, CanadaEndorsed By:Ahmad Abdalla, Filmmaker, EgyptHany Abu-Assad, Filmmaker, PalestineMark Achbar, Filmmaker, CanadaZackie Achmat, AIDS activist, South AfricaRa'anan Alexandrowicz, Filmmaker, JerusalemAnthony Arnove, Publisher and Producer, USARuba Atiyeh, Documentary Director, LebanonJoslyn Barnes, Writer and Producer, USAHarry Belafonte, Musician/Actor, USAJohn Berger, Author, FranceDionne Brand, Poet/Writer, CanadaDaniel Boyarin, Professor, USAJudith Butler, Professor, USADavid Byrne, Musician, USANoam Chomsky, Professor, USAJulie Christie, Actor, USAGuy Davidi Director, IsraelNa-iem Dollie, Journalist/Writer, South AfricaIgor Drljaca, Filmmaker, CanadaEve Ensler, Playwright, Author, USAEyal Eithcowich, Director, IsraelLynne Fernie, Filmmaker and Programmer, CanadaSophie Fiennes, Filmmaker, UKPeter Fitting, Professor, CanadaJane Fonda, Actor and Author, USADanny Glover, Filmmaker and Actor, USANoam Gonick, Director, CanadaMalcolm Guy, Filmmaker, CanadaRawi Hage, Writer, CanadaAnne Henderson, Filmmaker, CanadaMike Hoolboom, Filmmaker, CanadaAnnemarie Jacir, Filmmaker, PalestineGordon Jackson, Jazz Musician, South AfricaFredric Jameson, Literary Critic, USAJuliano Mer Khamis, Filmmaker, Jenin/HaifaBonnie Sherr Klein Filmmaker, CanadaJoy Kogawa, Writer, CanadaPaul Laverty, Producer, UKMin Sook Lee, Filmmaker, CanadaPaul Lee, Filmmaker, CanadaYael Lerer, publisher, Tel AvivMark Levine, Professor, USAJack Lewis, Filmmaker, South AfricaKen Loach, Filmmaker, UKArab Lotfi, Filmmaker, Egypt/LebanonKyo Maclear, Author, TorontoMahmood Mamdani, Professor, USAFatima Mawas, Filmmaker, AustraliaAnne McClintock, Professor, USATessa McWatt, Author, Canada and UKViggo Mortensen, Actor, USACornelius Moore, Film Distributor, USAYousry Nasrallah, Director, EgyptJoan Nestle, Writer, USARebecca O'Brien, Producer, UKPratibha Parmar, Producer/Director, UKAnand Patwardhan, Documentary Film Maker, IndiaJeremy Pikser, Screenwriter, USAJohn Pilger, Filmmaker, UKShai Carmeli Pollak, Filmmaker, IsraelIan Iqbal Rashid, Filmmaker, CanadaJudy Rebick, Professor, CanadaDavid Reeb, Artist, Tel AvivB. Ruby Rich, Critic and Professor, USAWallace Shawn, Playwright, Actor, USAEyal Sivan, Filmmaker and Scholar, Paris/London/SderotElia Suleiman, Fimmlaker, Nazareth/Paris/New YorkEran Torbiner, Filmmaker, IsraelAlice Walker, Writer, USAThomas Waugh, Professor, CanadaChristian Wiener Freso, President – Union of Peruvian Filmmakers, PeruDebra Zimmerman, Executive Director Women Make Movies, USAHoward Zinn, Writer, USASlavoj Zizek, Professor, Slovenia Sent from my Verizon Wireless

