Film festival drops Israel as sponsor to protest attack

A bombed out building in Beirut’s southern suburbs. (Photo: Information Clearing House)

BEIRUT - The organizers of the 2006 Locarno International Film Festival have dropped the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a festival sponsor because of that country’s unremitting bombardment of civilian targets in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli ministry was listed as a co-sponsor of one of the festival’s programs, called “Leopards of Tomorrow.” News of the sponsorship provoked a letter of protest from several Lebanese and Palestinian filmmakers and festival guests - who threatened to pull out of Locarno, which starts on August 2, if the links were maintained.

“We, the undersigned filmmakers and other invited guests to the Locarno International Film Festival 2006,” the letter read, “would like to express our deep concern with the fact that the festival’s Leopards of Tomorrow program is co-sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Given the current belligerence exhibited by Israel in its ongoing brutal attack on Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and infrastructure, justified by the same Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is listed as a co-sponsor of the festival, we demand that festival organizers reconsider their relationship to the government of Israel, and withdraw the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the list of the festival’s sponsors.

“We make this demand in consideration of the hundreds of innocent civilians that have been murdered by the State of Israel in its ongoing campaign,” the letter continued.

“We do so in consideration of the many cultural centers, arts institutions and universities targeted by Israeli bombs and missiles. We do so because we ourselves are under siege. We do so because we are in solidarity with those who are under siege. Under these circumstances, the actions of the State of Israel cannot be treated as normal …

“We simply cannot, from an ethical standpoint, attend or screen our films in any program or event that refuses to recognize the direness of situations such as the present one and does not stand for human dignity in the face of barbarity perpetuated against any peoples.”

The festival’s organizers were not available for comment.

As of Wednesday night, Locarno organizers removed the logo of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry from the festival Web site, press release and brochure.

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    This article was originally published by the Daily Star and is reprinted with permission.