Israel Does What?

viggomortensen

Check this.

Danish-American actor, Viggo Mortensen, is one of many artists taking a bold stand against the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and its commemorative spotlight on Tel Aviv.  According to Judy Rebick of Canadian Dimension:

This is the first time that TIFF has held a City to City spotlight and the spotlight is on Tel Aviv, a city that is symbolic to Zionist Jews of Israel’s success and to Palestinians of the ethnic cleansing that took place to found that state of Israel.

The Toronto Declaration has over 1,000 signatures of filmmakers, writers, and musicians alike, including Danny Glover, Julie Christie, Jane Fonda, Harry Belafonte, Naomi Klein, and Naom Chomsky.  Here’s a surprise:  They’re being vilifed and demonized.

Filmmaker Robert Lantos goes as far as calling the protest a  “gang of well-fed, fashionable bigots” who just want to “stifle voices they don’t like.”  He asserts that Naomi Klein et al “have taken a page straight out of the fascist propaganda handbook.”

Hmm.  In Robert Lantos’ article, he states there was no such thing as a Palestine.  Wow, so did the world begin in 1948, Mr. Lantos?  I suppose your “point” erases the fact that over 700,000 Palestinians were evicted and forced out of their homes.  Speaking out against military occupation and oppression is propaganda, but denying the existence of another group of people is not?

Mortensen, who is best known for his role as Aragorn from “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, wrote some strong words about the Israeli government in a recent blog entry explaining why he decided to sign the Toronto Declaration:

[The statement objects] to the festival singling out Tel Aviv (which was merged with Jaffa to form a single municipality in 1950) for special recognition when the government of Israel continues to flout international law, essentially acting unilaterally as a rogue state in very much the same manner that the U.S. government did under George W. Bush

I signed the statement in question, along with people like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, and many other thoughtful citizens from various countries (including a number of Israelis) some of whom have suffered from very real censorship and blacklisting. The statement does not promote the boycotting or censorship of any artist or movie from Israel or anywhere else. Those who have attacked the statement with that accusation are simply spreading misinformation and, unfortunately, continuing the ongoing successful distraction from the issue at hand: the Israeli government’s whitewashing of their illegal and inhumane actions inside and outside their legal national borders. There was nobody outside the cinema objecting to anyone going to see “Ajami”. In fact, there was nobody doing anything other than going to see this and other movies being shown at the Scotiabank complex, or just walking on down Toronto’s Richmond Street.

The sad part is that all of this may come to a shock to many of Mortensen’s Republican fans.  I know because I know some of those fans.  When “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King” was released, some of my Republican friends boasted about how the film paralleled with current events and how the United States – “the bastion of the free world” – needed to defend itself in the same manner as portrayed in the films (interesting enough, co-star John Rhys-Davies drew similar parallels and made bizzare Islamophobic remarks).  I know they’re alarmed by this statement of their beloved Aragorn, the courageous and fearless leader of “the great men of the west.”

“I can’t imagine why a Jew would kill an innocent civilian,” my White non-Muslim friend once said.  I fired back, “But it isn’t hard for you to imagine a Muslim killing an innocent civilian, right?”  The second I said that, he knew he made a flawed statement.  He realized immediately that he was conditioned to categorize Jews and Christians as the “good guys” and “upholders of democracy,” as if they’re immune to carrying out atrocities and terrorism.

Like many people, including anti-racist activists, writers, and academics, it is taboo to criticize Israel.  Criticizing Zionism is automatically equated with anti-semitism.  If you criticize Israel, it not only means you hate Jews, but it also means you support terrorism.  And terrorism, as discussed in a previous blog post, can only be carried out by Muslims and Arabs.

Yes, yes, innocent Palestinians died in Gaza, but Hamas made Israel do it.  It’s Hamas’ fault.  Israel cannot be blamed.

This is the brainwashing of Israel’s propaganda machine.  Every time we’re silent about Israel’s atrocities, whether out of fear, ignorance, or reluctance, we’re giving in.  I have seen many others claim to be anti-racist and anti-oppression academics, but they will keep their lips sealed when it comes to Israel.  Why?  Because they’re afraid of the “anti-semitism” label.

You want to see a bold stand against oppression?  Look at Toronto filmmaker and long-time gay activist John Greyson who wrote an open letter to TIFF and pulled his short film, Covered. Such artists inspire those who stand for social justice everywhere.  Look at the solidarity movements taking place in Palestine every day – activists, filmmakers, journalists, and inter-faith members alike who work so hard to raise their voices and even risk their lives for a brighter future.

