Last month the Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago (PSG) (with which I’ve organized for the past several years) and other organizations protested the opening night of the Israeli film festival — dubbed the REAL Israel Film Festival.
As a release from PSG states, the festival was sponsored Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest; the Jewish United Fund; AIPAC; and the Friends of the IDF - all who have an active role in supporting the occupation of Palestine. It was also co-sponsored by the Chicago Sister Cities International, which has been called on for the last few years to drop Petach Tikva (which Amnesty International calls “Israel’s Guantanamo”) from its program.
We carried posters bearing the titles of films that could really be made about Israel, such as “Gaza; the Invasion” (2008), “Pirates of the Mediterranean: Attack on the Mavi Marmara” (2010), and “US aid to Israel (Over $7 million per day, still in production).”
Five years ago, around the same time Israel was bombing Lebanon, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched its “Brand Israel” campaign. Under this campaign Israeli artists would act as the State’s ambassadors, showing the world a rosy picture of life in an apartheid state. Of course, that life can be rosy - but only for some of the Israeli population and never for the occupied.
Today, we are here to show you the real Israel behind the friendly, peaceful, artsy and liberal image you see at the Film Festival. The reality, unfortunately, is anything but rosy - The reality is a separate but unequal state in which Palestinians have their human rights violated on a daily basis. The reality is an apartheid wall separating not only the occupiers from the occupied but the occupied from their land and each other. The reality is a state where war crimes are committed with impunity.
Israel is able to get away with such crimes because of the support of the United States, who, at the behest of the Israeli Consulate and Lobby groups - the very sponsors of this festival - give your hard-earned taxpayer money away to an apartheid state at the rate of three billion dollars a year, money that would be better spent on getting us out of this recession. Furthermore, this festival has the support of Petach Tikva, Chicago’s official “sister city,” though, in reality, Petach Tikva is Israel’s first Jewish-only settlement, created by displacing and forcibly removing Palestinians from their land. Today, Petach Tikva is Israel’s Guantanamo Bay and is the site of an Israeli prison center where Palestinians are routinely tortured.
For more information about the Brand Israel campaign, read this comprehensive piece by Ben White: Behind Brand Israel: Israel’s recent propaganda efforts.