Film Forum:

Don't Whitewash Apartheid

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UPDATE 7/6: This morning Film Forum released a statement from its director Karen Cooper claiming never to have accepted funding from the Israeli government. We are glad that a major cultural institution feels compelled to distance itself strongly from Israeli apartheid. Unfortunately, however, Film Forum's statement is misleading. The response from the organizers of the open letter is below:

 

Dear Karen Cooper 

 

Thank you for your prompt reply. While we appreciate the clarification, the use of Israeli government funds by by the film's distributor constitutes a clear violation of the call for cultural boycott, both in spirit and letter. As the full guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI -- linked below), note, "a public event/activity carried out under the sponsorship/aegis of or in affiliation with an official Israeli body or a complicit institution constitutes complicity and therefore is deserving of boycott." A distributor that accepts funds from the Israeli consulate is a perfect example of a complicit institution. The use of such funds to support the cast and crew's participation in Film Forum events is thus a clear instance of crossing the international "picket line."

 

We also note Film Forum's longstanding collaboration with the Jerusalem Cinematheque, including frequent use of funds provided or administered by that institution. While this was not the focus of the initial letter, the PACBI guidelines similarly note that, "As a general overriding rule, Israeli cultural institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence or actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights." This characterization applies to the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

 

We are glad to hear that Film Forum itself has not directly solicited funding from the Israeli government. But we call on it to take a stronger stance against apartheid and to commit to abstaining from any future collaboration with partners funded by the Israeli state.

 

For the detailed PACBI guidelines, please see: https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi/cultural-boycott-guidelines

 

Sincerely,

 

Elena Comay del Junco and Maya Shoukri

Dear Film Forum,

 

We are a diverse group of writers, artists, scholars, filmmakers and, above all, film lovers. We were disturbed and upset to learn that Film Forum recently accepted funding from the Israeli Consulate in order to fund the screening of “Asia” (2020). The Israeli government uses cultural funding in order to whitewash and distract from its program of apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. We call on Film Forum to ensure that this recent decision does not set a precedent, and to commit to not accepting funding from the Israeli government or associated institutions in the future.

 

To accept funding from the Israeli government is to accept complicity in the system of Israeli apartheid. That Israel is an apartheid state has long been a consensus in the Palestinian community and is now recognized by mainstream human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch as well as Israeli organizations like B’Tselem. 

 

Since 2005, a broad spectrum of Palestinian civil society organizations have called for economic, cultural and academic boycotts of Israeli institutions. This includes not collaborating with Israeli cultural institutions as well as rejecting funding from the Israeli state and associated institutions. Film Forum’s website acknowledges the theater sits on the lands of the Lenape people and makes a commitment to “shedding light on the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism and forced migration.” Such a commitment is meaningless without honoring calls from Palestinians for solidarity.

 

This would be enough to justify our call. However, at the time Film Forum began screening a film sponsored by the Israeli government, Israel had just killed over 200 Palestinians in Gaza, including 60 children. To call Israel’s attacks on Gaza a “war” is a grotesque misrepresentation: Gaza has been under siege and blockade since 2007, its population denied basic humanitarian supplies. It is justly termed the largest open air prison in the world. To accept funding from the Israeli state is to endorse this.

 

Right now, Israel is in the process of evicting over 1500 Palestinians from the Silwan neighbordhood in East Jerusalem in order to demolish their homes and replace them with a Biblically-themed amusement park, as part of its broader aim to ethnically cleanse the city of its indigenous Palestinian residents. To accept funding from the Israeli state is to accept 

complicity in this, too.

 

Now more than ever, as Israeli actions against the Palestinian population across historic Palestine are attracting increased outrage in the United States, it is imperative for individuals and institutions here to reject complicity. Americans and American institutions are not disconnected from Israel’s actions. The United States government funds the Israeli occupation and persecution of Palestinian lands and people with almost 4 billion dollars a year in direct military aid.

