September 12, 2008

US Jews to Hollywood stars: Boycott Israel celebration!

The following has been sent as an open letter to Jason Alexander, Heidi Klum, Debi Mazar, Kevin Spacey, Oliver Stone, Kiefer Sutherland, and all other confirmed attendees of the September 18 celebration of Israel at Paramount Studios.

It has also been sent to unconfirmed guests Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Adam Sandler. From No Time to Celebrate:

September 12, 2008

We write to you with sadness and outrage as we learn that you plan to attend the September 18 event "From Vision to Reality," a Hollywood celebration of sixty years since the establishment of the state of Israel. The vision that led to the reality of the Israeli state is one of systematic and ongoing ethnic and religious discrimination against the Palestinian people. This does not deserve to be celebrated.

Sixty years ago, Zionist groups destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages and made more than 800,000 Palestinian people refugees in order to create a Jewish state in a land where the majority was not Jewish. This has come to be known by Palestinians as the Nakba, or "catastrophe," and this Nakba continues today. Inside of the 1948 borders of Israel, Palestinian citizens are denied equal rights to Jews under the law. Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem are denied access to land, water, healthcare, and other basic resources. Today there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees throughout the world, all of whom are denied their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and land simply because they are not Jewish.

As Jewish North Americans, we are outraged at the policies the state of Israel has implemented in our names and with our government's financial support for more than sixty years. At the same time, we are inspired by the ongoing creative resistance of the Palestinian people, and most recently the unified civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law. We ask you to heed this call. Boycott is a nonviolent tool that has been used by ordinary people countless times to hold countries responsible for atrocities when our governments fail to do so. In South Africa, the boycott movement helped bring about an end to the apartheid system. In the case of Israel/Palestine, it can do the same.

Whether you attend or not, you are making a statement. If you attend, you indicate that you support the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people (now millions) and ongoing policies of ethnic cleansing of an indigenous population from their land. If you cancel your attendance, you indicate that you will not turn a blind eye to both the suffering and the call to action of millions of Palestinian people.

With stature comes responsibility, and we hope you do not take yours lightly.


The No Time To Celebrate Campaign
a campaign organized and implemented by thousands of Jewish people in the US and Canada this year to protest Israeli Independence Day activities, to commemorate the Nakba, and to honor the Palestinian
call for boycott against Israel

As food for thought in the wake of NTTC's letter, JSF is reprinting this blast from the past. From AP, Dec. 20,1987:

HOLLYWOOD (AP) The release of "Cry Freedom," the first major film about apartheid, has focused attention on the continuing campaign of entertainment figures and companies to combat South African racism.

Entertainers such as Frank Sinatra and Liberace once drew huge salaries for appearing at Sun City, South Africa's equivalent of Las Vegas. But most won't go anymore. Others, however, including Robert Wagner and Ernest Borgnine, still do promotional events and shoot movies there.

The appearance of American stars in South Africa could cause a storm of protest in the United States, as it did when Paul Simon recorded part of his Grammy award-winning "Graceland" album in South Africa, using black South African musicians.

Government authorities suggested that Richard Attenborough film "Cry Freedom" in South Africa. He didn't accept. "I knew perfectly well the conditions would be intolerable. You would have no freedom at all to show the monstrous brutalities that exist under this obscene regime," he said.

The critically acclaimed film, which was made in Zimbabwe, portrays the life and death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko (Denzel Washington), who was killed by state police, and his friendship with a liberal white newspaper editor, Donald Woods (Kevin Kline).

"It was good for American artists like Simon to collaborate with South Africans," said film director Jonathan Demme.

"But we say: Don't do it in South Africa. Don't pay for taxis and hotels and production facilities. Don't put money into a system that legalizes racism."

Demme is co-founder with Martin Scorsese of Filmmakers United Against Apartheid. The organization had its beginnings when Scorsese was editing "The Color of Money" and Demme completing "Something Wild" in back-to-back rooms of a Manhattan post-production house last year.

