QUIT Encourages Filmmakers to Withdraw from Tel Aviv Festival

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Queer Activists Ask Filmmaker to Withdraw from Tel Aviv Festival
by QUIT! ( quitpalestine [at] yahoo.com )
The global movement for divestment and boycott of Israel is growing. A San Francisco queer activist group has launched a campaign to pressure international queer filmmakers to join the cultural boycott of Israel and withdraw their films from the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival.
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), a grassroots San Francisco Bay Area organization, has asked writer/director Shamim Sarif to withdraw her new film, “I Can’t Think Straight”, from the Tel Aviv International Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Trans Film Festival, which will be held in June. “I Can’t Think Straight” is a comedy revolving around a romance between an Indian woman and a Palestinian woman in Britain.
QUIT! is asking other LGBT activists to send their own letters to shamim@shamimsarif.com, asking her to join the cultural boycott of Israel and withdraw her film from TLVFest. Straight allies are asked to write letters supporting the calls of international LGBTQ activists.
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, Egyptian filmmaker Maher Sabry, director of the brilliant new feature “Toul Omry” (“All My Life”), 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 occur 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).
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism