Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

This Just In!  Canadian Filmmaker John Greyson Declines Offer to Premiere Film at TLVFest

John Greyson, a prominent Canadian filmmaker, has recently turned down an offer to premiere his film "Fig Trees" at the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, in support of BDS. Greyson is a member of Queers Against Israeli ApartheidRead all about it.

Call on International Queer Filmmakers to Withdraw from TLVFest

QUIT! is calling on international LGBT filmmakers not to submit their films or accept invitations to the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, known as TLVFest.  At least one international filmmaker has already declined to participate in the festival, citing the recent assault on Gaza as the deciding factor.

If you know any queer filmmakers, please urge them to respect the cultural boycott by refusing to participate in TLVFest.

British writer/director Shamim Sarif has already accepted an invitation, but we are asking her to withdraw her new film, "I Can't Think Straight" from the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival this June.  She has responded to those who have written to her, including QUIT, saying that she is still considering what to do.  Please write to Shamim Sarif and add your voice to the call for her to stand up for human rights by withdrawing from the festival.  Sample letter.

January 6, 2009

Dear Shamim Sarif,

Congratulations on the completion and success of your two films, “The World Unseen” and “I Can’t Think Straight.” What a wonderful accomplishment!

We understand that you are planning to show “I Can’t Think Straight” at the Tel Aviv Film Festival. QUIT! (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism), a grassroots organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, is asking you to join hundreds of internationally organized artists, academics and activists in respecting the cultural boycott of Israel, called by over 100 organizations of Palestinian civil society.

Last week, Israel has launched a devastating assault on Gaza, killing more than 500 people in six days, nearly half of them civilians, including 90 children. It has refused calls for a ceasefire, and cynically declared that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This egregious violation of international law and human rights makes it even more urgent that we in the international community do everything we can to pressure Israel to end its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and recognize the rights of the over 5 million Palestinian refugees who have been waiting over 60 years to return home. In response to the latest attacks, at least one international queer filmmaker has decided not to screen his film in the Tel Aviv festival. We hope you and others will follow his example.

You of course know about the international pressure campaigns which helped to end legal apartheid in South Africa. Today, a similar campaign is underway to press for the dismantling apartheid in Israel. Bishop Desmond Tutu called for divestment from Israel in 2002, saying, “Yesterday’s South African township dwellers can tell you about today's life in the Occupied Territories. To travel only blocks in his own homeland, a grandfather waits on the whim of a teenage soldier.…The indignities, dependence and anger are all too familiar.” Ronnie Kasrils, a Jewish South African, recently said in an interview with al Ahram Weekly, that Israeli apartheid is worse than that of South Africa. “For all the evils and atrocities of apartheid, the government never sent tanks into black towns. It never used gunships, bombers, or missiles against the black towns or Bantustans. The apartheid regime used to impose sieges on black towns, but these sieges were lifted within days.”

As queer people, we know that mainstream media and organizations don’t tell the full story of our lives, and frequently present outright lies that once accepted become difficult to refute. One example of this practice is the conscious public relations campaign presenting Israel as the “only democracy in the Middle East,” and specifically representing it as a haven for LGBT people.

Nothing could be further from the truth than this fantasyland version of Israel. LGBT Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, like straight Palestinians, are denied their basic human rights. This brutal occupation perpetuates war crimes on a daily basis, especially in the two-year siege of Gaza where 1.5 million Palestinians have experienced almost a complete blockage of fuel, electric power, food and medicine. Simultaneously Palestinians living within the pre-1967 borders or the “green line,” including LGBT Palestinians, continue to experience systematic discrimination and segregation, without the rights of true citizenship simply because they are not Jewish.

To defeat the apartheid policies of Israel, the call for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has been initiated by Palestinian artists and academics, signed by a broad spectrum of Palestinian organizations, and has been joined by filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard, Sophie Fiennes, Elia Suleiman, Ken Loach, Haim Bresheeth, and Jenny Morgan , writers John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, and Eduardo Galeano, and musicians Brian Eno and Leon Rosselson.

Boycott is a time-honored collective nonviolent action to pressure Israel to change their policies which run counter to international laws, over 80 United Nations resolutions, and basic human rights. It is a means to change a growing political and social crisis for Palestinians. The academic and cultural boycott is now being furthered by labor unions in the UK, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the British National Union of Journalists, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario, Israeli Citizens for a Boycott of Israel, and many more groups.

We realize that we are asking you to make a big sacrifice by not showing your film at the only Middle Eastern festival in which it has been accepted. We firmly believe that the struggle for LGBTQI rights must always be in the context of the liberation of all peoples.

More information about the Cultural and Academic Boycott is available from www.pacbi.org or http://bdsmovement.net/. We would also be glad to discuss this issue with you further; you can reach us at quitpalestine@yahoo.com (our website is www.quitpalestine.org).


[names withheld]
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

Dear Shamim Sharif,

I have heard about your wonderful film, "I Can't Think Straight", and have been informed that you are planning on showing that film at the Tel Aviv Film Festival.

You may be aware that there is an international cultural boycott of Israel to protest its continuing occupation of Palestine and the daily suffering it causes on Palestinians. International participation in Israel's cultural events means that the boycott is being ignored and therefore bestows legitimacy to the issue which inspired the boycott, i.e. the occupation and oppression of Palestine.

The recent ferocious Israeli attacks on Gaza and the subsequent killings of Palestinian civilians, destruction of Palestinian infrastructure - essentially an attempt to cripple Palestinian civil society - make it even more imperative that international pressure be increased on Israel so that it acts in a civilized manner. Boasting to be the most or even only, democratic society in the Middle East is a shallow attempt to hide the fact that it is continuing to occupy Palestine in clear violation of international laws and UN resolutions. It is of little consolation to the Palestinians to know that their land is being stolen, their families being kidnapped, their livelihoods being destroyed, their schools and other institutions being periodically bombed, their movements from one neighborhood to another being restricted, millions of people essentially being imprisoned, all by people who are apparently the most 'democratic' in the Middle East.

Just as the international boycotts against South Africa during its apartheid era were helpful in finally bringing about the downfall of Apartheid it is hoped that similar boycotts against Israel would bring about the change that is necessary for Palestinians to survive. This boycott was initiated by hundreds of Palestinian organizations and supported by many international groups, with particular support from anti-apartheid activists and groups from South Africa.

As one of the founding members of Trikone, the largest LGBT organization for South Asians, and a previous co-chair of IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) I have been actively involved in support of gay rights for decades. Your movie, "I Can't Think Straight", is a welcome addition in support of the gay movement. However, I believe that our rights should not supersede the rights of other oppressed groups. Your participation in the Tel Aviv film festival would be considered an implicit act of support of Israeli policies because of the cultural boycott in place and would be particularly sad for gay human rights activists who are struggling for the rights of Palestinians to live in freedom.

I realize that it takes a lot of effort and love to produce a film like this and as a film-maker you would want to have a wide audience for your work. However, I do hope that you will express your solidarity with the Palestinians who are calling for the cultural boycott and refrain from showing your film at the festival. I would also request you to write a letter to the organizers explaining the reasons for your refusal to participate in the festival.

Finally, I want to thank you for making the film and am hoping to watch it myself at some point in the near future.


[name withheld]

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