British director Mike Leigh has canceled his scheduled visit to Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet approved a controversial amendment to the Citizenship Law last week requiring non-Jews to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state."It must have been bad translation that has him not anticipating the media firestorm that would have erupted if he broke the boycott. Perhaps he means that the Israeli media blew the gaffe because his coming over to Palestine would indeed have been interpreted as, at best, acquiescence to the policies of the most openly racist and fascistic of Israel's governments.
Leigh, who last visited Israel in 1990 and has since stayed away to protest Israeli policy, was due to arrive on November 20 for a one-week stay as a guest of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem. He was scheduled to lead student workshops and meet with audience members at cinematheques. Leigh was also due to give a lecture to Palestinian colleagues at the Jenin Cinema.
In a letter addressed to school director Renen Schorr, Leigh said that he had considered canceling his trip after the raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, but that the amendment to the citizenship law was the final straw.
The director of such hit films as Life Is Sweet and Career Girls wrote that he would not feel at ease visiting the country, since his arrival would be interpreted as support for the government's policy.
Leigh, who is Jewish, said that he began seriously contemplating canceling his visit after the government announced that it would resume construction in West Bank settlements. It was only after the citizenship amendment was passed that the decision to stay home was made, Leigh wrote.
He also wrote that he did not anticipate the media firestorm that would have erupted had he continued with his original plan and made the visit. Leigh added that only after a "just solution" to the Palestinian issue and the rehabilitation of Gaza would he accept an invitation to the country.
Still this boycott movement needs nailing to the mast. The Irish example where people have pledged to boycott Israel in the event of being invited is what is required. Whatever he did or didn't anticipate, Leigh should never have agreed to appear in Israel. The cheer this gave to the Israeli media at a time when Israel is going flat out for its Araberein state or at least one where Arabs are neither seen nor heard by government order, is definitely not the time to address Israeli audiences so that they can say "but we don't support Leiberman or Netanyahu or the nearly late Sharon" or whatever excuse they come up with to distance themselves from the 96% that supported the assault on Gaza and said nothing about the flotilla massacre.