[Boycott - Cultural]
British critic of Israel to head 60th anniversary film festival
Jonny Paul, The Jerusalem Post
3 January 2008
A fierce critic of Israel has been chosen by the British Council to play a key role in the annual British Film Festival in Israel next month.
British filmmaker Judy Price, an activist in the fringe group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, has been selected to curate a series of archival film screenings around the British Mandate period for the festival marking Israel's 60th anniversary.
Price, in turn, invited Israeli-born anti-Zionist film lecturer Haim Bresheeth to take part in the festival. However, Bresheeth turned down the request, saying he said he would not come to the "racist" state to speak, as Israel had "crossed all the boundaries of a civilized nation."
My whole family was destroyed by the Nazis in the death camps and ghettos, and will not participate in any action which denies the rights of the Palestinians, or which celebrates the victory‚ of their oppressors
Haim Bresheeth, Israeli-born anti-Zionist film lecturer
"The best and only thing we could and should all be doing is having no contact whatsoever with official and institutional Israel, certainly not being part of the celebrations of the destruction of Palestine," he said.
"My whole family was destroyed by the Nazis in the death camps and ghettos, and will not participate in any action which denies the rights of the Palestinians, or which celebrates the victory‚ of their oppressors," he added.
In response, Price said she saw the festival as "an opportunity to bring to the forefront the British Mandate's role in the Nakba and establishment in the State of Israel and to construct a program that could not in any way be interpreted as jingoistic or nationalistic."
A spokesperson for the British Council in Tel Aviv told The Jerusalem Post that Price had been chosen for her artistic credentials.
The private email from Judy Price to Haim Bresheet was published by David T ( David Toube ) of the neocon blog Harry's Place as part of their vilification of Ms Price's selection to curate the festival. Since it is already in the public domain we have reproduced it below:
Thank you for your e-mail and your comments which I value highly. There can be no doubt that a voice that speaks the truth, and that acknowledges the reality of life on the ground, outside of distractions, ideologies and distortions is vital in situations like this. Your concerns are not dissimilar from my own. How is it possible to speak at all in the arena of calamity and violence, when somehow speaking seems to be emollient or at best compromised?
With these thoughts in mind I had a great deal of soul searching to do when the British Council asked me to curate a series of archival film screenings around the British Mandate period. This soul searching has not gone away and throughout the planning, the question of whether I am a complicit with the 'occupation', and ongoing acts of violence against Palestinians by participating in a discussion in Israel is always on my mind.
Having not taken on this project lightly I decided that it is as an opportunity to bring to the forefront the British Mandates role in the Naqba and establishment in the State of Israel and to construct a programme that could not in anyway be interpreted as jingoistic or nationalistic.
Whether I, or anyone can provide an answer to the question; engage constructively or condemn through silence is frankly beyond me. I do know that there are a large number of constituencies involved in this and I, and hopefully you, can shape things in constructive engaged and way.
I can only do things within certain parameters, parameters set by geopolitical forces right down to the personalities of people that I am working with. The British Council is trying to operate with integrity, not to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel but to mark it in a critical way along with the Naqba.
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