Accusing the protest of being an “attack on the heart and soul of Israel” is a pathetic attempt to turn the tables and demonize anyone who dares to criticize the Israeli government’s war crimes and illegal military occupation.  Such protests should encourage dialogue, not lousy ad hominem attacks.  Open your ears and hearts for once, and listen!

Toronto Declaration – Co-sign.

Peace and Solidarity.

31 thoughts on “Israel Does What?

  1. Wow. Go, Viggo. I wish there were more people like him.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (as you know). I’ve concluded that anti-racist discussions around Israeli governmental policy – especially with regard to the abominable treatment of Palestinians – need to do a few important things. One of the most important iis to be language consistent. The Israeli government =/= Israel=/= Israelis =/= Jewish people. These are related and sometimes concentric categories, but under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should they be used inter-changeably. Unfortunately, during I/P debate, they often are. A lot of Jewish people with leftist/anti-Zionist sensibilites go understandably on the defensive with I/P because of sweeping references to “the Jews” that critics of the Israeli government often make. Now, of course, all criticism of the Israeli government IS NOT anti-Semitic, but when you have people actually pin-pointing a group, well…it ‘s a mess. Conflating concepts rarely advances a dialogue, right? So, by unpackaging these concepts, we can debunk other memes, like “Israel = good guys = always right.”

    I truly believe in my heart of hearts that there are ways to have these discussions without polarizing the argument.

    • Great points, Fiqah. I agree. It’s important to stress that criticism of Israel or Zionism doesn’t mean one hates the Jewish people.

      It’s true that people make those mistakes when referencing “the Jews.” I saw this happen first hand at one of the Gaza rallies. It was interesting actually because after one of the Jewish allies called him out on how offensive his poster was, he apologized and took it off the poster. Others (who were fellow Arabs and Muslims) also agreed with the Jewish protester and said it was offensive.

      Some people, unfortunately, will do anything to label us “anti-semites” though. Some Zionists believe “Zionism” and “Judaism” are inseparable. This obviously complicates things even more.

  2. Interesting article, but I’m confused- what does Israel has to gain by committing a genocide against the Palestinian people? What do you think is their motive?

    • Zionism is a political ideology which aims to transform Judaism into a nationality. The Zionists believe that the region they call “Israel” belongs to the Jewish people.

      Obviously, the objective is to gradually occupy and control the Palestinian lands — this is evident in how illegal settlements are continuously being built (this is why you see so many activists visiting the settlements and standing against the illegal destruction of homes).

      Vilifying and demonizing the Palestinians is sheer propaganda. When we dehumanize another group of people, we ignore and deny their humanity, their stories, and their families. Increase in propaganda and vilification means more support for the state of Israel.

      • If Israel wants to get rid of the Palestinians to take all of their land, then why is Israel doing such a bad job at it? Doesn’t Israel have highly advanced weaponry which likely includes nuclear weapons? Why do you think they are so bad at killing palestinians?

  3. You are making wrong assumptions about Zionism. Also you have very little idea of what israel and/or tell aviv is trying to pull.
    Most of tell aviv citizens for example, are against the setelments. Tell aviv is known by it’s liberal views with respect to gays, minorities, and the peace process.

    Israel never tried occupying teritories in order to achive it’s Zionist vision which per you, means it should get bigger as possible on the palestinians acount. In fact isael has made difficult withdraw few years a go from gaza and beyond with the hope to finnaly get to a possitive path. Sadly , Hamas, used this oportonity to invest more into terror, fire rockets and inflame war.

    No one in Israel is happy about innocent civilians being dead but if you’d be exposed to years of rockets bombing you’d do the same actions Israel did.

    I have no real interest to tell you all this. It just seems you have good intentions and it’s a pity you see a limited information from the full picture.

    Most people in Israel would be happy to give a way a lot in order to get a peaceful resolution. Most of tell aviv people share this view. But there is a conflict, and it is much more complex then you imagin. Putting a “bad” label on Zionists as if that’s what’s wrong is plane ignorance. And I don’t mean to say we should put that label on the palestinans. All I say is that this is a complicated conflict and that boycotting tell aviv’s celebration as a liberal, advaced, modern city, is just the oposite one would do if he likes to get a real dialog going.

    • @ Danny,

      No, I know full well that many Israeli citizens protest against the attacks in Gaza, as well as the military occupation. Just like in America, not everyone here supported George W. Bush. There was a large portion of people who protested against the Iraq war and the rest of his policies.

      Please stop using the word “terror” to only describe Muslims and Arabs. I stressed on this on one of my latest posts. Hamas didn’t break the ceasefire – Israel did. Israel can invest in “terror” too; stop implying that the Israeli government can never make any mistakes or commit atrocities.

