Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Mainstreaming of BDS and an Open Letter to Mohsen Makhmalbaf

In honor of the eight anniversary of the Palestinian civil society call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, the Palestinian BDS National Committee has produced an incredible interactive timeline charting the success and growth of the movement.

The timeline identifies over 200 landmark events and achievements for the BDS movement since April 2004.

Just this month, it was reported that Tamar Zandberg, a Meretz Party member and a recently elected minister in the Israeli Knesset, has boycotted settlement goods. ”I try not to set foot in the settlements, and make sure not to buy any products from them,” she told Mazal Mualem of Al-Monitor. “In my opinion, visiting there means participating in one of the most unethical acts of injustice perpetrated by the state of Israel.”

She continued that, for her, “the occupation is an injustice that threatens the very foundations of our existence” and, as a result, “[b]oycotting goods produced by the settlements is a political, personal, and moral act. The struggle against the occupation is also one of the foundations of the political movement, which I represent.”

In even more striking news, Ha’aretz columnist and consistent voice of reason Gideon Levy today declared his support for an economic boycott of Israel. Gideon’s call is not just limited to settlements, the boycotting of which he has supported for some time:

“Anyone who really fears for the future of the country needs to be in favor at this point of boycotting it economically,” Levy wrote Sunday. “A boycott is the least of all evils, and it could produce historic benefits. It is the least violent of the options and the one least likely to result in bloodshed.”

Levy states that “[m]ost Israeli public opinion is divorced from reality − the reality in the territories and abroad. And there are those who are seeing to it that this dangerous disconnect is maintained. Along with the dehumanization and demonization of the Palestinians and the Arabs, people here are too brainwashed with nationalism to come to their senses.” As a result, he has come to believe that “[change will only come from the outside.”

He continues,
It’s not the settlers who are the primary culprits but rather those who cultivate their existence. All of Israel is immersed in the settlement enterprise, so all of Israel must take responsibility for it and pay the price for it. There is no one unaffected by the occupation, including those who fancy looking the other way and steering clear of it. We are all settlers.
With every major step forward, though, there are often minor setbacks.

The following open letter is being circulated to publicize and opposed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s participation in the Jerusalem Film Festival and his acceptance of an achievement award from the festival.

Open Letter to Mr. Mohsen Makhmalbaf:

Please Be a Messenger of Freedom for Iranian and Palestinian People

We, the undersigned, are a group of Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists who are deeply concerned by the recent decision of Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf to take part in the Jerusalem International Film Festival from July 4-13, 2013. His participation directly violates the International call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of the State of Israel issued by Palestinian civil society in 2005, as well as the specific call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued in July 2004.

As human beings of conscience, we are appalled by the brutality Palestinians undergo at the hand of Israeli occupation and we are supportive of the non-violent global BDS movement which seeks to pressure Israel to implement an equitable, just solution to the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the occupation of Palestinian lands since 1967, and the current implementation of an apartheid system. We are deeply dismayed at Mr. Makhmalbaf’s disregard for the global movement for Palestinian human rights and the implicit support for Israel’s apartheid policies that his decision to attend a film festival directly sponsored by the Israeli government represents, particularly given that he is being prominently honored by the festival with a special tribute.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf is a prominent Iranian filmmaker who for years has depicted the harsh realities of the most marginalized sectors of Iranian society in vivid detail. His 1989 Marriage of the Blessed, for example, staged the reality of Iran-Iraq war and showed us the ethical and political struggles of ordinary subjects within violent contexts. He showed us how to bear witness to the reality of violence. His continued persistence on truth and justice has forced him into exile from his homeland. How can we forget what he himself taught us when the plight of the Palestinians today demands such a reckoning?

We are deeply concerned that an artist so attuned to the brutalities of state violence in his homeland would have absolute disregard for the nonviolent global BDS movement and its work to peacefully pressure the Israeli state to respect Palestinian human rights. As Iranians who condemn the daily realities of oppression and state violence in Iran, we find it unconscionable that Mr. Makhmalbaf has accepted to take part in the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

We would like to use this opportunity to remind Mr Makhmalbaf of the fact that Palestinian civil society has appealed to international artists not to take part in cultural events taking place in Israel while Israel continues to ignore United Nations resolutions, to flout international law, and to deprive the Palestinian people of their most elementary human rights. In the past three years many prominent artists have responded to the appeal by refusing to appear in Israel, and others who had initially accepted this invitation have cancelled their performances, preferring to show their support for the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli oppression.

Performing in Israel today is a political statement. Israel openly admits to using cultural events as a propaganda tool, and we have no question that it will use Mr Makhmalbaf’s image for its global campaign to camouflage its systematic violation of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people. Mr Makhmalbaf’s presence will be instrumentalized as a token for Israeli “tolerance” while Israel continues to implement the most intolerant of colonial policies against Palestinian people, and advocates the most unprecedented and crippling sanctions against Iranian people. Mr Makhmalbaf’s films will be screened before a segregated audience. Only a few of his Palestinian fans in Gaza or in the West Bank- to say nothing of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees elsewhere who are similarly denied free movement in their homeland- will be allowed to come and watch this film.

The Jerusalem International Film Festival is being held at Jerusalem Cinematheque, located in between three Palestinian villages that were ethnically cleansed by the State of Israel in 1948. The ruins of these villages today overlook the Cinematheque. We cannot forget, as the Israeli government wants us to, the history and the memory of Dayr Aban (1948 population: 2,436), Jarash (1948 population: 220), and Bayt Nattif (1948 population: 2,494), as well as the struggle of their refugee descendents who today number more than 30,000. We ask Mr. Makhmalbaf, whose movies are reminders of life in ruins and displacement to remember and bear witness to the continued displacement of Palestinians by the Israeli government by joining the BDS movement.

As Iranians ourselves, we know the realities of state-sponsored oppression, violence and brutality against innocent civilians. This is especially true with regards to the Baha’i community, the subject of Makhmalbaf’s latest film. We recognize the repression that led to Mr. Makhmalbaf’s own exile, and we sympathize with his suffering as a filmmaker who has been persecuted by the Iranian regime. At the same time we insist again on the political and ethical responsibilities that we as human beings have to resist oppression and tyranny wherever they may be.

We cannot in good conscience stand by Mr. Makhmalbaf and his decision which will inevitably validate the Israeli occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. We ask not only that Mr. Makhmalbaf stand with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, but that he be a messenger of liberation for everyone, including both Palestinians and Iranians.

For a list of signatories to the open letter, go here.

Persian and Arabic versions of the letter are available at the link above. If you are interested in adding your name to the letter, please email Alex Shams at


Originally posted at Muftah.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lapsed Islamists are as bad as lapsed Stalinists. The former holier than thou Makhamlbaf has no moral compass. Too bad,he is a descent filmmaker.