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Israel should be expelled from New Zealand festival, say filmmakers

June 22, 2022 at 10:29 am

People call for boycott of Israel on June 05, 2021 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]

International filmmakers have called on the Doc Edge Festival in New Zealand to expel Israel and drop the festival’s partnership with the Embassy of apartheid Israel which commits systematic human rights violations against the Palestinians.

“As filmmakers and participants in Doc Edge Film Festival, we are deeply concerned by the festival’s continued acceptance of funding and official support from the Israeli Embassy. It is an offensive and unacceptable affiliation which we do not endorse,” said the signatories of an open letter to the festival management. “Numerous human rights organisations conclude Israel’s systemic policies, practices, and human rights violations meet the legal definition of apartheid.”

The signatories include Cole Yeoman, director and producer of Milford Road; Gabriel Shipton, director of Ithaka and brother of Julian Assange; and Haidy Kancler, director and writer of Melting Dreams. They referred to Israel’s recent actions against the Palestinians, noting that during the past month alone, “Israel announced the ethnic cleansing of over 1,000 more Palestinians, greenlit plans to build almost 4,500 more homes in illegal Israeli settlements, and murdered Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in cold blood before attacking pallbearers and mourners at her funeral.”

By affiliating with Israel, they said, Doc Edge is legitimising an abhorrent and racist apartheid regime which attacks and persecutes the very storytellers it claims to support. “This is a blatant contradiction to the spirit of a festival.” Moreover, the signatories rejected the festival management’s claim that it is “apolitical” and aims to “facilitate dialogue”, and noted that the organisers of the festival “have actively chosen” to accept funding from the Israeli government and avoided engaging with those who’ve expressed concern over the funding since as early as 2018.

“Unflinching affiliation with an apartheid government discredits any notion of being apolitical. This is not an issue of ‘censorship’ or ‘pressure groups’, it is an issue of Israel using culture and art as a form of propaganda, curating an image of sophistication and philanthropy to whitewash its abhorrent crimes and justify apartheid.”

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The main concern of the signatories is not Israel’s influence in the festival selection, they insist, but the credibility and legitimacy that Israel gains from Doc Edge’s endorsement and platform. “Our call isn’t to take ‘sides’ or censor films, it is to recognise human rights and to keep our cultural spaces free from the harm and normalisation of racism and colonisation.”

The letter was inspired by the international movement that contributed to ending apartheid in South Africa. “It is critical to mobilise non-violent pressure on Israel to end its apartheid, persecution and illegal occupation against Palestinians, making the ‘status quo’ inconvenient enough for Israel to care, and change. It is in firm solidarity with the Palestinian people and the global recognition of human rights that we request Doc Edge to end its affiliation with the apartheid Israeli Embassy and divest from a relationship that endorses and legitimises the systemic and racist persecution of Palestinians.