      Ok, so Israel was retaliating to Hamas rockets, according to you. What do you think the Palestinians should do now after 1,400 of their family members, Loved ones, and friends have died? Losing Loved ones CHANGES you forever. Many of those people will want to avenge their deaths. You understand human behavior and emotional responses, right? Palestinians suffered the most last winter. Don’t try to discredit that. Israel’s attacks didn’t SOLVE anything; it just made things WORSE.

      It annoys me when people try to turn the tables and ask, “Why do you think Israel should do if they’re being attacked?” What about the Palestinians?!! Look at the causalities, look at the pictures, look at all the demolished homes and schools — what do you think THEY should do after being attacked? Why bring up this one-sided argument as if Israelis are the only ones who suffer. I know both sides suffer, but it doesn’t seem like you acknowledge the suffering of the Palestinians. Why??

      Hamas has been taking more democratic routes in recent times. They wrote a peace letter to Obama recently and sent the letter to him via a peace organization called CODEPINK. The letter asked Obama to visit Gaza, and it also mentioned that Hamas was ready to speak with the President.

      I spoke with many Jews and non-Muslim protesters who stood in solidarity with Gaza and they all told me that Israel broke the truce.

      • If Israel was retaliating to Hamas rockets then doesn’t that mean that Hamas broke the truce simply by definition?

      • Obviously both sides suffer.

        The reason why left wing israelies who actually care , looses hope about a resolution is that Hamas have never agreed to say Israel has the right to exist. Hamas activly say it will never rest until the distruction on Israel.

        How a sensible person can support this view? Israel can fight more . It doesn’t want too, but it can. Do you like nucular bombing ? Do you like the whole middle east to burn in fire? We will get there surely. Unless some how , ppl will accept the fact that both states needs to exist and israel is one of them.

        Hamas appetite for revenge is stronger then it’s care for it’s childrrens. Hamas will be happy to get milions of Arabs killed for the sake of destroying Israel. That’s irational phanatic and self districting strategy.

  4. @ Sam,

    What are you talking about, man? Did you read my response? There was an Israeli blockade on Gaza – Palestinians were dieing silently. Then the air strikes were launched in late winter which killed over 1,400 people. How can you ask, “Why is Israel doing such a bad job at killing Palestinians.” They’re doing a good job at killing Palestinians, Sam.

    Stop dancing around and behaving like you’re interested in dialogue because I know you’re not.

    • I am deeply insulted by how you ended your response to me. I find it rude, degrading, and unnecesary. People tend to be mean to others as a way to hide their own insecurities. Those suffering from a mental illness known as NPD suffer from this problem as well. These individuals are unable to handle criticism or anything that they could interpret to be criticism. Many individuals suffering from NPD have become dictators and have used their power to murder many innocent people.

      I understand that you are saying that Israel is essentially carrying out a genocide against the Palestinians. Is the issue one where the zionists are trying to literally exterminate the palestinans or simply trying to get them to leave. In the case of extermination- do you believe that the zionists will try to go to other arab nations to specifically target the surviving palestinians.

      I am a little skeptical to the whole zionist plot of extermination because I never see it in the media. Why do you think that is? Some have said it is because the jews control the media. To be frank, I do not know who “controls” the media. Is that the reason why? I just don’t get why if everything you’re saying is indeed so true why is it that we never hear about it. We hear about the genocide in Sudan all the time, but rarely hear about this. Why do you think that is?

      • Whoa, so you are implying that I suffer from NPD and I have potential to become a dictator? I tell you to stop dancing around and then you compare me with dictators who murder innocent people? How’s that for rude and deeply insulting?

        You’re asking me these questions as if I have some kind of “special insight” on why military superpowers launch attacks on innocent human beings. You never see it in the media because the media has already established an image for Palestinians and Muslims — they’re the “bad guys” and the “terrorists.” Israel is a US ally, therefore the impression is that Israel is the only “sane” and “democratic” country in the Middle-East.

        Come to my local high school and you’ll never hear a single word of sympathy for the Palestinians. The teacher for Middle-Eastern studies shows students “Not Without My Daughter” (an anti-Iranian and anti-Muslim film) as part of the course. He requires students to do research projects on terrorist organizations, and all of them are Muslim, of course. Everyone who leaves that course has a very negative image of Muslims and Islam.

        This has nothing to do with the whole “Jews control” media stereotype. This is a political issue. Criticizing Israel means criticizing a US ally that provides strategic and military positioning in the Middle-East. Criticizing Israel also reveals the fact that Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in Palestine for HUNDREDS OF YEARS and they co-existed until the British empire showed up and fueled the tension, especially between Jews and Muslims.