 

Culture also plays a role in manufacturing consent for apartheid; the Israeli government recognizes this well and uses cultural diplomacy to its advantage. Art in general and film in particular is an arena in which International perceptions are shaped and reshaped. Last year, over 100 filmmakers and critics pledged not to take part in TLVFest, an Israeli-government funded LGBT+ film festival. In 2009, a group of filmmakers and actors called on the Toronto International Film Festival to cancel its decision to showcase Israeli films. In a letter signed by Ken Loach, David Byrne, and Jane Fonda, filmmaker John Greyson compared this to “celebrating Montgomery buses in 1963 … Chilean wines in 1973 … or South African fruit in 1991.” We wholeheartedly agree, and consider Film Forum’s decision to accept Israeli funding to be no different.

 

Film Forum is a unique institution in New York City. It is a place where many of us have received an education in classic film, and an institution that is dear to our hearts. So many of us during the last year of the pandemic were excited to return to screenings at Film Forum. The decision to accept this funding comes as a profound disappointment, and is a betrayal of Film Forum’s fundamental mission.  We are saddened but resolute that if Film Forum does not rectify its complicity in occupation and apartheid, a boycott of screenings and participating in cultural collaborations may become necessary.

 

Film Forum describes itself as “a cinema of ideas… committed to presenting an international array of films that treat diverse social, political, historical and cultural realities.” The reality is that to allow Israel to whitewash its practices of apartheid and ethnic cleansing through cultural funding is to be complicit in these practices. In its mission statement, Film Forum also notes that it aims to “take risks on emerging filmmakers and challenging films.” It is now time to step up and meet the necessary challenge of standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their demands for justice.

 

Signed,

 

CLICK HERE TO SIGN

 