A concert for tolerance and peace? For shame!
The National Post
Chris Selley: Posted: September 08, 2009, 10:30 AM by NP Editor
Something big is happening in Tel Aviv on Sept. 24, and it's making a lot of people very angry. Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) says, "This ill-conceived project ... is clearly intended to whitewash Israel's violations of international law and human rights." The Palestinian NGO Network believes it "legitimiz[es] the abnormal situation in Palestine, and especially in Gaza, where war crimes were committed by Israel a few months ago, and remain unpunished."
"If you had just emerged from three weeks of unfettered bombing from land, sea and air, with no place to hide and no place to run, your hospitals overwhelmed, sewage running in the streets and white phosphorous burning up your children, what would the news [of the event] say to you?" asked four British university professors in an open letter. "[It would tell the Palestinians] that their suffering doesn't matter."
The event, if you can believe it, is a concert by Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen -- enemy of human rights, obstacle to peace, reminder of suffering. I consider myself pretty jaded, but these are astonishing smears. Cohen is a 74-year-old mensch of the first order, and author of some of the most universally appealing, enduring and, it must be said, all-but-completely apolitical popular songs ever written.
It's interesting to compare Cohen's upcoming trip to the Holy Land to the one Madonna recently undertook. Madge's latest world tour, which wrapped up last week in Tel Aviv, was called "Sticky and Sweet." All evidence suggests the proceeds went toward expanding her inestimable fortune. Cohen's upcoming gig is entitled "A Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace." Proceeds will go to a fund of the same name, established by Cohen, whose mission is "to provide financial support for organizations and individuals working to achieve reconciliation, tolerance and peace between Israelis and Palestinians and thereby advance the recognition and full expression of human rights in this region." Among the beneficiaries will be The Parents Circle -- Families Forum, which unites bereaved Palestinian and Israeli parents, and generally promotes peace by arranging positive encounters between people who might otherwise have considered each other enemies.
On the PACBI website, disapproving references to Cohen's concert about reconciliation, tolerance and peace outnumber those to Madonna's concert about nothing by a score of 84-2. When Cohen decided he wanted to play a show in Ramallah as well, the boycotters' screeching only intensified. Under no circumstances should he play the West Bank, some insisted, while more charitable types thought the show acceptable on the condition he cancel the one in Israel. How can these people possibly claim to be working in the interests of peace? And as if this wasn't bad enough, Amnesty International shamefully bailed on administering the fund last month, claiming it wasn't the boycott but "the lack of support from Israeli and Palestinian NGOs" that changed its mind. The distinction is lost on me, I'm afraid.
Cohen's ongoing world tour, his first in 15 years, began as a moneymaking enterprise. While he was in repose at a Zen monastery on Mt. Baldy, near Los Angeles -- something I think very few people other than Cohen could pull off without seeming like a total wanker -- his former manager basically cleaned him out. But the shows soon took on a beautiful life of their own, as anyone who's seen one can attest. "I don't recommend losing everything as a spiritual discipline," Cohen told Maclean's Brian D. Johnson early in the tour. "But if it happens to you, there are some features that are quite surprising and quite nourishing."
I saw Cohen in Toronto last summer. It sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. Historically, it has sometimes fallen to other artists to rescue Cohen's songs from dubious, synthesizer-laden (if strangely endearing) album arrangements. But on this tour, Cohen and his band are laying down the definitive versions of many of his best songs -- notably a lush, rootsy, vocally gutsy take on Hallelujah. But it wasn't just the music --it might not even have been mostly the music. In review after rapturous review pouring in from around the world, you read of audiences that are profoundly appreciative of being in the presence of a uniquely brilliant, generous, gentlemanly soul.
For the record, I'm not saying Leonard Cohen can solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It's just enormously depressing to see people politicizing his manifestly apolitical efforts to do his part to help. Twin appearances in Tel Aviv and Ramallah could only have produced goodwill among those lucky enough to attend, while the boycotters danced with rage outside. It's a tragic, if ultimately minor, missed opportunity. It's tough to think of a song that more desperately needs playing on both sides of the security wall than Anthem:
Every heart, every heartto love will comebut like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ringForget your perfect offeringThere is a crack, a crack in everythingThat's how the light gets in.

We don’t feel like celebrating with Israel this year
The Globe and Mail
Naomi Klein
September 8, 2009

