Jewish boycotters should stop sneering and get reel

By Katie Green, July 23, 2009

On July 8, at the opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival, American-Jewish filmmakers Jacques Servin and Igor Vermos withdrew their documentary film, The Yes Men Fix the World, to protest at Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. This is my letter to them:

Dear Messrs Servin and Vermos, I have been reading in the Jerusalem Post about your decision as Jewish film-makers to pull your documentary film from the Jerusalem Film Festival, “in hopes of making the Israeli public think critically about state policies towards the Palestinians”.

As a member of the Israeli public, I think your action is obnoxious. This is why.

We who live here are trying, with every fibre of our being, to create a Jewish country where Jews feel safe and where they can flourish. At the same time, we are trying to reach peaceful agreements with our Arab neighbours, and trying to come to some kind of settlement with the Palestinians.

The quality of life of our non-Jewish minorities is also of great importance. We now have a new phenomenon of thousands of African refugees from Eritrea and the Sudan seeking asylum here. So you might say we have our work cut out for us.

Daily we try and produce the kind of society that we can be proud of. In some respects we have done magnificently well, and in others we have failed — at least for the time being. We know there is a long road ahead of us, and much work to do.

We long for peace. How could we not? Every year, Israel’s sons and daughters don their uniforms and go out to defend their country.

They are more precious to us than anything in the world, yet they are sacrificed, year after year, on the altar of this conflict. Do you think we have not “thought critically” about how we might put an end to this?
Do you think we have not sought out every option? Do you think we will not continue to do so, day and night, until there is an end to this?

Why does your boycott seem so hollow to us, so insincere? Probably because there are so many things you could have done, that you did not do. You could have emigrated to Israel and voted for the policies that were important to you. You could have joined one of the numerous Israeli organizations which focus on Palestinian rights. You could have supported Israel from afar in a thousand different ways, as so many Jews have done.
You say that pulling your film “is one way to communicate that there is something really wrong going on”.

Well yes, it is one way but it is also the meanest way and the laziest way, requiring the least possible input from you as Jews and film-makers. When Jews boycott Israel it is little other than a kind of sneering from the sidelines.

For years Israelis have been putting up with the patronizing, naïve and self-important statements of boycott Jews. We have been a bit preoccupied so we have not given the matter much thought. But I think that needs to change. I think that boycott Jews should themselves be boycotted, by Israel, and by Jewish communities and organizations worldwide.

Katie Green is an independent director and producer

Last updated: 1:16pm, July 23 2009