  1. Anita Abbasi, writer/director

  2. Dima Abisaab

  3. Adam Abou-Heif

  4. Ruanne Abou-Rahme

  5. George Abraham

  6. Nayrouz Abu Hatoum, Concordia University

  7. Natalie Adler

  8. Maryam Ahmed

  9. Yagmur Akyurek

  10. Hoor Al Qasimi, Director, Sharjah Art Foundation

  11. Ra’anan Alexandrowicz

  12. Nazeeh Alghazawneh, Filmmaker

  13. Morehshin Allahyari, artist and educator

  14. Brendan Allen

  15. Anayvelyse Allen-Mossman

  16. Ahmed Almaazmi

  17. Carol Almeida, foradequadro.com

  18. Yousef Naji Al-Mutairi

  19. Stephen Altobelli

  20. Joel Neville Anderson

  21. Mehr Ansari

  22. Ryah Aqel

  23. May Arjomand

  24. Shalu Arjomand

  25. Queen Arsem-O’Malley

  26. Ratik Asokan 

  27. Hadeel Assali, Columbia University PhD Candidate 

  28. Michalina Augusiak, Historian and Curator

  29. Hicham Awad

  30. Alia Ayman

  31. Hallie Ayres

  32. Negar Azimi

  33. Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Brown University

  34. Neil Bahadur

  35. Dicky Bahto

  36. Marie Bardi, Producer

  37. Eric Barroso, CineLimite

  38. Angelica Jade Bastién

  39. Andy Battle

  40. Thomas Beard

  41. Laura K. Becker

  42. Colin Beckett

  43. Gabriella Beckhurst

  44. Lisa Behné Eie, artist

  45. Christopher Jason Bell, Filmmaker

  46. Emma Ben Ayoun

  47. Jamine Benjamin

  48. Meriem Bennani

  49. Mathilda Bennett-Greene

  50. Michael Berdan

  51. Alixandria Berg

  52. Jess Bergman

  53. Claire Berkowitz, MSW

  54. Jacob A. Berkowitz

  55. Mischa Berlin 

  56. Omar Berrada, writer and curator

  57. b.h. Yael

  58. Irene Bindi, Editor at ARP Books, Artist

  59. Hannah Black, artist and writer

  60. Niko Block

  61. Bob Boddingham, film archivist

  62. Luciana Bolivar, Filmmaker

  63. Beth Bramich

  64. Zed Brecherman

  65. Matt Brim

  66. Gavin Briscoe, Magnolia Pictures

  67. Madison Brookshire

  68. Annabel Bruno

  69. Bingham Bryant, former Film Forum staff

  70. Dora Budor

  71. Harry Burke

  72. Dave Burnham

  73. William M. Burton

  74. Mustafa Emin Büyükcoşkun, filmmaker

  75. Maya Cade

  76. Ashwin Caffery

  77. Alejandro Calcaño Bertorelli

  78. May Calil

  79. Helen Carey

  80. Matthew Carlson

  81. Georgie Carr, University of Sussex

  82. Graham L. Carter

  83. Lluis Alexandre Casanovas Blanco, Princeton University 

  84. Sam Cate-Gumpert

  85. Daniel Chalfen

  86. Andrew Chan

  87. Phoebe Chen 

  88. Durga Chew-Bose

  89. Ethan Chiel

  90. Diya Chordia

  91. Nadia Christidi, PhD candidate, MIT

  92. Beatrix Chu

  93. Eva Cilman 

  94. Stella Cilman

  95. Dylan Cloud

  96. Iris Cohen, Production Manager

  97. Steven David Cohen, Yale PhD Student

  98. Phil Coldiron

  99. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone

  100. Rebecca Comay

  101. Elena Comay del Junco

  102. Katherine Connell

  103. Daniel Cooper

  104. Eli Coplan

  105. Corina Copp

  106. Lily Corne Klein

  107. Cathy Lee Crane, Filmmaker

  108. Olivia Crough

  109. Marcus Cuffie, Film Enthusiast 

  110. Mia Curran

  111. Heather Davis,  Assistant Professor of Culture and Media, The New School

  112. Rachel Day

  113. Maria Eduarda de Sousa

  114. Aria Dean

  115. Marina Defranco Ford

  116. Edem Dela-Seshie, Writer/Producer 

  117. Sarah Delgadillo Rabah

  118. Hanan Delić

  119. Monica Delgado, Desistfilm.com

  120. Evan Dent

  121. Devan Diaz, Writer 

