A £300 grant from the Israeli embassy was returned by the Endinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) in response to pressure from prominent anti-Israel British film director Ken Loach, who urged “all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation and stay away.” The grant was to be used to pay the travel expenses from Israel to Scotland for Tali Shalom-Ezer, a graduate of Tel Aviv University, whose film is scheduled to be screened at the event.
“By banning the Israeli Embassy from supporting a filmmaker, the festival is helping to exclude Israelis from British cultural life, something that is clearly unfair,” said Lord Janner of Braunstone, a Labour party member of the House of Lords. Lord Janner is the former President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the main representative body of British Jewry. He is also the Founder and President of the Commonwealth Jewish Council and the Inter-Parliamentary Council Against Antisemitism.
Sir Jeremy Isaacs, former CEO of Channel Four, said, “I have admired the Edinburgh International Film Festival for many years and would like to think that this appalling decision will be rescinded.”
When the United Arab Emirates refused a visa to Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer, preventing her participation in Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, the Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon took a stand and refused to broadcast the event. “This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong,” he said. “Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion. They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.”
While movies often have political themes, Ms. Shalom-Ezer’s film, Surrogate, does not. It is a romance set in a sex clinic. Like Mr. Solomon, the board members of the EIFF should have taken a position against a bullying manifestation of bigotry.
At least they are making a proper gesture. A spokesman for the EIFF said that the festival will pay Ms. Shalom-Ezer’s travel expenses.
The Edinburgh Bigotry Festival [Spectator.co.uk; Melanie Phillips; May 21, 2009]
Edinburgh film festival bows to pressure from Ken Loach over Israeli boycott [Times Online; May 20, 2009]