The Yes Men, a group of international pranksters who announced, on behalf of Dow Chemicals, that they were fully compensating the victims of the Bhopal disaster on BBC Television! are the latest group to join the Boycott of Israel. They have withdrawn their new and highly acclaimed film, ‘The Yes Men Fix the World’ from the Jerusalem Film Festival.
The Cultural Boycott is an important part of the deligitimation of the Zionist State of Israel. It sends a message, as it did to South Africa, that you can’t expect to practice apartheid against the Palestinians and then expect people to engage in polite conversation and cultural exchanges with you. Just as anti-racists called for a boycott of the Nazi Olympics of 1936 and anti-Apartheid protestors successfully launched a boycott of the Springboks and South African cricket team, so those who genuinely believe that art and culture has something to say about the society we live in have begun to draw a line in the sand over Zionism and its racist practices.
This decision does not come easily, as we realize that the festival opposes the policies of the State of Israel, and we have no wish to punish progressives who deplore the state-sponsored violence committed in their name.
This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.
But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.
It is painful to do this. But it is even more painful to hear Israeli policies described as “fascist” – not just from the ill-informed and the clueless, not just from the usual anti-semitic morons, but from well-informed Jewish activists within Israel. They know what they’re talking about, and it’s painful to think that they could be right. As we’re sure you know and deplore, the Israeli government has recently authorized the construction of new units in an illegal West Bank outpost – one that is illegal even according to Israeli law. On Monday, nine Palestinians were injured as Israeli authorities demolished their East Jerusalem home. Tuesday, the Israeli navy stopped a ship from delivering medicine, toys, and other humanitarian relief to Gaza, and detained over twenty foreign peace activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate. Meanwhile, a UN commission was in Gaza investigating much worse abuses committed early this year.
Whatever words are applied to such actions, our film mustn’t help lend an aura of normalcy to a state that makes these decisions. For us, that’s the bottom line.
There is certainly another way to do things in Israel/Palestine, and that is what we must fight for, however feeble our means. As for our film, there is another way for it to be seen in Israel… and in Palestine, so that the people most in need of comic relief, who would never have been able to see it at the Jerusalem Film Festival anyhow, will be able to see it too. Within the next few months, we will make this happen.
To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.