October 20, 2010

Mike Leigh's Israeli friend responds

Sorry to keep revisiting this but I have now been sent a very short article setting out details of what appears to be a bit of a spat between Mike Leigh and the Israeli chap who invited him over in the first place. I said before that I don't know what Mike Leigh was thinking of by agreeing to go to Israel in the first place but I think he must have been manipulated. See this article from the New York Times's arts section:
In a letter dated Oct. 12, Mr. Leigh, the writer and director of “Another Year,” “Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Secrets & Lies,” said he would not travel to Jerusalem to teach at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, which Mr. Schorr directs.

Mr. Leigh wrote that he “always had serious misgivings about coming,” adding that he almost canceled after an incident in May in which Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound flotilla. The “last straw,” Mr. Leigh wrote, was the proposal of legislation by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, requiring that Israeli citizens pledge a loyalty oath to the “nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Mr. Leigh added that these and other actions by the Israeli government had left him “in an untenable position, which I must confront according to my conscience.”

Mr. Schorr wrote to Mr. Leigh in a letter dated Oct. 15, “I am certain that the decision is sincere and that it reflects your detailed, legitimate political views,” but added, “Boycotts and ostracism are the antithesis of dialogue.”

Mr. Schorr wrote that “the public will interpret your decision as indicating an irrevocable rift between us, a boycott of Israel, and a rebuke of its current and future artists.”

He added: “To me, this is a red line. Thus, I cannot justify your decision.”

I'd love to know the conversation that took place between them that had Mike Leigh agreeing to go over in the first place but I think Mr Schorr is being very disingenuous making out that dialoguing with internationals is somehow going to make a difference to the occupation, the colonial settlement, the ethnic cleansing, the segregation and the relentless violence that holds the whole thing together. What can internationals do by appearing in Israel? Give the impression that something is happening? Or give the impression that nothing is happening that need concern people of conscience?

Dialogue is a matter for the Palestinians but Israel hand picks the Palestinians with whom it will dialogue. If Israel is allowing international artists in for dialogue then the government must feel it has something to gain from the visits. Remember they even barred Chomsky and Finkelstein and they both support a two state solution and certainly Chomsky opposes a boycott. There's no pleasing Israel and there is certainly no point in appeasing Israel.


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