Jewish leaders in the UK have condemned calls to boycott an Israeli film festival, saying the approach is “bigoted” and “blinkered.”
British Jewish community leaders blasted a call by UK artists and “concerned citizens” to boycott the London Israeli Film and Television Festival.
In an open letter published in The Guardian, anti-Israel activists urged British cinemas not to “become silent accomplices to the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people” by hosting the event.
Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the UK’s Jewish News that the boycotters’ “blinkered, bigoted approach is fixated solely on Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and the country they love to hate. They should be looking at ways to export peaceful solutions, not import conflict.”
This year’s calls for a boycott brought to memory a similar incident from last summer in which the Tricycle Theatre decided not to host the UK Jewish Film Festival after organizers took exception to the festival’s funding by the Embassy of Israel. It later reversed its decision, the Jewish News reports. “The boycotters seem to have learned nothing from the Tricycle Theatre debacle last summer,” Arkush commented.
In a statement, the founders of this year’s London Israeli Film and Television Festival festival, Anat Koren, Odelia Haroush and Patty Hochmann, said the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement harms attempts at peaceful discourse. “An attempt to block the sharing of creative pursuits and the genuine exchange of ideas and values is a disappointing reaction to a festival that sets out to open up lines of communication and understanding.”
Paul Charney, chairman of the Zionist Federation, told the Jewish News: “This isn’t about policy, it’s about erasing any portrayal of Israelis that doesn’t fit with their propaganda efforts…. It is the shameless face of contemporary anti-Jewish prejudice, holding artists from Israel to a higher standard than any other country.”
A spokesman for Curzon cinemas, one of the sites hosting the event, sidestepped the calls for a boycott but did not directly reject them. “We have not previously considered asking questions about the funding of a festival booked at one of our cinemas, and we do not consider booking a festival as any kind of political comment,” he said.