  122. Óscar Moisés Díaz, Poet, Independent Film Curator, Tierra Narrative

  123. Eli Diner

  124. Isha Dipika Walia 

  125. Yashaswi Dixit, Filmmaker

  126. Ted Dodson, Writer and Editor

  127. Courtney Duckworth

  128. Flora Dunster

  129. Ben Eckersley

  130. Eric Eidelstein

  131. Tania El Khoury

  132. Bilge Emir

  133. Irmgard Emmelhainz

  134. Matthew Eng

  135. Berfu Erdogan

  136. Christy Escobar

  137. Harry Eskin, Moving Image Archivist

  138. Kareem Estefan 

  139. Jason Evans, This Long Century

  140. Reem Fadda, curator

  141. Hazem Fahmy, Film Critic

  142. Fadl Fakhouri, Columbia University Visual Arts MFA Candidate

  143. Summer Farah, Radius of Arab American Writers

  144. Marwa Farag

  145. Kiki Febriyanti, Film Director

  146. Hannah Feldman

  147. Renée Feltz

  148. Clark Filio, artist/producer

  149. Katie Finnegan

  150. Anthea Fisher

  151. Emily Fitzell

  152. Jared Fitzsimons

  153. Pierre Folliet

  154. OK Fox

  155. Erin Freedman

  156. Sarah Friedland, Filmmaker

  157. Caroline Fulford

  158. Nathan Fuller

  159. Richard Fung, OCAD University Professor Emeritus 

  160. Miakoda Gale

  161. Meg Galeucia

  162. Cindy Gao

  163. Natasha Garbawi

  164. Gabrielle Garcia

  165. Ellis Garey

  166. Saru Garg

  167. Kyle M Garner

  168. Daniel Genoves-Sylvan

  169. Rami George

  170. Tavi Gevinson

  171. Tamar Ghabin

  172. Anila Gill

  173. Devika Girish

  174. Nicholas Glastonbury, PhD Student, CUNY Graduate Center

  175. Braeden Glickman

  176. Marko Gluhaich

  177. Annie Godfrey Larmon

  178. Kyle Goen

  179. Ariel Goldberg

  180. Marcs Goldberg

  181. Peter Goldberg

  182. Nan Goldin, artist

  183. Leo Goldsmith, Teacher, Writer

  184. Yoni Golijov, Documentary Producer (Risk, 2016)

  185. Caroline Golum, Spectacle

  186. Miriam Gordis

  187. Sylvia Gorelick

  188. Akiva Gottlieb

  189. Micah Gottlieb

  190. Jack Gross

  191. Sanja Grozdanic

  192. Aurelia Guo

  193. Samantha Hadara

  194. Sarah Hagi, Critic

  195. Ryan Halpain

  196. Dee Hamid

  197. Diana Hamilton

  198. A.S. Hamrah, film critic, The Baffler

  199. Maya Harakawa

  200. Shuruq Harb, Artist, filmmaker and writer

  201. Vanessa Hardy

  202. Patrick Harrison

  203. Tobi Haslett

  204. Brian Haver

  205. Kaleem Hawa

  206. Ziyad Hawwas, Film Editor

  207. Edwina Hay

  208. Mostafa Heddaya 

  209. Louis Henderson

  210. Joseph Henry

  211. Deborah Herron

  212. Kate Hinshaw

  213. Jillian Hirsch

  214. Rissa Hochberger

  215. Jack Hogan

  216. Lizzie Homersham

  217. Livia Huang

  218. Jim Hubbard

  219. Sam Huber

  220. Amin Husain 

  221. Cindy Hwang

  222. Jordan Michael Iannucci

  223. Sherif Ahmed Ibrahim, Columbia University

  224. Andrew Infante

  225. Sanjana M. Iyer, Wendy’s Subway 

  226. Trevor Izzo

  227. Jeiran J, Columbia University

  228. Anisa Jackson

  229. Grace Blue Jackson, Sarah Lawrence College

  230. Deenah Jacques

  231. Ali Jaffery, Filmmaker and Programmer 

  232. Disha Karnad Jani, Princeton University

  233. Derek Jenkins

  234. Erin Johnson

  235. Matthew Johnston, PhD Candidate, Columbia University

  236. Julia Judge

  237. Lea Jungmann

  238. Köken K.

  239. Fawz Kabra

  240. Eman Kadura 

  241. Stanya Kahn, Filmmaker and Artist

  242. Nevin Kallepalli, Writer 

  243. Ernst Karel, Harvard University

