Directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach call for boycott of Israel film festival


Over 40 artists and film-makers have called for a boycott of the London Israeli Film and Television Festival, which opens this week.

In a letter to the Guardian, directors including Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Peter Kosminsky and actress Miriam Margolyes were among those calling for cinemas in London to refuse screening of films that are part of the Seret 2015 season.

The signatories claimed: “By benefiting from money from the Israeli state, the cinemas become silent accomplices to the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people.”

They added: “The festival is co-sponsored by the Israeli government via the Israeli embassy in London, creating a direct link between these cinemas, the festival screenings and Israeli policies.”

The Curzon Cinema, a venue for the festival, responded that it had not “previously considered asking questions about the funding of a festival booked at one of our cinemas, and we do not consider booking a festival as any kind of political comment.”

Festival founders, Anat Koren, Odelia Haroush and Patty Hochmann rejected the boycott call.

They said: “Our festival is a showcase for the many voices throughout Israel, including Arab Israelis and Palestinians, as well as religious and secular groups.”

The festival is due to open on Thursday with a gala screening at Bafta of the comic drama Hill Start. There will be screenings at cinemas including Curzon Soho and Odeon Swiss Cottage in London.

Last year, the Tricycle Theatre in boycotted the UK Jewish Film Festival over funding it received from the Israeli embassy. The theatre later climbed down and apologised .

Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said: “The boycotters seem to have learned nothing from the Tricycle Theatre debacle last summer. Their blinkered, bigoted approach is fixated solely on Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and the country they love to hate. They should be looking at ways to export peaceful solutions, not import conflict.”

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