Actors, filmmakers, artists and journalists have urged UK cinemas to boycott an Israeli government-sponsored film festival.
According to Artists for Palestine UK, Maxine Peake, Liam Cunningham, Juliet Stevenson and Helena Kennedy QC are among 36 filmmakers and others who signed a letter published yesterday in the Guardian protesting the hosting of the Seret London Israeli Film and TV Festival in UK cinemas due to the involvement of the Israeli Embassy.
The signatories also include the director of the award-winning feature "In Between", one of the films programmed by the Israel-sponsored festival; Maysaloun Hamoud, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has withdrawn her film, stating: "I do not want my film, or my name, to be used to portray an image of Israel as a 'melting pot of cultures and religions'".
The full text of the letter as published in the Guardian is as follows:
"While large numbers of unarmed protesters in Gaza are killed or maimed with impunity by Israeli snipers, this week the Seret London Israeli Film and TV Festival, co-sponsored by the Israeli embassy and the World Zionist Organisation, will occupy venues in London, Brighton and Edinburgh. It will use the appeal of cinema to promote Israel as 'a melting pot of cultures and religions'.
Israel deliberately and routinely denies media freedom to Palestinians. On 6 April, Palestinian cameraman Yaser Murtaja was killed by an Israeli sniper as he filmed the "Great March of Return" in Gaza. On the same day six other photojournalists wearing press jackets were injured by the Israeli military. Since then photographer Ahmed Abu Hussein has been shot dead. This is not an anomaly. Last year Israeli forces assaulted 139 journalists and detained a further 33. In 27 cases they destroyed or sabotaged equipment. They closed down 17 media outlets. Palestinian journalists and film-makers are thus victims of systematic persecution based on their ethnicity.
Art, media and culture are being employed to give an apparently acceptable face to a brutal reality. We, film-makers, journalists and artists, call on our cinema, media and cultural institutions to uphold basic ethical standards: they should refuse to provide platforms for national celebrations sponsored by a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations."