October 21, 2006

Palestinian film maker withdraws from boycott call

I didn't think much about this when someone sent me the link to Ha'aretz yesterday. I didn't notice that the film maker was Elia Suleiman who made Divine Intervention. Now I see zionists are cock-a-hoop about his about turn on a boycott he had originally supported.
On Thursday, however, Suleiman wrote: "I hereby suspend my signature from the petition of Palestinian and Lebanese artists which calls for a boycott," explaining that this boycott "was supposed to have been [of] all cultural activities participated in and sponsored by the state of Israel."

Instead, Suleiman charged, "certain" artists, signatories to the petition, have boycotted Israeli filmmakers "known to these petitioners as artists who strongly support Palestinian and Lebanese resistance ... Yet these filmmakers have been boycotted, ordered away, deserted as people of the plague because they happen to carry the Israeli identity."

Suleiman did not specify which Israeli artists he was defending or cite any specific cases. However, over the past three months, the petition has been highly effective, and Israeli filmmakers have been prevented from participating in international film and dance festivals. [Perhaps he meant these.]

Suleiman, who won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes for his film "Divine Intervention" in 2002, accused Palestinian artists of "putting up checkpoints and demanding IDs to select who goes in and who goes down on his or her knees, blindfolded and facing the wall."

"Who will be next on the witchhunting list?" he wondered, describing this sort of activity as a form of "cultural execution."
Now this reasoning is absolutely bizarre. He is equating a cultural boycott of a racist state with the behaviour of the racist state itself. This from a man whose film was blocked from consideration for an Oscar under the Best Foreign Language Film category because "it originates from a country not formally recognised by the United Nations."

One Guardian review even managed to direct a thinly veiled accusation of antisemitism at Suleiman over one particular scene in the film:
The politics, however, make for an odd and indigestible tonal uncertainty. Some of the sequences have an ingenious zero-temperature kind of comedy; some are laborious and pedantic. But the strangest is when a group of Israeli marksmen at a firing range are confronted with a whirling Arab woman who sees them all off in a display of wire-fu combat: a one-woman Crouching Tiger Intifada. She floats up to the heavens as they fire; then the bullets swirl around her head into a crown of thorns as she stretches her arms out, crucifixion-style. Making sport, subliminally or even unconsciously, with the idea of Jews as Christ-killers is quite a misjudgment for a film claiming the moral high ground of victimhood. Well, it's just a pose of course, a conceit which appears and disappears with quicksilver suddenness: yet the scene pointedly ends with the Palestinian flag etched firmly into the soil. This is a movie with a distinct and startling cinematic language, but with uncomfortably coercive mannerisms.
Still this withdrawal of support for a boycott won't do his career any harm and he might even be considered for an Oscar in future.

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