  244. Brett Kashmere

  245. Adam Katzman

  246. Tenaya Kelleher

  247. Colleen Kelsey

  248. Liam Kenny

  249. Erich Kessel Jr

  250. Will Keyes

  251. Naqqash Khalid, Director

  252. Samaa Khullar

  253. Ayqa Khan

  254. Katie Kirkland

  255. Elias Kleinbock, Princeton University

  256. Dana Kopel

  257. Shiv Kotecha

  258. Alexander Kouhi

  259. Nicholas Kouhi, Programmer and Critic

  260. Jennifer Krasinski

  261. Noah Kulwin, writer

  262. Carin Kuoni

  263. Jessica Kwok

  264. Daniel Laabs

  265. Emily LaBarge

  266. Guanglin Lai 

  267. Andrew Lampert

  268. Michael Landes

  269. William Latta

  270. Josh Lawson

  271. Jessica Leach

  272. Oni Lem

  273. Dominic Leppla, film scholar

  274. Jerry Li

  275. Aaron Linskey, Film Daze

  276. Jenny Loeffler 

  277. Miguel Lopez, Clown/Director

  278. Jordan Lord, filmmaker and artist

  279. Antonia Loreno, MFA Candidate-UCSC

  280. RH Lossin

  281. Kevin Lozano

  282. L u m i a

  283. Joseph Lubitz, arts union member, independent curator

  284. Julian Lucas

  285. Daniel Lupo

  286. Sumayya M.

  287. Kevin Macauley

  288. Steve Macfarlane, Spectacle 

  289. Ryanne Madrid Ello, writer

  290. Eugene Magnani

  291. Tiffany Malakooti, Bidoun

  292. Claudia Mallea

  293. Lameesa Mallic

  294. Jumana Manna, Filmmaker 

  295. Mary Manning

  296. Clare Mao

  297. Ramzi Maqdisi, actor and filmmaker

  298. JR Martin

  299. Bill Martin, translator

  300. Hana Masaarane

  301. Ferial Massoud

  302. Mila Matveeva

  303. Alex Matzke

  304. D W Mault

  305. Jake May

  306. Jolie Maya-Altshuler

  307. So Mayer

  308. Mike Mazzotta, The Basement Labs

  309. Blair McClendon, editor and writer

  310. Ross McDonell

  311. Mary McDonough

  312. Katy McQuillan

  313. Christopher Mello, writer

  314. Ara H. Merjian, NYU

  315. Nicole Meyer

  316. Lake Micah

  317. Chaya Michla

  318. Dave Miller

  319. Jason Miller, Former Film Forum Member

  320. Paul Mirek

  321. K. Bellamy Mitchell

  322. Haley Mlotek

  323. Jessica Marion Modi

  324. Juan Molina

  325. Stephanie Monohan, Spectacle 

  326. Vicente Monroy

  327. Joseph C. Montgomery

  328. Sheehan Moore

  329. Luke Moses

  330. P.E. Moskowitz, writer/journalist

  331. Aleisa Moussa

  332. Charlie Muller

  333. Yuka Murakami

  334. Medina Musa

  335. Lina Najem

  336. Perwana Nazif

  337. Max Nelson

  338. Jeannie Nguyen

  339. Minh Nguyen 

  340. Tony Nguyen

  341. Tausif Noor

  342. Ruun Nuur, No Evil Eye Cinema

  343. Chrystel Oloukoi

  344. Kamelya Omayma Youssef, Poet 

  345. Chris Osborn

  346. Ryan O’Toole

  347. Aron Ouzilevski

  348. Laura Owens

  349. Maru Pabón, Graduate Student

  350. Marine Pariente

  351. Joohee Park

  352. Cecilia Pascual

  353. Ciara Patten

  354. Stefan Pavlovic, Filmmaker

  355. Semaj Peltier

  356. Daniel Perlmutter

  357. Gloria Imseih Petrelli

  358. Andreas Petrossiants, independent scholar 

  359. Eric Phipps

  360. Stephen Piccarella

  361. Michael Piantini

  362. Carlos Pinon

  363. Maria Prado

  364. Yasmina Price

  365. Laila Qaddumi

  366. Noor Qasim

  367. Lucas Quigley

  368. Ikaika Ramones

  369. Sara Rahimi

  370. Tareq Radi

  371. Daria Reaven

  372. William Remmers

  373. Kate Rennebohm

  374. Kayleigh Ristuben

  375. Ricardo Rivera, PhD Student, UC Berkeley 

  376. Jess Rizkallah, NYU

