Center for Asian American Media Urged to End Partnership with Israeli Consulate

TheUS Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI),Palestinian and Arab community members and organizations – includingthe Arab Film Festival – prominent organizations and individuals inthe Asian American and Pacific Islander community as well asprogressive Jewish activists and academics call on the Center forAsian American Media to respect the boycott called for by Palestiniancivil society and endtheir collaboration with the Israeli consulate and Zionistorganizations on the China-Israel film fest.


Theoutpouring of support from the Asian American community for thisinitiative reveals the growing understanding of theinterconnectedness of our struggles against racism, oppression andefforts to use progressive issues and organizations to advancereactionary agendas. TheChina-Israel film festival is part of an effort by the IsraeliAmbassador Michael Oren, the Israeli consulate and Zionistorganizations to build support for the growing political and economicalliance between China and Israel and is part of the multi-milliondollar effort to "brand Israel" and counteract the growing outcryagainst Israeli violations of human rights, international law anddecency.

TAKEACTION: sendan email to Stephen Gong, the Director of CAAM, (sgong@caamedia.org)- ask CAAM to refuse participation in the China-Israel culturalfestival.

Clickhereto view Stephen Gong’s statement defending CAAM’s participation in the festival.

 

Belowread letters from Asian American community organizations, USACBI, theArab Film Festival and progressive Jewish activists and academics.

 

1) Letter from prominent individualsand organizations in the Asian Pacific Islander community:

 

Center for Asian AmericanMedia

145 Ninth Street, Suite350

San Francisco, CA94103-2641

June 13, 2012

 

Dear Mr. Stephen Gong,

On behalf of the AsianAmerican organizations and individuals listed below, we are writingto express our deep concern regarding the Center for Asian AmericanMedia’s (CAAM) participation as a co-sponsor of the Israel ChinaFilm Festival, as part of the Israel China Cultural Festival, in SanFrancisco.

We ask CAAM to respect thecall for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel (www.usacbi.org),a growing movement of international civil society modeled after thestruggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through boycott,divestment, and sanctions (BDS), in the face of Israel’s countlessviolations of human rights. As Asian Americans, we have a longhistory of struggles against racism and injustice-from mobilizationagainst the anti-Chinese exclusion act and Japanese Americaninternment camps to exploitation of Filipino American laborers andhate crimes and violence against South Asian and other AsianAmericans-not to mention histories of struggles against colonialismand wars in our homelands. Thus we are in solidarity with thePalestinian people who have faced many injustices caused by Israel,including the colonization and theft of Palestinian land,displacement and dispossession, military occupation, massacres ofcivilians, home demolitions, racial segregation, restrictions onfreedom of movement, and countless war crimes that have beencondemned by the United Nations.

It is therefore verydisturbing for us to learn that CAAM is partnering with the Israeliconsulate to sponsor an Israel film festival as part of the IsraelChina Cultural Festival. This festival uses cultural exchange as ameans of whitewashing the reality of occupation and apartheid-areality in which Palestinians have lived under an illegal militaryoccupation and siege for 45 years, the "Apartheid Wall" restrictsthe daily lives of Palestinians, thousands of Palestinians aredetained as political prisoners, Palestinians in Israel face systemicdiscrimination in multiple realms simply because they are not Jewish,Palestinian families have been refused the right to return to theirhomes for generations and many continue to live in refugee camps inPalestine and elsewhere. Yet not one of the films featured in thisfestival seems to address these realities, which we find shocking.

As a community mediaorganization, it is important for CAAM to recognize the politicalsignificance of this "cultural" partnership with the Israeliconsulate, which is essentially a partnership with a government body.By participating in this festival, Asian Americans are being used ascultural ambassadors to sanitize the public image of Israel, whilehiding its human rights violations. By excluding the voices of thosewho have been affected by Israeli occupation, war crimes, andapartheid, this cultural festival is an insult to Palestinian andArab American communities and a disgrace to Asian Americancommunities and people of conscience who strive to stand insolidarity with oppressed communities, locally and globally.

We are also troubled bythis partnership because as a community that is generally stereotypedas the "model minority," Asian Americans are often pitted againstother marginalized communities and used to erase the historicalexclusion and oppression of other minority groups. It is critical forour community to show solidarity with other communities of color,including the Palestinian and Arab American community, as JapaneseAmericans and other groups have done since 2001 in forming coalitionsagainst the racial profiling of Arab and Muslim Americans. CAAM’spartnership will be a huge blow to these coalitions and a violationof these principles of solidarity against racial injustice andcolonial oppression. Participating in the festival allows AsianAmerican communities to be used in the normalization of Israel’shuman rights abuses.

