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Early in July, Bay Area Women in Black received an invitation from the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival to co-present one or more of four films to be shown this season: Within the Eye of the Storm, The Lab , Soldier on the Roof, and Gideon's Army. We were asked to publicize and promote the films, in return for which we would have our website linked to that of the Festival, be represented in the pre-film slide show, be able to display our literature at film venues, and receive complimentary passes to showings.
The offer was obviously tempting, but as firm supporters of BDS, we were concerned about conforming to guidelines on cultural boycott, as issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Our Steering Committee met and decided to decline to co-present Gideon’s Army out of hand, as the topic does not fall within our principal focus: the occupation of Palestine. Next we decided to watch the remaining trailers, and then addressed these issues:
· Would the occupation be represented in a favorable or unfavorable light?
· Would Israelis and Palestinians be viewed as equals in the power balance, rather than being shown as oppressors and oppressed, colonizers and colonized?
· Most importantly, did any of the films receive funds from an official Israeli governmental body, in an overt or covert attempt to promote hasbara (propaganda)?
As we were deliberating, we maintained contact with the Festival organizers, who were willing to answer many of our questions but did mention that some films had received funds from the Israeli consulate. As we did not have an opportunity to view any of the films in toto, and view all the credits, we felt it necessary to decline the offer, although the films we were considering co-presenting, namely The Lab and Within the Eye of the Storm were possibly within the guidelines. We therefore responded to the Festival that we would not be co-presenting the films this season.
Since the Festival describes itself as independent, and since its mission and values ascribe to a diversity of views and claim to “build bridges to other ethnic and religious communities,” we urged them in our statement to “become truly independent and…in the future decline to receive funding from governments that do not adhere to the mission and values of the Festival itself.”
Shalom/Salaamat from BAWiB