May 15, 2009

State of Israel funding for the Edinburgh Film Festival 2009

Here's an action alert from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
DEAR SUPPORTER OF PALESTINIAN RIGHTS

The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has again accepted funding from the Israeli Embassy, while people in Gaza are still living in the rubble of their homes, and Gaza victims of Israel’s white phosphorous attacks are still in critical care.

In 2006, a public outcry forced the EIFF to return Israel’s tainted money. On that occasion the EIFF stated publicly that its action was due to popular outrage at the massacres Israel had recently committed in Lebanon:

"This funding was secured some three months ago, well before the commencement of current hostilities in Lebanon. Of course we acknowledge that the situation has altered dramatically since then, and with this in mind, took the decision early yesterday to decline any funding from the Israelis."

The Director’s decision to again associate the Israeli Government with the EIFF comes after the massacres of over 1400 people in Gaza, during which:
• The United Nations said the IDF intentionally burned its food stores in Gaza
• Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused the army of illegally using phosphorous bombs in densely populated areas
• The International Red Cross described the injured being denied medical attention and strikes on medical crews
• Israeli journalist Amira Hass wrote of the killing of people flying white flags and the annihilation of entire families
• British MP Gerald Kaufmann described Israel’s mass killing as ‘Nazi’
• The UN General Assembly President called for a world-wide boycott of ‘apartheid Israel’

Only a few days ago, on May 1st, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Palestine condemned ‘the recent wave of eviction orders and demolitions of Palestinian houses’. Israel’s ongoing crimes include the murder of unarmed protesters, the burning of olive groves and other farmland, the continued imposition of a brutal siege of Gaza, and the extension of its apartheid Wall, declared illegal by the International Court. It is unbearable that EIFF should accept sponsorship from such a Government.

Faced with such awful crimes, Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai had no choice:
“I do not believe that a State that maintains an occupation, committing on a daily basis crimes against civilians, deserves to be invited to any kind of cultural week. That is, it is anti-cultural; it is a barbarian act masked as culture in the most cynical way. It manifests support for Israel.”

We hope the EIFF will follow the example the Bloomsbury Theatre which recently cancelled a performance involving Israeli military personnel. Failing this, we will:
• organise pickets at EIFF events
• publicise the Festival’s links with the Israeli Embassy locally and internationally
• call for a boycott of the 2009 events to protest Israel’s massacres of the Palestinian people

Please protest to the EIFF personally, stating that
• you view the link with the Israeli Embassy as collusion in Israel’s recent and ongoing crimes
• such a link brings discredit on the Festival, the City and Scotland
• you will not participate in any of the events unless the Israeli Government money is returned
• you support the planned protest and calls for a boycott if the link with the Israeli Embassy is maintained
• you are not taking issue with any films being shown; it is opposition to accepting funding from a murderous regime

SPSC would appreciate being cc’d on any correspondence - please send to secretary@scottishpsc.org.uk This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CONTACT THE EIFF:

Edinburgh International Film Festival
88 Lothian Road
Edinburgh EH3 9BZ
Tel: 00 44 (0)131 228 4051
Fax: 00 44 (0)131 229 5501
info@edfilmfest.org.uk
And here's a response from the Film Festival's MD:
From: Ginnie Atkinson [mailto: ginnie.atkinson@edfilmfest.org.uk This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ]
Sent: 14 May 2009 10:16
To: secretary@scottishpsc.org.uk This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Subject:

We regret that you have found cause to express concern about a source of cultural funding.

We accept funding from a variety of international cultural institutions to enable filmmakers to travel with their work. It is important that filmmakers come with their films to engage in a dialogue with international audiences. The funding comes from cultural support agencies of one sort or another; national cultural institutes, consulates, embassies, and others. This year alone we have financial contributions from Denmark, Poland, Holland, Italy, Mexico, Romania, Germany, USA and France. We do not make these arrangements based on any allegiance or otherwise with the political regime in any given country. Choosing not to accept support from one particular country would set a dangerous precedent by politicising what is a wholly cultural and artistic mission. We are firm believers in free cultural exchange, and do not feel that ghettoising filmmakers or restricting their ability to communicate artistically on the basis that they come from a troubled territory is of any benefit. Nor do we see that filmmakers are voices of their government. It is particularly important in situations of strife and conflict that artists be supported in having their voices heard.

We hope this allays some, if not all, of your concerns.

Thank you.


Ginnie Atkinson
MD
And here's a response to the response which doesn't appear to be on line yet:
EIFF Managing Director refuses to address protesters concerns

Ginnie Atkinson responds to protest letters but fails to address the issues: <http://spsc.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2877:response-from-edinburgh-international-film-festival&catid=262&Itemid=200090>read the letter

The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) has again accepted funding from the Israeli Embassy, while people in Gaza are still living in the rubble of their homes, and Gaza victims of Israel's white phosphorous attacks are still in critical care.

<http://spsc.scottishpsc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2875:action-alert-the-edinburgh-international-film-festival-has-again-accepted-funding-from-the-israeli-embassy&catid=261&Itemid=200089>read the full action alert

Film make Ken Loach and George Galloway join growing protest:

Internationally acclaimed film-maker Ken Loach issued a statement yesterday calling on fellow artists and film festival fans to stay away from the festival this year, "I'm sure many film makers will be as horrified as I am to learn that the Edinburgh International Film Festival is accepting money from Israel. The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable. With regret, I must urge all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation, and stay away".

George Galloway MP rebutted Atkinson's accusations and echoed Loach's call for a boycott, "If the film festival wants to continue to enjoy an outstanding international reputation it will not hesitate to return this tainted money to the Israeli embassy. I find it astonishing that a spokesperson for the festival accused those of us who want this money returned of 'ghettoising' film-makers. If there's a prize for satire at the festival, contestants need to know that the result is a foregone conclusion. It is Israel that is herding the Palestinian people into the ghetto and, in the case of Gaza earlier this year, bombing to smithereens those it had taken the precaution to lock in. If the festival does not do the right thing - morally, and commercially - then no self respecting artist or director should take part. Sense prevailed three years ago over this issue. I'm sure it will again."

PROTEST EIFF DECISION TO ACCEPT ISRAELI STATE SPONSORSHIP:

Saturday 16 May 2009, 2-4pm
Filmhouse, Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Bring your family, friends, banners and placards - join us in protest. Join the growing worldwide movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it stops violating Palestinian human and national rights.

In March this year Palestinians in Israel were banned from celebrating 'Jerusalem as the Capital of Arab Culture for 2009' while 20 people were arrested, including two employees of Al Quds University, for organizing the 2009 cultural events. Join the protest tomorrow in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation, apartheid and siege.
On the other hand, you might want to come to London.

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