        I would appreciate it if you didn’t make childish accusations against me. If I am wrong about you, then simply correct me. Don’t imply that I share traits with dictators who murder thousands of people.

    • I was also very curious about the blockade. Did Israel block food and water alogn with electricity. What exactly did they block? When Hamas began firing rockets at civilian targets- well, has it achieved their goal?

  5. @ Danny,

    Did you read my response? Hamas delivered a peace letter to President Obama through a FEMINIST organization, informing him that the Hamas government is ready to sit down and negotiate.

    And stop speaking down to me with questions like “do you like nuclear war?” What kind of stupid question is that? Where do you get the idea on my blog that I “like nuclear war”? Where do you get the idea that I “like” seeing thousands of people being killed.

    I’m making an inter-faith film about Christian, Muslim, and Jewish unity. I attend Jewish and Christian meetings on my campus in attempts to promote inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue. I have organized peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians on my campus, and I have assisted a Middle-East for Peace organization, which consists of Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

    What have YOU done for peace between Muslims, Christians, and Jews? Do you REACH out to Muslim communities? Have you ever VISITED a Mosque before? Do you even have Muslim friends? Don’t come on my blog and make threats like, “Israel can fight more.” Yes, I know “they can fight more;” they have disproportionate military power and they bombed the hell out of Gaza last winter — I’ve been stressing this repeatedly.

    Your implicit accusations and insults against me as not being “sensible” aren’t going to fly here. Read my comment policy; if you’re genuinely interested in dialogue, then you have to stop implying that I “like nuclear war” and “violence.” Stop behaving like Israelis are the only victims.

    • Funny how you get the feeling I don’t read your messages because I feel the same. I did not say you like bombing and killing, I asked it as a retoric question which if I’d think your answear is yes I’d never bother writing it.

      A dialog can exist on top of a basic understanding that ppl respect the other side. By minimum, respect the right to exist.

      Until Hamas would get there, there would still be blood on both sides.

      I don’t know of anybody who would come to a meeting with someone who does not agree to this basic agreement.

      Hey do you want to rent my house? Let’s meet and talk. I don’t have a house but do come.

      Israel did not ask Hamas to compromise any of it’s negotiation requirements. But it shall not accept a negotiation with ppl who say it will never have the right to exist. It’s silly.

      Did you see the ellections propaganda ever in Israel? They fight is who shall achive peace. How do you explain that? No, they don’t say “vote for us and will kill palestinans and get more land!!!”. They say “we are going to have serious, hurting compromises but peace worth it”.

      Yes I have many Arab friends but I don’t see how comparing us personally means anything.

  6. Wow! I must be living under a rock. i read Canadian news regularly and knew nothing of this.

    I do respect those who signed and boycotted. There is no reason other than a political statement to pair Toronto and Tel Aviv, there are other major world cities that start with T if that was the excuse.

    Naomi Klein gives the rationale perfectly: the rebranding of Israel after the 2006 Lebanon and 2008-9 Gaza offensives, which have cost Israel a great deal of public support. The reprimands by the IRCC and the UNHRW, UN hospitals, UN schools etc all of which were knowingly bombed are unprecendented as was the bombing and the use of naphthalene in urban, let alone civilian areas (against the Geneva Convention).

    I would feel worse about living under a TIFF rock if I hadn’t read some of the comments above where it seems others have been living under much larger rocks, where they are unaware that yes Israel restricted food and water to Gaza (until FORCED to let in humanitarian aid to prevent starvation), electricity, fuel oil (for cooking, for cars), raw materials for businesses, goods of all kinds, money from donations, family overseas, international agencies, etc etc etc. IE think medieval history and starving the villagers out.

    Hamas rockets are small, poorly aimed and inconvenient, rather than deadly (casualties have been verrry low). Comparing the power of Israel and its actions to those of Hamas, is a dangerous false analogy. Reporting the “other side” in this manner is an example of false balancing at best, and propaganda at worst.

    If you want to get annoyed about Toronto actions read about the Lone Soldier program sponsored by the owner of Chapters Bookstores and her husband. They offer 4 years of paid education, ie fees and living expenses, to any Jewish person anywhere in the world willing to serve in the IDF for 2 years.

