Israel Critic Vanessa Redgrave Slams Toronto Film Fest Boycott

Haaretz Staff
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Haaretz Staff

British actress Vanessa Redgrave - a well-known critic of Israel - has joined the controversy surrounding the Toronto Film Festival's decision to showcase Tel Aviv, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Only this time, she is on Israel's side.

In a letter to the New York Review of Books co-signed by artist Julian Schnabel and playwright Martin Sherman, Redgrave defended the festival's choice to spotlight Tel Aviv and denounced those who have called for a boycott.

"We oppose the current Israeli government, but it is a government," Redgrave and her co-signatories wrote in their letter, "Freely elected. Not a regime. Words matter."

Redgrave and her co-signatories went on to say in their letter that the films being showcase in Toronto deserved applause and encouragement, precisely because they were created by Israelis troubled by their own government's actions.

"Thousands of Palestinians have died through the years because the Israeli government, military, and part of the population fervently believes that the Arab states and, indeed, much of the world, do not want Israel to exist," they wrote. "How then are we halting this never-ending cycle of violence by promoting the very fears that cause it? Many citizens of Tel Aviv are particularly aware of the situation of the Palestinians and are concerned about their government's policies and their country's future. And none more so than the Tel Aviv creative community. This is exemplified by Israeli films that criticize their government's behavior. These citizens of Tel Aviv and their organizations and their cultural outlets should be applauded and encouraged. We do not agree that this involvement is a reason to shun or protest, picket or boycott, or ban people who are expressing thoughts and confronting grief that, ironically, many of the protesters share."

Artists who called for a boycott included John Grayson, Danny Glover, David Byrne and Jane Fonda - though Fonda later retracted her decision.

Meanwhile, a number of Jewish Hollywood stars, including Jerry Seinfeld, Sacha Baron Cohen and Natalie Portman, issued a counter statement in defense of the festival's decision.

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