One of the most acclaimed Palestinian cinema directors, Elia Suleiman, announced yesterday that he has withdrawn his support for a Palestinian petition calling for a cultural boycott of Israel.
In August, against the background of the war in Lebanon and the ongoing military operations in the territories, a Palestinian petition calling for a boycott of Israeli cultural institutions was circulated. The petition urged international artists to participate in the boycott because of these institutions' "refusal to oppose the occupation ... which is at the root and is the cause of this colonialist conflict."
Among the international cultural figures who heeded the call were British filmmaker Ken Loach, who won the Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival with his film "The Wind that Shakes the Barley." As a result of the boycott, Loach has turned down an invitation to attend the Haifa film festival.
Yesterday, however, Suleiman wrote: "I hereby suspend my signature from the petition of Palestinian and Lebanese artists which calls for a boycott," explaining that this boycott "was supposed to have been [of] all cultural activities participated in and sponsored by the state of Israel."
Instead, Suleiman charged, "certain" artists, signatories to the petition, have boycotted Israeli filmmakers "known to these petitioners as artists who strongly support Palestinian and Lebanese resistance ... Yet these filmmakers have been boycotted, ordered away, deserted as people of the plague because they happen to carry the Israeli identity."
Suleiman did not specify which Israeli artists he was defending or cite any specific cases. However, over the past three months, the petition has been highly effective, and Israeli filmmakers have been prevented from participating in international film and dance festivals.
Suleiman, who won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes for his film "Divine Intervention" in 2002, accused Palestinian artists of "putting up checkpoints and demanding IDs to select who goes in and who goes down on his or her knees, blindfolded and facing the wall."
"Who will be next on the witchhunting list?" he wondered, describing this sort of activity as a form of "cultural execution."