  377. Quinn Roberts

  378. Eduardo F. Rosario

  379. Andrew Ross-NYU

  380. Bessie Rubinstein

  381. Sam Rush

  382. Francey Russell

  383. Kate Russell, PhD Student 

  384. Bassem Saad

  385. Elena Saavedra Buckley

  386. Djeneba Saccoh, Film Student

  387. Viviane Saglier 

  388. Marina Samuel

  389. Brandon Sanichar

  390. Rex Santus

  391. Suneil Sanzgiri, Filmmaker

  392. Sam Saper

  393. Sarah Sarai

  394. Jose Sarmiento Hinojosa, Desistfilm.com

  395. Samaa Savadjian

  396. Asha Schechter

  397. Jane Schoenbrun, Filmmaker

  398. Cory Schoonover

  399. Gabriel Schubiner

  400. Sarah Schulman

  401. Jourdain Searles

  402. Pooja Senq

  403. Ekrem Serdar

  404. Elhum Shakerifar, Producer & Curator, Hakawati

  405. Diana Shanahan

  406. Herb Shellenberger

  407. JS Shokrian, artist and scholar

  408. Chris Shortt

  409. Maya Shoukri

  410. Tarek Shoukri 

  411. Thora Siemsen

  412. Catarina Simoes, Artist, Filmmaker

  413. Alex Simon

  414. Asher Isaac Sinaiko

  415. Manvir Singh

  416. Brook Sinkinson Withrow, Writer and Producer

  417. Eyal Sivan, Filmmaker

  418. Joëlle Skaf 

  419. Nadine Smith, freelance writer & critic

  420. Paul Smith

  421. R Snow

  422. Clarke Sondermann

  423. Brittany Spanos, Rolling Stone

  424. Alessandra Spigno

  425. Megan Stater Shaw

  426. Courtney Stephens

  427. Gabrielle Stiles

  428. Sierra Stinson

  429. Erick Stoll, filmmaker

  430. Olivia Streisand

  431. Elisabeth Subrin, Filmmaker/Professor

  432. Rowan Sullivan

  433. Madelyn Sutton

  434. Tommy Swenson, Beacon Cinema

  435. Naseem Syed

  436. Kristen Sze-Tu

  437. Maryam Tafakory

  438. Lucy Talbot Allen

  439. Yasmina Tawil, Arab Film and Media Institute 

  440. Fargo Nissim Tbakhi, Performance Artist and Poet

  441. Sadra Tehrani 

  442. Gina Telaroli

  443. Sofia Theodore-Pierce

  444. Eugenie Theuer

  445. Vanessa Thill

  446. Breanne Thomas, Producer

  447. Petra Torsan, UNATC I.L. Caragiale

  448. Karen Trang

  449. Chloe Truong-Jones

  450. Kyle Turner, Freelance Writer

  451. Sam Turner

  452. Rachel Valinsky

  453. Carlos Gerardo Valladares, Writer

  454. Nancy Valladares

  455. Christopher van Horn

  456. Sophie van Well Groeneveld

  457. Janique Vigier, writer

  458. Rachel W., Producer

  459. Matthew Wagstaffe

  460. Milo Ward

  461. Laura Weil

  462. Ethan Weinstock, filmmaker

  463. Etan Weisfogel

  464. Valerie Werder, Film and Visual Studies PhD Student, Harvard University

  465. Alex Werner

  466. Lee Whitten, Associate Professor Art History Emeritus, Los Angeles City College

  467. Joshua Harold Wiebe

  468. Meg Wiessner

  469. Elvia Wilk

  470. Conor Williams, Writer and Filmmaker

  471. Missouri Williams

  472. Brandon Wilner, Writer

  473. Bryce Wilner

  474. Eddie Wilson

  475. Gleb Wilson

  476. Nine Yamamoto, Artist and Academic, University of Amsterdam

  477. Joe Yanick, Sales Agent

  478. Nadia Yaqub, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  479. Fatma Yehia

  480. Michelle Yoon

  481. Kristen Yoonsoo Kim

  482. Ahmad Zaghal

  483. Kit Zauhar

  484. Abeeha Zawar

  485. Alexander Zevin, scholar 

  486. Andros Zins-Browne

  487. Aman Zutshi

  488. Mikeeh Zwirner, IMAAFUSS

 

(Inquiries should be sent to ejcdelj@gmail.com or mayanshoukri@gmail.com)

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