Jews in Britain Against Genocide wrote the following letter to the artistic director of the Tricycle Theater thanking the Tricycle for refusing to host a film festival funded in part by the Israeli government. The letter expresses outrage at false accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at the Tricycle and condemns Israel’s use of culture to promote its global image as a way of maintaining impunity in its murderous violence against and disposession of Palestinians.
Dear Indhu Rubasingham,
We write to thank you for refusing to accept Israeli sponsorship of the Jewish Film Festival.
We particularly appreciate that you distinguish between Jews in Britain and the Israeli State. We could not be further apart from the Israeli state. The insistence of the organisers of the UK Jewish Film Festival on including sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy, even when you generously offered an alternative, has made their priorities clear: not Jewish people or Jewish film but the hijacking of Jewish culture to disguise Israeli policies and particularly its bloodied image. Its murder and maiming of Palestinians and others in the Middle East has been going on for many decades. But its recent unrestrained, sadistic attack on Gaza has reinforced its genocidal intentions against the Palestinians.
We are particularly appalled as Jews that our suffering as a people is the occasion and the excuse for the genocide of others. We are aware of the suffering of others, which is why we have said, unlike Zionists: Never again – for anyone. Including of course Tamils in Sri Lanka, about which you would be familiar.
Those of us who were part of the demonstration in front of the Tricycle last November against Israeli sponsorship of the UKJFF, which was led by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, welcome this decision of the Tricycle to respect the multi-racial nature of the community of which it is part, by refusing blood money from apartheid Israel.
We are a group of Jews in Britain including from Israel and are appalled that you have been subjected to false accusations of anti-Semitism. Zionism cynically uses the sufferings of Jews to silence critics of the Israeli genocide of Palestinians. This is an abhorrent attempt to intimidate a local theatre for refusing to be enlisted to serve the Israeli State, in order to camouflage its most recent assault on hospitals, UN schools in which thousands were sheltering, children, and civilians of all ages.
We take this opportunity to share with you a few examples of how Israel harnesses culture as a propaganda tool.
1) Israeli artists who receive government sponsorship are contractually obligated to promote the state as a condition of their sponsorship, which includes Israeli films that are promoted as being critical; but while they might show some criticism their overall message is to present Israel as a democracy and camouflage its apartheid.
If they receive funding by the state, Israeli artists who play internationally are expected to be political ambassadors and must sign contracts which declare their cooperation with state marketing aims. The standard Israeli sponsorship contract states:
“The service provider (i.e. artists) undertakes to act faithfully, responsibly and tirelessly to provide the Ministry with the highest professional services. The service provider is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.”
2) In 2005, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit of Israel’s Foreign Ministry emphasised:
“We are seeing culture as a hasbara (i.e. propaganda) tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture.”
3) In 2008 the Israeli Foreign Office identified London as one of the hubs it targeted for “Brand Israel”. It stated:
“The Jewish community has to be part of it for it to succeed. It’s very important for us to convey the message to them that a better image for Israel and a better performance of that image is part and parcel with Israel’s national security.” “But it’s mainly it’s an attempt to change the mindset of people when it comes to Israel” “”That doesn’t mean conducting an advertising campaign, but the execution of a program that will support the brand identity… it could include organizing film festivals” “… the hope-for result is a change in peoples’ perception of Israel.”
In short, any event accepting sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy or from any other Israeli state bodies is legitimising the Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and its genocidal attacks on the Palestinians, including the Gaza Strip that Israel turned into a concentration camp.
We value the Tricycle and as your loyal supporters, your audience, we ask that you will not renew your association with Israel, as long as it violates international law, and until the 3 conditions set out in the Palestinian call for boycott demanding Israel meets its obligation and comply with international law. (see http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1801).
Jews in Britain Against Genocide