Many important CAAMproductions and SF International Asian American Film Festival filmshave documented how Asian Americans have taken an active stance inthe civil rights movement, labor movement, immigrant rightsstruggles, and protests against warfare and imperialism. CAAM hasconsistently tried to be an outlet for the stories of Asian Americanand underrepresented communities and we hope that it would try to dothe same for West Asian/ Arab American communities as well, or at theleast, not erase their experiences. It is our hope that CAAM willmaintain its commitment to supporting Asian American voices againstinjustice and stand in solidarity with Palestinian and Arab Americancommunities by not participating in the Israel China CulturalFestival.

We call on CAAM to jointhe global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement inopposition to Israeli human rights violations and to join thehundreds of groups across the US and around the world that stand onthe side of human rights for all. BDS is an expression of principledopposition to the notion that certain groups can be excluded fromhuman rights and the right to freedom and self-determination, due totheir race or religion. The cultural boyco
tt campaign is aninstitutional, not individual, boycott and so it does not opposescreenings of Israeli films that are not part of a whitewashingcampaign nor censor collaboration with Israeli artists. The culturalboycott does not preclude cultural exchange or freedom of expression;on the contrary, it champions honest and fully open dialogue in whichthe stories of those who suffer from racism and colonialism are notsilenced.

 

Signed,

Anakbayan – East Bay

ASATA (Alliance of SouthAsians Taking Action)

Asian Americans for Peaceand Justice (AAPJ)

Asian Prisoner SupportCommittee

BAYAN – USA

BAYAN USA-NorthernCalifornia

Hella Organized Bay AreaKoreans (HOBAK)

League of FilipinoStudents – BAYAN USA

Malcolm X GrassrootsMovement

South Asians for Justice -Los Angeles

Xicana MoratoriumCoalition

 

2) Letter from the US Campaign forthe Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

 

Stephen Gong

Executive Director

Center for Asian AmericanMedia

 

Dear Mr. Gong:

The US Campaign for theAcademic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), and the undersignedgroups and individuals, are deeply dismayed and disappointed thatCAAM is sponsoring the Israel China film festival on June 26‐28 atthe San Francisco Public Library, as part of the Israel‐ChinaFestival this year.

CAAM’s officialpartnership in this program with the Israeli consulate, and thus withthe Israeli government, is extremely troubling. It implies CAAM’sendorsement of the Israeli state’s illegal military occupation,annexation of land, home demolitions, and collective punishment anddisplacement of Palestinians, all of which have been condemnedglobally and in hundreds of UN resolutions. Israel has inflictedmilitary assaults on Palestinians using brutal and disproportionateviolence and illegal chemical weapons, such as during the massacre inGaza in 2008‐09 that killed 1400 Palestinians. Israel hasconstructed a Wall that not only restricts Palestinian life andlivelihood and divides families but has also annexed Palestinianlands; the Wall has been deemed illegal by the International Court ofJustice. Israel has enacted systemic and often legally sanctioneddiscrimination against its Palestinian citizens because they arenon‐Jews, leading Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and manyother international human rights activists to liken Israeli policiesto those of apartheid; for some, they are even worse than those ofapartheid South Africa. Israel continues to deny hundreds ofthousands of Palestinian refugees their right of return as enshrinedin international law. Israel’s violations of human rights are simplytoo many to recount in a brief summary. However, they are by now welldocumented and increasingly challenged by the growing boycott,divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement around the world and in theU.S., one that is supported by leading artists and intellectuals ofdiverse backgrounds.

If you are not aware ofthe BDS movement, it is not too late for CAAM to join this globalstruggle for human rights. Palestinian civil society has called onthe international community to engage in an academic and culturalboycott of Israel: "Given that hundreds of UN resolutions havecondemned Israel’s colonial and discriminatory policies as illegaland called for immediate, adequate and effective remedies, and Giventhat all forms of international intervention and peace‐making have untilnow failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarianlaw, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupationand oppression of the people of Palestine, and In view of the factthat people of conscience in the international community havehistorically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice,as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africathrough diverse forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions"(www.pacbi.org).

