Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yes, Dear

Melbourne lobby group Australians for Palestine has just posted the following appeal on its website:

"Last year Australians for Palestine (AFP) initiated a cultural boycott in Melbourne protesting Israel's partnership with the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). The protests continued over the 12 days of the festival to much heated debate in the media over the rights and wrongs of boycotting cultural events. English film maker Ken Loach withdrew his film Looking for Eric, which then sparked an exchange of letters with MIFF's Executive Director Richard Moore who refused to reconsider Israel's sponsorship. This year's festival will be held from 22 July - 8 August and Israel is again a cultural partner. The protest is not directed at any film or filmaker but against the cultural partnership that MIFF has with the state of Israel. We are simply asking you to let MIFF know that you do not approve of normalising relations with an apartheid state that is currently oppressing some 5.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, and East Jerusalem and in Israel itself."

So what's Mr Moore's problem? How much bad news from Israel can one absorb before the penny drops?

The Australian Jewish News of July 16 sheds some light on a dark corner. Some excerpts from A chat with Richard Moore:

"This time last year, the MIFF was embroiled in controversy when director Ken Loach withdrew his film because of Israel's support of the festival. Has there been any backlash this year?

"I was very happy to declare this festival a Loach-free zone. I decided not even to bother going to see his film at Cannes this year, because we objected so strongly to what he did last year. I gather it wasn't a terrific film, it didn't get very good reviews. The Australians for Palestine have started up their annual campaign against MIFF but we were undeterred by their protest last year and we approached the Israeli Embassy again this year and they were more than happy to support us. But so far this year, we've had no controversy like that.

"That must be a relief.

"Well yes, I guess so, although from a publicity point of view, it's a terrible result. We're trying, as much as possible, to deeply offend some people...

"You're not Jewish, so where does your affinity with Israel come from?

"My wife is Jewish, I lived in Israel for two-and-a-half years, I speak Hebrew and I've got two Jewish sons, so that goes some way to explaining my affinity with Israel."

I see, so marrying a Jew, and a stint in Israel, renders one immune to independent thought.

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