More than 50 prominent filmmakers, writers, artists and academics — including Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Alice Walker — have signed a letter denouncing the move at the festival, which runs Sept. 10-19.
“As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by [the festival’s] decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv,” states the letter, set to be published online Thursday. “We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.”
“We do not protest the  individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City,” the letter continues. “Nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However … we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of … an apartheid regime.”
Other signatories include singer David Byrne, actor Wallace Shawn and Canadian author Naomi Klein.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by some of these celebrities. Jane Fonda may have been decent eye candy a long time ago (in a galaxy far away), but she has long shown herself to be a traitor to her country and supporter of evil. Danny Glover hung out with Mel Gibson way above the Surgeon General’s recommended levels, so this was bound to happen. And Wallace Shawn is just a creepy little man.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has responded magnificently:
Two-time Oscar winner Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called the boycott “an attack on the heart and soul of Israel.”
“People who support letters like this are people who do not support a two-state solution,” he was quoted as saying on Hilton’s blog.
“By calling into question the legitimacy of Tel Aviv, they are supporting a one-state solution, which means the destruction of the State of Israel. I applaud the organizers of the festival for celebrating on the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv. If every city in the Middle East would be as culturally diverse, as open to freedom of expression as Tel Aviv is, then peace would long have come to the Middle East.”
Rabbi Hier has hit it on the head. Even if you wanted the palestinians to have a state in the areas Israel captured in the Six Day War of defence, why would you have a problem with Tel Aviv? The answer is, as Rabbi Hier states: these numbskulls have a problem with the existence of the State of Israel (as do most of those who support the “palestinian cause”). And he’s caught them out on it.
Update: TMZ received the following statement from Jane Fonda:
“I, in no way, support the destruction of Israel. I am for the two-state solution. I have been to Israel many times and love the country and its people.”
And some of her best friends are Jewish.
Don’t insult our intelligence just because you’re lacking your own, Ms Fonda.
Update: This letter by the co-director of the Toronto film festival, which explains the decision to showcase Tel Aviv, is just as problematic as the protest letter it sets out to criticize.
An Open Letter on City to City: Tel Aviv
On August 27, John Greyson withdrew his film Covered from the Toronto International Film Festival as a protest against our City to City focus on films from Tel Aviv. The next day, he and nine other Torontonians issued a petition inviting the city’s cultural communities to “protest TIFF’s complicity with the Israeli propaganda machine.” We felt it was important to directly respond to these allegations.
Obviously we are disappointed by John’s decision to withdraw his film. We are great admirers of his work and have been presenting his films at our Festival for almost 20 years. That said, we were surprised that he took this action given the facts of the situation.
As the programmer of City To City, I was attracted to Tel Aviv as our inaugural city because the films being made there explore and critique the city from many different perspectives. Furthermore, the City to City series was conceived and curated entirely independently. There was no pressure from any outside source. Contrary to rumours or mistaken media reports, this focus is a product only of TIFF’s programming decisions. We value that independence and would never compromise it.
The goal of City to City is to take a closer look at global cities through a cinematic lens, especially cities where film contributes to or chronicles social change in compelling ways. We believe that the 10 films in our inaugural programme do just that. We encourage everyone to see the films, engage in debate and draw their own conclusions.
In addition to City to City, our Festival lineup also includes other important films from the region, including two films by Palestinian filmmakers and others from Lebanon and Egypt. As these films address the past history and current realities of the region, we hope they will become part of this year’s conversations.
John writes that his protest isn’t against the films or filmmakers we have chosen, but against the spotlight itself. By that reasoning, no films programmed within this series would have met his approval, no matter what they contained. For us, the content and form of films does matter. In fact, when I met with a number of the signatories earlier this week, I encouraged them to see the films before passing judgment on the programme. Regrettably, they chose a different route. We know some of them to be veterans of Toronto’s battles against censorship — all the more surprising to watch them denounce a film series without seeing the films in it.
We recognize that Tel Aviv is not a simple choice and that the city remains contested ground. We continue to learn more about the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. As a festival that values debate and the exchange of cultures, we will continue to screen the best films we can find from around the world. This is our contribution to expanding our audiences’ experience of this art form and the worlds it represents.
Co-Director, Toronto International Film Festival
Since when is Tel Aviv “contested ground”?