The US Academic andCultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) was founded in response to thiscall from Palestinian civil society and was inspired by the spirit ofinternational solidarity, moral consistency, and resistance toinjustice and oppression. While those who attempt to silence criticsof Israel often hurl gratuitous accusation of anti‐Semitism at anyone who dares to challenge the Israeli state, the boycott is aneffective, antiracist campaign and will continue until Israel ceasesits violations of human rights. USACBI opposes cultural programs thatare sponsored by the Israeli state and are increasingly used towhitewash Israel’s violations of international human rights and warcrimes and to legitimize its illegal occupation and apartheidpractices.

In its attempt toundermine the rapidly expanding BDS movement, Israel has resorted tothe "Brand Israel" campaign and has spent millions of dollars toimprove its public image through cultural programming and outreach todiverse communities. The CAAM festival seems to be another example ofthis discredited propaganda campaign. None of the featured filmsaddress the Israeli occupation nor racially discriminatory andsegregation policies that target Palestinians, nor indeed Palestinianexperiences in any form. There are by now many films that powerfullydocument the situation on the ground in Israel, made by Palestinianand Israeli filmmakers. None of these films are being shown at thisfestival. In fact, the festival seems to be an attempt to evade anhonest and open discussion of the reality of Israel and to forge analliance with the Chinese and Asian American community on the backsof silenced Palestinians.

In addition, we aretroubled by the self‐professed attempt of the Israel China Festivalto co‐opt Chinese and Asian American communities into celebratingthe "continued vitality" of two "global leaders" and the"remarkable economic nexus which has formed between Israel, Chinaand Silicon Valley," erasing any discussion of human rights abuses,labor exploitation, and occupation. While we do not oppose theexploration of cultural traditions or common histories, we stronglyobject to an alliance between Israel and China that is built on thecensorship of histories of settler colonialism or of occupation.

We strongly believe thatAsian American community organizations and individuals should standin solidarity with those challenging occupation, apartheid, warfare,and colonialism, and not engage in the normalizing of oppression. Inaddition, we are deeply concerned about the partnership of ChineseAmerican and Asian American cultural organizations with ananti‐Palestinian program, rather than with antiracist andanticolonial projects that stand for social justice and human rightsfor ALL.

We ask CAAM: will you takea principled stand against occupation, colonization, and apartheid?

 

Signed,

US Campaign for theAcademic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)

Al Awda: The PalestineRight to Return Coalition

The Arab Film Festival

National Coalition of ArabAmericans

Arab Resource andOrganizing Center (AROC), San Francisco

Arab and MuslimEthnicities and Diasporas Initiative, College of Ethnic Studies, San

Francisco State University

Bay Area Labor Committeefor Peace & Justice

Davis Committee forPalestinian Rights

Friends ofPalestine‐Wisconsin

Wisconsin Middle EastLobby Group

Berkeley Women in Black

San Francisco Women InBlack

Students Allied forFreedom & Equality (SAFE), University of Michigan‐Ann Arbor

US Palestinian CommunityNetwork (USPCN)

Queers Undermining IsraeliTerrorism (QUIT!)

14 Friends of Palestine,Marin

Free Palestine Movement

International SolidarityMovement ‐ Northern California

Global March to Jerusalem‐ North America

South Bay Mobilization forPeace and Justice

American Muslims forPalestine

Middle East Study Group,Contra Costa

Hilton Head for Peace,Hilton Head, SC

St. Louis PalestineSolidarity Committee

National LawyersGuild‐Free Palestine Subcommittee

Peace in the Precincts -Sacramento

United Methodists’ HolyLand Task Force

Bay Area Women in Black

InterDenominationalAdvocates for Peace, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Interfaith Community forPalestinian Rights, Austin, Texas

Sacramento BDS

 

3) Letter from Dr. Jess Ghannam,President of the Board of Directors of the Arab Film Festival

 

June 19th 2012

To: Stephen Gong, ED & Boardof Directors of CAAM

I was truly shocked and disappointed tolearn that CAAM was co-sponsoring a film festival with the IsraeliConsulate in San Francisco. As the President of the Board of the ArabFilm Festival, I find this disturbing and a contradiction to themission and vision of CAAM. I am writing to voice my concern andrequest that CAAM withdraw its co-sponsorship. To continue with thiscooperation is tantamount to supporting apartheid and ignores thebrutal state-sponsored policies of Israel.

