Edinburgh film festival declines Israeli grant due to pressure
Pro-Palestinian groups in Britain led by director Ken Loach threaten to boycott festival if money given by Israeli Embassy to fund participation of Israeli director is not returned. 'This is an attempt to demonize and de-legitimize Israel,' says embassy spokesman
The Edinburgh International Film Festival has once again bowed to pressure from British pro-Palestinian groups headed by director Ken Loach, when it decided to return 300 pound to the Israeli Embassy in the UK that were meant to fund the participation of an Israeli director in the festival.
The decision came following threats to boycott the festival if the Israeli money is not returned and Israel's name taken off the event's program.
"I’m sure many film makers will be as horrified as I am to learn that the Edinburgh International Film Festival is accepting money from Israel," Loach said in a statement published on the internet. "The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable. With regret, I must urge all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation, and stay away.”
Loach. 'Unacceptable money' (Photo: Reuters)
The festival organizers were quick to fold, and issued a statement of their own, saying they are "firm believers in free cultural exchange" and they "do not wish to restrict filmmakers."
The statement continued: "Although the Festival is considered wholly cultural and apolitical, we always acknowledge and consider the opinions of the film industry as a whole, and as such accept that one filmmaker's recent statement speaks on behalf of the film community, (and) therefore we will be returning the funding issued by the Israeli Embassy."
The festival also announced it would instead cover Israeli director Tali Shlaom Ezer's travel expenses to Scotland to present her short film, "Surrogate."
'Attempt to demonize Israel'
This is the second time that the festival in Edinburgh goes back on an earlier decision to cooperate with the Israeli mission in Britain. In 2006 a similar row surrounded the funding of Israeli director Yoav Shamir's participation in the event.
Lord Janner of Braunstone, a Labor peer and former chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Times that he was disappointed by the festival’s decision. “By banning the Israeli Embassy from supporting a film-maker the festival is helping to exclude Israelis from British cultural life, something that is clearly unfair.”
The spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London, Lior Ben Dor, blamed the festival of caving in to pressure "from elements that are trying to de-legitimize and demonize the State of Israel," and added: Israel is a pluralistic country in which a wide spectrum of voices and opinions exists, some of them critical.
"In the same way Israel does not censure artists who voice different opinions, we expect that an important, prestigious festival like Edinburg, which is dedicated to culture and not to its politicization, to do the same."
Director Shalom Ezer herself said she was very disappointed by the call from boycott and particularly the fact that it was led by Loach, whose work she admires. "Loach's support in this act is an attempt to remove Israel from the cultural discourse, and this is painful. I consider this an attempt to destroy every chance for communication, and something that strengthen alienation and hatred. "