"As often happens, we got together for rap sessions in the hallway, and one day we started talking about apartheid and the cultural boycott," Demme said.

From their conversations emerged FUAA. In March, they sent letters to 200 fellow directors, and 120 responded positively. The membership includes many of the major creators of today's films, including John Badham, John Carpenter, Arthur Penn, Sidney Poitier, Warren Beatty, James L. Brooks, Francis Coppola, Norman Jewison, Penny Marshall, Mark Rydell, Steven Spielberg, Alan Pakula, Sidney Pollack, Oliver Stone, Hal Ashby, Gene Wilder, Jack Nicholson and John Landis.

The aim of FUAA is to withhold all American-made and American-financed movies from South Africa.

"Movies are an omission from the cultural boycott of South Africa _ a key and glaring omission," said Demme, speaking by telephone from the New York set of his new film, "Married to the Mob."

The filmmakers' goals run counter to the present policy of the Motion Picture Association of America. Jack Valenti, MPAA president, did not want to be interviewed by The Associated Press, but spokeswoman Barbara Dickson said that for the last two years, American movies have been shown only in South Africa's desegregated theaters.

"We feel we have had a positive effect on the situation in South Africa," she said. "Our figures show that in 1986 only 54.2 percent of the theaters were multiracial. It is Jack's understanding that more than 90 percent of the theaters are now multiracial."

Demme said the filmmakers' group "does not aim to tell people how to run their business or argue in a `crusady' kind of way. We simply want to invite thought on the subject."

Three weeks ago, the group stated its views in letters to film company executives. Lorimar and Cinecom responded that they already ban their films from South Africa. MCA president Sid Sheinberg replied "in a positive tone," said Demme.

Ironically, MCA's "Cry Freedom" has been cleared by South African government censors and will be exhibited without cuts or restrictions in desegregated South African theaters.

"We are all stunned, amazed and delighted," said Thomas Pollock, chairman of Universal Pictures, the MCA division that produced "Cry Freedom."

"What the government is saying is that although the books upon which this movie is based are banned, the movie itself is not banned. ... If that's true, it could mean the government is going to open up all sorts of things."

Demme was asked if denying American movies to all South African audiences would punish blacks as well as the white regime?

"We believe the answer is `no,"' he said. "Leaders of the (opposition) African National Congress have said they fervently want a boycott. ... As far as denying the consciousness-raising among whites that American films could provide, the consensus is that it will take more than one movie or group of movies to raise the consciousness of the white rulers."

American companies have not filmed in South Africa for several years. But Dolph Lundgren is doing "Red Scorpion" and Gary Busey is shooting "Act of Piracy" in Johannesberg.

"I'm an artist, not a politician," Busey told syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck. "Besides, we're working with some South African actors in this film; they tell me the real story's very different than what we're getting from the U.S. news."

Demme said Busey's work in South Africa was a matter of personal choice: "My interpretation of the (apartheid) situation, from the United Nations reports and talks with many blacks, is much different."

Lorimar Telepictures, which reportedly had optioned theatrical rights to "Act of Piracy," said through spokeswoman Anne Reilly that Lorimar is involved only in the home video rights.

Maybe Busey's excuse that he's "an artist, not a politician," sheds some light on his decision to play an organ-harvesting Jewish doctor(video clip here) in "The Valley of the Wolves-Iraq," a Turkish production based on an ultra-nationalist TV series. The movie brought in record audiences in Turkey, and has a rather unfriendly take on US involvement in Iraq -- you know, shooting up weddings, etc, things US soldiers would never do...

UPDATE: Tony Montana points out that "Valley of the Wolves'" depiction of an organ-harvesting Jewish doctor is no worse than the myriad Hollywood caricatures of Arabs and Muslims as stone-age brainless killers. One cannot but concur, and we thank Tony for reminding us of Jackie Salloum's excellent & spot-on "Planet of the Arabs:"

We've posted Salloum's rap videos before but unconscionably & inexplicably neglected "Planet." Salloum credits "Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People" by Jack Shaheen as the inspiration for her film.

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