In December 2005, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) sent a letter to the EUROPEaid office in Brussels concerning the shortlisting of a partnership between the Ramallah Film Institute and the New Foundation for Cinema and Television, estimated at $1.8 billion. Neither their letter, nor a letter sent by a group of 40 filmmakers and artists, received any response or acknowledgement from EUROPEaid. The following letter was resent by the group of filmmakers and artists emphasizing their continued concern with the respective project organisations’ lack of transparency and failure to condemn the Israeli occupation:
Last month, forty Palestinian filmmakers and cultural workers signed a letter addressed to Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy at the Europeaid Office in Brussels regarding their concerns about the Euromed Audiovisual II Project and suggested a meeting in which they could exchange views about the proposal. The letter was sent via fax, email and a hard copy via regular mail. Alarmingly, no one from Euromed responded to the letter, let alone even acknowledged it.
The major concerns outlined in the letter were twofold:
1) That this entity calling itself the “Ramallah Film Institute” is in fact not registered in Palestine: Euromed lists the partners of the project to be the “New Foundation for Cinema and Television (Israel) and the Ramallah Film Institute (Palestinian Authority)”. Attached is an official letter from the Palestinian Ministry itself stating that the Ramallah Film Institute is not registered anywhere within the Palestinian Authority. The Ramallah Film Institute, aside from having no relationship with the local Palestinian cultural community is, in fact, an Israeli-registered organization.
2) The fact that the Israeli partner is a government organization (established by the Ministry of Education, Culture & Sport with the assistance of The Israel Film Council) - a government that continues its illegal and harsh occupation of Palestine and continues to deny Palestinians their rights. In addition, the New Foundation for Cinema and Television has refused to openly reject occupation nor work actively for its removal. (Our objections are not with individual Israelis nor with organizations that work towards Palestinian freedom but rather with government organizations such as the New Foundation for Cinema & Television who refuse to recognize our rights).
A follow-up letter was sent to the EU office three weeks later and was also subsequently ignored. Clearly the concerns of forty of Palestine’s preeminent artists, including those who have defined Palestinian cinema itself internationally including Elia Suleiman, Hany Abu Assad, Rashid Masharawi, and Mai Masri mean nothing to the Euromed Project. Clearly the fact that the former board members of the Ramallah Film Festival, like George Khleifi, who quit because financial reports were not given to the board when requested, appears to be meaningless to Euromed. And the interest and concerns of Palestine’s numerous community and cultural organizations have no value.
Two months ago, in December, when rumors first emerged that this project was forming, [Ramallah Film Festival Administrator] Adam Zuabi himself was requested to provide more information about the project to an e-mail list of filmmakers. He chose not to respond and to this day has not addressed us nor provided any information about the project, including its upcoming launch at the Berlinale.
The question is, why was this letter disregarded? Why were the concerns of Palestinian individuals working in the cultural scene, many who have previous experience working with the Ramallah Film Festival in the past, thrown to the side?
We are forty Palestinians: we are from here, we live here, we work here, we are part of this community. We refuse to be ignored. We do not want well-funded projects imposed upon us from the outside without any regard for our concerns. It is a slap in the face of Palestinian filmmakers, intellectuals and cultural workers who have been working for decades to be seen as independent, respected artists. We have contacted Euromed professionally and openly. We demand acknowledgement.
Adam Zoabi (and his “Ramallah Film Institute”) is free to do whatever he wants. That is his right. And Euromed is free to support whoever they choose. And we are very aware that joint Israeli-Palestinian projects are “sexy” and “lucrative”, especially in Europe.
However, Palestine is not a “jungle” and there are people in this community who are working very hard to better our situation. Financial transparency and accountability is vital to this. We are working against organizations who believe that financial records are private rather than public. We ask organizations who claim to serve the community to actually have a relationship with that community. And organizations who wish to publicly claim they are registered within the Palestinian Authority to actually be registered. Throwing funding and/or projects at less wealthy countries who are struggling with corruption and supporting projects that are not rooted within the community nor take into consideration the concerns of the local community they purport to be helping hurt the Palestinian community considerably.
We demand that Euromed immediately correct its statement and all publicity and other materials which falsely claim that this project (“Greenhouse”) is a partnership between Israel and the Palestinian Authority before the grand launch at the Berlinale in Germany. This is not a partnership between an “Israeli” organization and a “Palestinian Authority” organization. Euromed’s Greenhouse Project is a partnership between two Israeli-registered organizations and we demand that this be amended in their publications and that the name of Palestine is not used to promote a partnership which actually does not exist and which only serves to benefit a few individuals rather than the community it claims to be serving.
We challenge David Fisher and the New Foundation for Cinema and Television to openly reject occupation and the illegal actions of their government and come out in support of the full rights of Palestinians to be free and equal. We call on those who can pressure Israel from within, especially artists and cultural institutions, who have mostly stood silent for years in the face of wanton destruction, oppression and injustice, and perhaps even benefited from occupation, to make their voices heard. We ask that Israelis no longer stand silent in the face of terrible injustices taking place. We believe that it is high time that Israeli institutions wake up to realities and fulfill their moral obligation to resist occupation, and begin to protest the actions of their state. It is time that the international and Israeli communities wake up to the challenge.
And we ask the international community and fellow artists to consider carefully the implications of participating in the “Greenhouse” Project (Euromed Audiovisual II, proposal Nr. 15). We would hope that, considering that we live under a harsh military occupation and an apartheid system, that it is understandable why we would not want to work with organizations that are part of the same government that imposes this system on us.
Cultural support cannot come in the form of “charity” or “to make oneself feel better” without addressing the root causes of the problems and ignoring the concerns of the Palestinian community. To us, this is not only undesirable, but also objectionable. We have worked and will continue to work with those that have struggled with us to change political realities, to help us improve our lives and who have been mutually respectful.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.