Palestine Friends boycott Israeli film festival

SHOULD art and politics be mutually exclusive? Can they ever be?

Friends of Palestine WA will protest outside Cinema Paradiso at the opening night of the AICE Israeli Film Festival, calling on the Abbott government to expel Israel’s ambassador and enforce an arms embargo on Israel.

The Israeli embassy is partially funding the festival and it is supported by the Australian Israel Cultural Exchange, which FOP claims is a front for Israel’s ruling Likud party.

Friends of Israel WA president Bob Kucera is fuming the Friends of Palestine WA is exploiting a cultural event for political gain.

“The Friends of Israel prefer not to bring the troubles of the middle-east to the streets of Perth—the greatest response we can have is to fill the theatre,” he says.

“This is a cultural program and many of the people involved in the film-making industry in Israel are Arabs and people from all denominations.

“It’s a bit sad because the only country in the middle-east that respects the rights of every individual, regardless of their race, origin and sexual preferences, is Israel.”

“Like in sport, arts and politics shouldn’t mix—this is a cultural event.”

Mr Kucera adds only around 200 of the 1200-strong group’s members are Jewish and most joined to learn more about the long-running enmity in the middle-east.

• Members of the Friends of Palestine WA warm-up for their Israeli protest. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• Members of the Friends of Palestine WA warm-up for their Israeli protest. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

At the time of going to print, FOP convener Nick Everett was marshalling volunteers for the protest at Thursday night’s festival launch.

“Since the start of the current Israeli military offensive in Gaza, on July 8, Israeli airstrikes have killed 2133 Palestinians and wounded 10,890 more,” he says.

“The vast majority of Palestinian killed have ben civilians, hundreds of them children, in one of the most brutal attacks by the Israeli apartheid state in recent decades.

“FOP WA calls on the State of Israel to cease its attacks on Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, to end its siege of Gaza and to recognise the rights of Palestinians to live in peace within their own state.”

Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a declared terrorist organisation whose stated aim is to “obliterate” Israel and to kill all Jews. Israel launched its military offensive following a series of rocket launches from Gaza, most of which caused minor damage (one this week killed an Israeli child).

Luna Palace Cinemas manager Tony Bective says he has “planned accordingly” for the protest outside his Northbridge cinema.

“We at Luna have hosted many festivals over the years including the Palestinian Film festival and we believe that filmmakers and artists should not be censored for the actions of their government,” he says.

“[We] share the voices of storytellers from all around the world; we do not really discriminate against them according to race or religion.

“The AICE Israeli Film Festival 2014 represents a range of voices and perspectives, from both Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and Arab.”

Mr Kucera will attend the opening and Israeli Ambassador Shmuel Ben Shmuel has been invited.  Other sponsors of the Israeli film festival include The West Australian newspaper.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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