Seret, the Israeli Film and Television Festival, showcases films, documentaries and TV series produced by Israel’s most talented. These films and documentaries vary across the political spectrum with most not exploring politics at all.
Seret is back in the UK between 11 and 21 of June, unfortunately attracting boycott demonstrations with it.
Before the Festival officially began, campaigners were already on the street outside the pre-festival private screening of Farewell Herr Schwartz.
They handed out the following flyer to passers by:
One message is clear: these demonstrators hate Israel and were going to boycott this event no matter what films are on show, how critical of Israel the films are, and who produced the films (some are produced by Israeli Arabs.)
The same leaflet was used outside last year’s Seret Festival. As you can see, the date on the flyer has been changed to ‘Seret 2015’ by hand from ‘Seret 2014.’ The information on the flyer is also out of date.
The flyer includes a quote from British filmmaker Ken Loach:
“The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make the showcasing of Israeli films in various sections of international film festivals unacceptable.”
Firstly, what terrorism? Secondly, why punish Israeli artists for its government’s actions?
There is no apartheid in Israel. There is freedom of speech through the media and art. If apartheid did exist, the Israeli Embassy UK would not be funding a Festival which includes critical voices and minority groups.
The signatories to the letter written to the Guardian cannot claim that “The boycott campaign specifically says this is not a campaign against individual film-makers” when individual film-makers are being punished and silenced through this campaign.
The Seret Film Festival is an opportunity to explore both Israeli and Palestinian culture and increase understanding between the two. It is also an opportunity for Israelis living in the UK and British Jews who feel an affinity with Israel to celebrate Israeli culture.
Boycotting this event demonises Jews and Israelis in the UK who want to enjoy and embrace their cultural identity and others who have not taken sides in the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As cliched as it sounds lets make love not war and appreciate the art and innovation that comes out of each country. One should unite around culture rather than turning it into another divisive area.
Boycotting denies the right for Israeli citizens to have a voice without improving the lives of Palestinians. There has been no evidence that a cultural boycott will do anything to help Palestinians achieve statehood.
Sign up to the Seret Film Festival and celebrate and explore art by both Israelis and Palestinians.