In May 2009, the festival had announced that it was returning a sum of just over $450 which it had been offered to pay for an Israeli filmmaker to attend.
Festival publicists stated at the time that it was “a mistake to accept the 300 [British pounds] from the Israeli embassy” following a campaign headed by major names in British cinema, including director Ken Loach.
According to the new revelations, Clinton was alerted to the issue by a university friend of her husband, former US President Bill Clinton.
Newspaper owner Brian Greenspun apparently sent press coverage of the festival’s decision to Clinton, who was US Secretary of State at the time, at the instigation of Bruce Ramer, a media industry lawyer and one-time president of the pro-Israel American Jewish Committee.
Greenspun, owner of the Las Vegas Sun, recently called Israel “one of the most loyal and dependable allies the United States has ever had — or will ever have” and called Iran “a country run by religious zealots, hell-bent on destroying Israel and any Western country that exhibits signs of a democracy in which women have rights and liberties along with men, where religious freedom is available to all people, and where peace is preferable to war.”
According to The Scotsman, Ramer wrote: “I hope you can enlist Hilary’s support (and please give her my personal best). We need, for many reasons, to have the US protest and condemn this outrageous boycott and to oppose the anti-Semitism inherent in it. The organizers of the festival must be convinced to reverse themselves.”
Now, with Hillary Clinton’s emails being published by court order as a result of controversy over her use of private communications while in office, we know that on 25 May 2009 she acted on the warning, writing:
Thanks for the headsup on this. We are working to decide the most effective way forward, and I’ll keep you informed. We have some good ideas as to what our govt can do, but we also want to see pressure from local people brought on the British and Scottish govts.
Can you and Bruce reach out to the community in London and Edinburgh to urge them to raise this w PM [Gordon] Brown and other govt officials? We’d like to see top down and bottom up pressure. Let me know what you think.
The message was copied to her then deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan; senior adviser Andrew Shapiro; and her spokesperson Philippe Reines.
Clinton’s attempt to meddle in Scottish affairs has been condemned by the Scottish Green Party. Its spokesperson commented to The Scotsman that:
Cultural boycotts are not censorship — they have an important role to play in expressing global political opposition to the illegal occupation of Palestine and the treatment of its people. The importance of such action is made all the clearer when we see that the US has been acting behind the scenes to pressurise other countries to interfere on behalf of the Israeli Government.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival declined to comment on the matter, according to The Scotsman.