      • Thank you, Fiqah! I’ve missed reading the great posts and commenting here, but wanted to wait until I had time to read them with the appropriate attention. Hopefully, I am now back on track! And have my palm tree avatars sorted! (I hate being a green gingham swatch! LOL :)

  7. Basically, When the state of Israel, 1948, it was mentioned that the Jews tend to live in peace with the Palestinians. To share a socio/democratic value. That all people will receive socialized medicine and other aspects no matter of religion. Let it be known, the Hamas is supported by terrorist groups. No Jewish group with say “We want to whipe out the Arabs and destroy them. However, we have heard over and over again that Arabs swear to wipe out Israel and their people. The word genocide should never be applied to Jews. We know too much horror of the holocaust. Women, children men tortured. The Israelis just want to survive. Jerusalem is a city enriched and respected by all religions. In the name of Jesus, let the Jewish people survive.

  8. I am a Christian with conscience. Through out history, the muslims were a war like people. The crusades were an example. Mohammed swore, conversion by the sword. The Jews through centuries were known to be passive. A good example, was it ever mentioned that Jew kill Jew. What about Iraq killing Kuwait civilians and raping their children. Think clearly. To all who are critical against the Israelis, be in their shoes. Would you like group of people killing and destroy you. The original belife in zionisim is to share socialized beliefs with all religions living in Israel. Jews don’t tie bombs to themselves. Jews and Christians are against suicide. The brainwashing of Arabs being told to die for Allah is blessful. That is horrendous.

  9. @ Jonathan and Matthew,

    It’s so interesting that both of you write from the same IP address. And the same e-mail address, too! *gasp*

    The way you stereotype Arabs is enough to reveal your ignorance. First, not all Arabs are Muslim, and vice versa. Second, if you really care so much about humanity and peace, maybe you should attend inter-faith and inter-cultural events that open the doors for communication. I think you need to speak to more Muslims and Arabs because once you do, you’ll be able to see us as human beings, not as stereotypes.

    Thirdly, what do you have to say about the 1,400+ Palestinians that were brutally bombed and massacred last winter? You speak of this conflict as if it’s simply “Muslims versus Jews,” but this is absolutely false. There are a lot of Jews (including Israeli citizens) who condemn the Israeli government military operations and oppression of the Palestinian people. Perceiving this conflict as “Muslims versus Jews” is counter-productive and doesn’t get us anywhere.

    Next time you want to comment, make sure you figure out who you are first (either Matthew or Jonathan). Commenting (spamming) twice from the same IP address says a lot about your character and according to my comment policy, I shouldn’t have kept your comment up.

    Please review the comment policy of my blog before you decide on commenting again. Thanks.

  10. Oh Sigorn, very complex message when one tries to click on your name, involving clicking into a site with a different name again, a statement that in fact the site does not require a login, and a warning that “this might be an attempt to trick you”.

    I was going to correct your false historical narration, but I guess that just about says it all. Not worth the bother.

    I trust Jehanzeb to deal with your comment appropriately.

  11. Chiara and Jehanzab. Did you live in Israel? In 1969 there was peace and Israeli doctors attended to the Palestinians. I do not believe that Jews should expand in the West Bank. Just, in the name of Jesus, why do Arabs tie bombs around them. Because they are part of the Hamas and the money goes to their families. Arabs kill Arabs. Example Iraq killing Kuwait. Allah is not Jehovah which the Jews and Christians share. Jews and Christians find suicide as a sin. Wake up and smell the roses. I am a Catholic with a conscience and obviously Ciara and Janhazb are Arabs. Very prejudice to mankind.

  12. To conclude, Lebanon had a civil war in the 70’s with the Muslims. Why? People of different religions should live peacfully with one another. The United States in a Melting pot where Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims live in harmony with one another.

  13. Alex,

    I want you to pay attention. Look at your posts. In the first one, you accuse me and Chiara as Arabs. We are not Arabs. But even if we were, you’re making a disgusting generalization. Do you really believe all Arabs are prejudice? What if someone said all Jews are prejudice? How would that make you feel.

    In your second comment, you say “People of different religions should live peacefully with one another.” Yes, I agree with you, but you don’t seem to think that in your first comment. You don’t seem very respectful towards Arabs.

    I think you need to check your prejudices, my friend.

    • Jehanzeb–well put.

      Alex–As pleased as my husband would be to have me pass for Arab, I am a Roman Catholic Canadian of Italian descent, married to an Arab Muslim, and working/having worked in Jewish Canadian settings (Jewish hospitals, and departments of psychiatry). We all get along fine. I also read what the UN, UNHRC, IRCC, HRW, have had to say about Israel’s behaviour towards Palestinians which was the topic here. Doctors are under oath to treat with the best of all patients, no matter what their ethnicity, religion, or character. That includes military doctors treating the enemy in a combat zone.

      Lebanon has suffered greatly, and the why of those wars is complex. Hopefully greater peace is in the future.

      BTW Jehanzeb and I get along famously too!

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