Open Letter to Filmmaker Stephen Frears

DON’T NORMALIZE APARTHEID, WITHDRAW FROM HAIFA 2010

September 18th, 2010

Dear Stephen Frears:

As fellow artists who have been critical of the state of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, we were surprised to learn that your film “Tamara Drew” is scheduled to open the Haifa International Film Festival of 2010 (HIFF). While unable to directly affect the oppressive situation on the ground, as conscious artists we can act to resist the normalization of Israel’s colonial and apartheid policies, as outlined in the Artists Against Apartheid Declaration. We are asking you to join us in the Palestinian led campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel, and withdraw your film from this Israeli state-sponsored event.

During your visit to Palestine in 2007 you were quoted saying, “Until I saw it with my own eyes, I did not fully understand what occupation meant. Going to Palestine changed my life. I was so shocked by what I saw and so impressed by the children I met in Balata camp, who somehow, against all adversity, remained positive and hopeful about the future”.

High Fidelity, Directed by Stephen Frears

In 2009, while documented war crimes were being carried out by the Israeli state upon Palestinian civilians in Gaza, you joined Annie Lennox, Bryan Adams, Robert Del Naja and others in demanding an end to the violence, stating “We insist upon hope for the children of Gaza, and the children of Palestine wherever they live in refugee camps across the Middle East, so that they can live in freedom from injustice, war, and military occupation.”

Robert Del Naja, member of the musical group Massive Attack, recently explained unambiguously why he will not be performing his work in apartheid Israel anytime soon: “We were asked to play Israel and we refused…The question was asked: ‘If you don’t play there, how can you go there and change things?’ I said: ‘Listen, I can’t play in Israel when the Palestinians have no access to the same fundamental benefits that the Israelis do.’

Issuing a statement on September 8th, “The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urges filmmakers and cultural workers to boycott the 26thHaifa International Film Festival (HIFF) running from September 23 to 30, 2010. PACBI believes that this festival, as with similar cultural initiatives supported by Israeli state institutions, is designed to whitewash the crimes of Israeli apartheid…There is precedent for a boycott of the Haifa International Film Festival, on August 1st 2006, when the administrative council of the Greek Cinematography Center (GCC) decided to withdraw all the Greek films from HIFF, arguing that ‘under the current circumstances the specific cultural event has lost its meaning’.”

Regardless of the content of your film, or your belief in justice and equality, screening your film at HIFF would use apartheid as its backdrop. Your participation would undermine the campaign for the cultural boycott of Israel, supported through the work of Palestinian, Israeli and international activists who are acting upon the injustices you have witnessed.

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) group Boycott From Within, whose members are Israeli citizens, declares: “We are deeply concerned about the potentially irreversible damage inflicted on Palestinians by both Israeli brutal occupation and international policies and have come to the conclusion that the occupation will end only when its cost for Israelis, its elites in particular, outweighs the benefits.”

The cultural boycott of Israel, as a key component of the Palestinian led BDS Movement, shall be maintained until Israel meets its moral and legal obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

We hope you will withdraw your film from the Haifa International Film Festival, and join us in the campaign against Israeli apartheid.

Signed,
Artists Against Apartheid

Stephen Frears is an English film director, born in 1941. Over the years, Frears has continued to receive both critical acclaim and box office success for films such as Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, The Queen and High Fidelity.

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