Moroccan filmmaker boycotts Tel Aviv festival

An Amazigh filmmaker in Morocco has refused to accept an invitation to submit his film to DocAviv, an Israeli documentary festival.

Nadir Bouhmouch’s film, Amussu, records an Amazigh community’s fight for water and land rights in the face of a destructive mining company.

“It is a cause not so different from the one led by Palestinian farmers in the West Bank who are banned from digging wells in their own land and barely given enough water to drink or irrigate their precious crops,” Bouhmouch says in an open letter to DocAviv.

DocAviv listed the Israeli ministry of culture and sport as one of its sponsors this year.

In his letter, Bouhmouch says that his support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights “is part of a moral obligation as well as my unwavering political conviction to take action against the Zionist state’s terrifying military occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

He adds that by refusing to take part in DocAviv, he is taking action against Israel’s apartheid system, its active colonization of Palestinian homes and lands and the ongoing denial of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Moreover, Bouhmouch points to Israel’s destruction of Palestinian culture, including the films that were lost or obliterated in Israel’s attack on the Palestine Film Unit’s archive in Beirut in 1982.

“Some may respond by arguing that ‘culture is universal,’ and that a film should be seen by everyone,” he adds in his letter, noting the common attempt some artists use to defend their refusal to heed the Palestinian BDS call.

“I agree, and we boycott Israel precisely because it can’t be seen by everyone,” he says.

“The city in which you seek to screen our film remains inaccessible to Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, who – if they have a pass – must go through hours of humiliating checkpoints and violence. Or – when they don’t have a pass – simply can’t go at all.”

Bouhmouch is one of many Moroccan artists, intellectuals and scholars who have signed a 2018 pledge issued by the Moroccan Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (MACBI) to reject participation with Israeli institutions over Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

He is also a former student of San Diego State University, where he helped to build a campus campaign in 2014 to divest from corporations profiting from Israel’s crimes.

Against artwashing

Amussu was selected at two major international documentary festivals – Canada’s HotDocs and IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Following those selections, Bouhmouch was not surprised that Israel’s DocAviv invited him to submit the film for its 2020 festival.

“Israel has worked to target minorities within the Middle East and North Africa region, whether it’s Kurds or the Amazigh” in an attempt to make its state ideology Zionism appear normal, he told The Electronic Intifada.

Bouhmouch noted that activists in Morocco have long protested such normalization campaigns with Israel, especially in the arts and sports.

“Refusing to give a hand to artwashing is the best help artists as such can give to the Palestinian people,” Sion Assidon, an anti-Zionist Jewish Moroccan activist and coordinator of MACBI, told The Electronic Intifada.

Artwashing is a term for Israel’s propaganda strategy to use arts and culture to distract from its apartheid system and military occupation.

“In Morocco, artists and academics, and most of the intellectuals in general, are against the attempts of Israel to normalize the relations between the occupation and Morocco,” Assidon added.

“But they didn’t know really how numerous and strong they are. The MACBI call has permitted them to act together and to measure their strength in expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian people,” he said.

Watch the trailer for Bouhmouch’s film, Amussu, above.




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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).