In an unprecedented move by Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman (Divine Intervention) withdrew his signature from a petition calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The petition, which was made public in August 2006, demands that the international community boycott cultural events and institutions supported by Israel and to halt any association with institutions that do agree to denounce the occupation.
Petition signers also spoke out against that they perceived as apathy amongst Israel's academia and intellectuals. "Clear the road for actions that will take the place of words spoken too often and forgotten too soon," they demanded, "let your voices be heard, call for an end to the bloodshed and oppression that has been going on for too long."
Suleiman, the first Palestinian representative at the American Oscar awards, claims that the petition he signed led to the boycotting of Israeli artists "who strongly support Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, align themselves with these struggles in political and cultural domains and whose artistic work testifies to
nothing but that…Yet these filmmakers have been boycotted, ordered away, deserted as people of the plague because they happen to carry the Israeli identity," he writes, referring to the cancellation of Israeli participation from the Edinburgh and Blosas film festivals.
"Whether misguided by anger and frustration due to the latest episode of the Israeli military's monstrosity, by nationalist sentiments, or even by sheer ignorance," Suleiman writes, "I am nevertheless appalled that these Palestinian and Lebanese artists, themselves victims of Israeli military policies and layers of occupations, can turn at such ease and mimic the power of authority of their own oppressors and conduct exclusionist policies, excommunications and random intellectual lynching, all of which is tinted by chauvinism and other heresies that stem from the dark side of nationalism.
"If the involved artist petitioners suffer from a short sightedness that reaches only the frontiers of identities, they should be aware that they now themselves have commenced putting up checkpoints and demanding IDs to select who goes in and who goes down on his or her knees blindfolded and facing the wall… Given who these Israeli artists are and the nature of their political work, in the name of whom and for what sacred collective cause did the respectedpetitioner artists and filmmakers line their fellow Israeli artists and filmmakers on the wall for a cultural execution?! And after the easy to reach easy to frame?comrades? are sacrificed and gotten rid of because of who they happen to be, one cannot but wonder who will be next on the witch-hunting list?!"
"I wish that the suspension of my signature will not itself become the center of debate or finger pinpointing," says Suleiman, "I rather hope that the suspension can raise questions and initiate an evaluation of the text of the petition and the course of its application. And rather than an immediate response for my decision, I call upon the petitioners to take time and reflect upon themselves the issues raised here. I call upon them as I will call upon myself to enter a process of self evaluation enhanced with a critical approach of one's own consciousness as to what composes the red lines of moral and political boundaries. I say this because I believe that should one extend his or her sight beyond one's own checkpoints, and should one's vision pierce through the walls he or she reincarnates for him or herself, she or he might find that it is not at all a question of identity that one should uphold in the quest for truth and justice."