The Israeli statehas been engaged in an illegal military occupation, annexation ofland, home demolitions, collective punishment and displacement ofPalestinians that has been condemned globally and by hundreds of UNresolutions. It has inflicted numerous military assaults onPalestinians using disproportionate violence and illegal chemicalweapons, as in the most recent massacre in Gaza in 2008-09. It hasconstructed a Wall that encloses and restricts Palestinian life andannexes Palestinian land that has been deemed illegal by theInternational Court of Justice. Israel has enacted systemic and oftenlegally sanctioned discrimination against the Palestinian citizens ofIsrael, because they are non-Jews, leading Archbishop Desmond Tutuand numerous human rights activists to describe this situation asapartheid, and for some even worse than  conditions in apartheidSouth Africa. It continues to deny Palestinian refugees dispossessedand displaced by Israel their right of return as enshrined ininternational law. Israel’s violations of human rights are simply toonumerous to recount in a brief summary, but they are by now welldocumented and increasingly challenged, including by the growingboycott, divestment and sanctions movement across the world and inthe U.S.
 
Palestinian civil society has called for theinternational community to engage in an academic and cultural boycottof Israel (www.pacbi.org), "Given that hundreds of UNresolutions have condemned Israel’s colonial and discriminatorypolicies as illegal and called for immediate, adequate and effectiveremedies, and Given that all forms of international intervention andpeace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel tocomply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights andto end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine, andIn view of the fact that people of conscience in the internationalcommunity have historically shouldered the moral responsibility tofight injustice, as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheidin South Africa through diverse forms of boycott, divestment andsanctions."
 
It is my view that CAAM and thefestival are being used in a massive propaganda effort; not one ofthe films featured addresses the occupation or racial discriminationand segregation policies targeting Palestinians. In fact, thefestival seems to be an attempt to evade an honest and opendiscussion of the reality of Israel and to forge an alliance with theChinese and Asian American community on the backs of silencedPalestinians. 


We call on Chinese and Asian Americancommunity organizations and individuals to stand in solidarity withthose challenging occupation, apartheid, warfare, and colonialism.There are many films that powerfully document the situation on theground in Israel, made by Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers alike.None of these films are being shown at this festival. In addition, weare deeply concerned at the partnership of Chinese American and AsianAmerican cultural organizations in an anti-Palestinian programrather than in a project of anti-racist and anti-colonial solidaritythat stand on the side of social justice and human rights forALL. 

As the President of the Arab Film Festival acurrent Board Member of the Arab Cultural and Community Center I cantell you that the Arab-American Community feels betrayed by theactions of CAAM and this most certainly will damage the progressiveand important alliances we have made over the years. I am truly hurtand disappointed by these actions. I do hope that CAAM and the Boardof CAAM will be true to their mission and not participate inwhite-washing the brutal policies of the state of Israel.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jess Ghannam
President, Board ofDirectors
Arab Film Festival

 

4) Letter from Prominent Indivdualsand Academics in the Progressive Jewish Community

 

June 17, 2012

 

Stephen Gong

Executive Director

Center for Asian AmericanMedia

 

Dear Mr. Gong:

We write you as members ofthe progressive Jewish community here in the San Francisco Bay Areato share our concern about CAAM’s sponsorship of the Israel ChinaCultural Film Festival to take place on June 26-28.

We are Jews committed toprogressive values of human and civil rights, dignity and equity andtherefore are deeply critical of Israeli policy toward Palestinians,Israeli impunity in the face of countless and flagrant human rightsviolations, and its lack of accountability to UN resolutions. Assuch, we support the full call for boycott, divestment and sanctionsagainst Israel until it complies with international and human rightslaw.

We thereforewholeheartedly also support the request of the US Campaign for theAcademic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) called for byPalestinian civil society as a means to bring Israel to respectinternational law and request that you take a principled standagainst occupation and apartheid. Your support of the pursuit forcultural connections between the Jews in Israel and Chinese Americansencourages the Asian American community to overlook the political andeconomic context of disenfranchisement and ethnic cleansing of thePalestinian people. By doing so, you participate in silencing callsfrom the Palestinian people for support in their struggle for theirrights.

Our understanding is thatCAAM’s mission is driven by the intention to challengemisperceptions and generalizations about Asian Americans that prevailin public discourse. Yet, by sponsoring the Israel China CulturalFilm Festival, you will serve to reinforce misperceptions andgeneralizations about the Palestinian people – in the West Bank, inGaza, inside of Israel, and among refugee communities, includingthose here in the United States.

As members of SanFrancisco’s diverse progressive community, we are always looking tobuild alliances based on common interests of civil and human rights. We welcome such an alliance with CAAM and would defend your decisionto take a principled stance against the use of CAAM’s name tojustify Israeli apartheid.

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