Last night I attended a protest of the Chicago Festival of Israel Cinema. This demonstration that fits in with the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society to use boycotts, divestments, and sanctions to force Israel to recognize and respect Palestinian human rights.
That being said, I understand that the cultural boycott of Israel is probably the most controversial aspect of the boycott. A lot of people can get behind boycotting Israeli settlement goods, because to many people, settlements are the most clear obstacle to peace and the most evident violation of international law.
Nevertheless, I support the cultural boycott of Israel. Why? Because Israel cannot keep operating in the world -- through the arts, economics, sports, and politics -- as if it's not carrying out a brutal occupation of the West Bank, operating the largest open-air prison in the world, and egregiously violating human rights and international laws.
It's the same reason I think tourists who go to Tel Aviv, Nazareth, and Eilat -- without ever stepping foot in the occupied territories -- are deceiving themselves and not getting a full picture of Israel. Israel is an occupier. Israel disregards the rulings of the International Criminal Court. Israel scoffs at international law. Israel is a racist, apartheid state in which all non-Jews are second class citizens. Israel imprisons 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, barely nothing in and nothing out.
That's why they can't have a film festival in Chicago, because the arts are used to whitewash the myriad evils that the Israeli state carries out on a daily basis. It's like taking a rotten apple, hiding the bad part, and showing the world the small sliver of the apple that is still shiny and red.
Here's a bit of background to the event from the Palestine Solidarity Group - Chicago, followed by video and pictures. (A more professional video was shot and is being edited, I will post it once it's finished.)
The protest is part of an ongoing campaign calling on Chicago Sister Cities International, which is co-sponsoring the festival and whose offices are located in the Chicago Cultural Center, to drop the Israeli city of Petach Tikva from its program and end business-as-usual with apartheid Israel.The festival is being promoted as “The Real Reel Israel” yet we know that the fictional image of Israel as a liberal, multicultural state being trotted out at this festival is another PR attempt by the racist Israeli government and its supporters to whitewash the all too real Israeli military occupation, oppression of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the ongoing denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.