When I heard the Toronto International Film Festival was holding a celebratory “spotlight” on Tel Aviv I felt ashamed of my city. I thought immediately of Mona Al Shawa, a Palestinian women's-rights activist I met on a recent trip to Gaza. “We had more hope during the attacks,” she told me, “at least then we believed things would change.”
Ms. Al Shawa explained that while Israeli bombs rained down last December and January, Gazans were glued to their TVs. What they saw, in addition to the carnage, was a world rising up in outrage: global protests, as many as a hundred thousand on the streets of London, a group of Jewish women in Toronto occupying the Israeli Consulate. “People called it war crimes,” Ms. Al Shawa recalled. “We felt we were not alone in the world.” If Gazans could just survive them, it seemed these horrors would be the catalyst for change.
But today, Ms. Al Shawa said, that hope is a bitter memory. The international outrage has evaporated. Gaza has vanished from the news. And it seems that all those deaths – as many as 1,400 – were not enough to bring justice. Indeed Israel is refusing to co-operate even with a toothless UN fact-finding mission, headed by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone.
Last Spring, while Mr. Goldstone's mission was in Gaza gathering devastating testimony, the Toronto International Film Festival was selecting movies for its Tel Aviv spotlight, timed with the city's 100th birthday. There are many who would have us believe that there is no connection between Israel's desire to avoid scrutiny for its actions in the occupied territories and this week's glittering Toronto premieres. It's quite possible that Cameron Bailey, TIFF's co-director, believes it himself. He is wrong.
For more than a year, Israeli diplomats have been talking openly about their new strategy to counter growing global anger at Israel's defiance of international law. It's no longer enough, they argue, just to invoke Sderot every time someone raises Gaza. The task is also to change the subject to more pleasant areas: film, arts, gay rights – things that underline commonalities between Israel and places such as Paris and New York. After the Gaza attack, this strategy went into high gear. “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits,” Arye Mekel, deputy director-general for cultural affairs for Israel's Foreign Ministry, told The New York Times. “This way, you show Israel's prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
Toronto got an early taste of all this. A year ago, Amir Gissin, Israeli consul-general in Toronto, explained that a new “Brand Israel” campaign would include, according to a report in the Canadian Jewish News, “a major Israeli presence at next year's Toronto International Film Festival, with numerous Israeli, Hollywood and Canadian entertainment luminaries on hand.” Mr. Gissin pledged that, “I'm confident everything we plan to do will happen.” Indeed it has.
Let's be clear: No one is claiming the Israeli government is secretly running TIFF's Tel Aviv spotlight, whispering in Mr. Bailey's ear about which films to program. The point is that the festival's decision to give Israel pride of place, holding up Tel Aviv as a “young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity,” matches Israel's stated propaganda goals to a T.
It's ironic that TIFF's Tel Aviv programming is being called a spotlight because celebrating that city in isolation – without looking at Gaza, without looking at what is on the other side of the towering concrete walls, barbed wire and checkpoints – actually obscures far more than it illuminates. There are some wonderful Israeli films included in the program. They deserve to be shown as a regular part of the festival, liberated from this highly politicized frame.
This is the context in which a small group of us drafted The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration Under Occupation, which has been signed by the likes of Danny Glover and Ken Loach (we will be unveiling hundreds of new names on the first day of TIFF). Contrary to the many misrepresentations, the letter is not calling for a boycott of the festival. It is a simple message of solidarity that says: We don't feel like partying with Israel this year. It is also a small way of saying to Mona Al Shawa and millions of other Palestinians living under occupation and siege that we have not forgotten them, and we are still outraged.

Jon Voight Accuses Jane Fonda of "Aiding and Abetting Those Who Seek the Destruction of Israel"- Michael PosnerActor Jon Voight is accusing actress Jane Fonda - his co-star in the Oscar-winning anti-Vietnam war film Coming Home - of "aiding and abetting those who seek the destruction of Israel." In a letter released Tuesday, Voight said, "Jane Fonda is backing the wrong people again" by signing her name to a letter of protest against the Toronto International Film Festival's decision to shine a cinematic spotlight on Tel Aviv and ten Israeli filmmakers. Voight, 71, maintains that "people like Jane Fonda and all the names on that letter are assisting the Palestinian propagandists against the State of Israel....Jane Fonda's whole idea of the 'poor Palestinians,' and 'look how many Palestinians the Israelis killed in Gaza,' is misconstrued. Does she not remember what actually took place in Gaza? Did Israel not give the Palestinians of Gaza the hope that there could be peace? In response, did Hamas not launch rockets from Gaza into Israel, killing many innocent people?" "Time and again, [Israel] offered the Palestinians land. They always refused. They don't want a piece of the pie, they want the whole pie. They will not be happy until they see Israel in the sea." (Globe and Mail-Canada)


George Jochnowitz said...

The list of anti-Israel signatories is terrifying. So many well-informed, intelligent people get worked up over a film festival showing Israeli movies--all of which are quite ambivalent in their portrayal of Israel. None of these people has ever reacted to moderate President Rafsanjani's 2001 statement that when the world of Islam attained nuclear capabilities, Israel would be destroyed. None of them has ever reacted to Nasrallah's statement that Allah permitted Israel to be created so that Jews could all be killed in one place without having to hunt for them all over the world (cited in "Nasrallah's Nonsense" in the now-defunct New York Sun, on March 11, 2005). None of the gay-rights activists know that Israel has an annual gay-pride parade and has drafted openly homosexual men and women ever since it came into existence. None of the feminists know that Golda Meir was the first woman head of government who was neither the daughter (like Indira Gandhi) nor the wife (like Sirimavo Bandaranaike) of a previous head of government. Israel ius simply the most hated country on earth, and that's all there is to it.

home staging in Toronto said...

It kind of seems like some people only signed on the anti-Israeli list because it is cool. I am not defending Israel here but I would never sign such a list if I didn't know much about the issue. Wondering how many of the signatories are well informed about it.