No film festival for Israeli propaganda purposes! Open letter to the Heinrich Boell Foundation

Posted on January 30, 2011

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No film festival for Israeli propaganda purposes!

Open letter to the Heinrich Boell Foundation

It is only now [two days before the showing] that the Heinrich Boell Foundation (HBS) announces that its much criticized Berlin film festival “Israel in the Orient – Orient in Israel”, January 28 to 31, 2011 is financed with the support of the Embassy of the State of Israel.

With its selection of movies, HBS is not only facing serious criticism for denying racism against Jewish and non-Jewish Arabs in Israel and for its lack of naming the exclusionary and discriminatory stereotypes and politics of Arabs, as maintained and perpetuated by the Askenasi political class of Israel (see the open letter by critical Jews and Israelis”, January 9, 2011[i]).

Now, HBS is also being confronted with the criticism of allowing itself to be used for obvious propaganda purposes for the state of Israel.

Supporting a film festival which is to show the “diversity” of Israeli society, follows a governmental program adopted by the three Israeli Ministries of Culture, Tourism and Foreign Affairs in 2005 and is known as the „Brand Israel – Hasbara“[ii].

The increasingly negative image of Israel, documented in several global surveys, strongly links Israel with persistent allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and under Brand Israel is now to be countered with cultural events such as film festivals. Culture, arts and the diversity of Israel are now brought to the fore with the aim of using public relations agencies “to distract from the conflict with the Palestinians”, according to Ido Aharoni from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Aharoni presented the concept, described in the “Winning the Battle of the Narrative” paper as repositioning “Israel away from an image of a country in a state of war and conflict to a brand which represents positive values and ideals like ‘building the future,’ ‘vibrant diversity’ and ‘entrepreneurial zeal.’”

The Heinrich Boell Foundation is cooperating with the embassy of a country whose policy is marked by occupation, colonialism, racism and apartheid, allowing itself to be used for a “media” cover-up of these crimes.

At a time when Israeli politics of violating human rights and international law have come under intense international pressure as never before, it is incomprehensible why the Heinrich Boell Foundation in its self-declared mission for peace undermines itself unnecessarily by whitewashing and normalizing Israeli government policy.

The Palestinian civil society, insisting on respect for international law, is not willing to accept the Israeli policy of violations of internationally acknowledged legal norms. Together with a global civil society movement, it calls for academic and cultural boycott of projects that are supported by the state of Israel until Israel implements international law:

“All cultural products commissioned by an official Israeli body (e.g., government ministry, municipality, embassy, consulate, state or other public film fund, etc.) deserve to be boycotted on institutional grounds, as they are commissioned and thus funded by the Israeli state — or any of its complicit institutions — specifically to help the state’s propaganda or “rebranding” efforts aimed at diluting, justifying, whitewashing or otherwise diverting attention from the Israeli occupation and other violations of Palestinian rights and international law.”[iii]

The Palestinian civil society calls for boycott as a non-violent means, the same means that successfully helped end the apartheid system in South Africa.

Following calls for solidarity, we urge the participants of the panel discussion on Monday, 31 January 2011 to reconsider and to cancel their participation.

Berlin, 28.01.2011

Signaturies:

Berlin Academic Boycott, http://berlinacademicboycott.wordpress.com/

BDS Group, Berlin, www.bds-kampagne.de

Critical Jews and Israelis, Berlin, kritischeisraelis@googlemail.com

European Jews for a Just Peace, Germany, www.juedische-stimme.de

Palestinian Community in Germany, www.falastin.de/home.html

Middle East Peace Committee, Berlin, www.friko-berlin.de

Palestinian Student Association Berlin-Brandenburg (PSV)


[i]„Distortion of history by the Heinrich Böll Foundation”, Open Letter by Critical Jews and Israelis, January 9, 2011. http://kedma.co.il/block/archives/article/distortion-of-history-by-the-heinrich-boll-foundation-critical-jews-and-israelis

[ii] On the „Brand Israel“ Strategy: “Israel Aims To Improve Its Public Image”, Forward, 14.10.2005; “About Face”, Haaretz, 20.09.2005; “After Gaza, Israel Grapples with Crisis of Isolation”, The New York Times, 18.03.2009; “Ben White, ”Behind Brand Israel: Israel’s recent propaganda efforts“, The Electronic Intifada, 23.02.2010.

[iii]Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel. www.pacbi.org

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