Ari Folman (“Waltz With Bashir”), Nadav Lapid (“Ahed’s Knee”) and Hagai Levi (“Our Boys”) are among a group of 250 Israeli filmmakers that has signed an open letter to protest against the recently launch of the Shomron (Samaria/West Bank) Film Fund.
The Fund, which held its inaugural film festival in the occupied West Bank in July , was founded by Miri Regev, the controversial former culture minister of Israel who was highly criticicized within the local film community for her right-wing views. Regev was believed to have put pressure on the Israel Film Fund to ban films that were critical of Israel from receiving subsidies.
The signatories of the public letter said they will not seek funding from, nor cooperate with the Shomron (Samaria/West Bank) Film Fund and have urged the Israeli Academy of Film and Television not to partake in “whitewashing the Occupation” ahead of the Ophir Awards, the country’s version of the Academy Awards, later this month. The filmmakers claim that the Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund has one goal: inviting “Israeli filmmakers to actively participate in whitewashing the Occupation in exchange for financial support and prizes.”
The Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund’s official mandate is to “distribute grants to Jewish settlers who reside in the West Bank (“Judea and Samaria”) and to productions by Israeli citizens filmed in the West Bank.” This means that the 2.5 million Palestinian residents of this occupied territory are not allowed to apply for this fund.
Here’s the full letter (translated from Hebrew):
“Israeli Cinema Will Not Be Instrumentalized to Whitewash the Occupation
“In July 2022, at the inaugural opening ceremony of the ‘Shomron (Samaria) Film Festival’ a call was made to bring the Israel Academy of Film and Television ‘Ophir Awards’ to the occupied West Bank. The festival was supported and/or attended by Minister of Culture Chili Tropper, the heads of the Israel Film Council, the heads of the Rabinovich Film Fund, distributor Moshe Edery, and the Israel Screenwriters’ Guild.
“What stands behind this inaugural festival, as well as behind the recently-established ‘Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund,’ is not a love of culture but a politic aimed at erasing the green line and the distinction between military and civilian regimes [i.e. normalizing the settlements]. It is, therefore, not surprising that this political foundation is headed by Esther Allouche, spokesperson of the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council, and Yossi Dagan, chairperson of the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council. Both the foundation and the festival invite Israeli filmmakers to take an active part in whitewashing the occupation in exchange for production financing and prizes.
[** Shomron is the Hebrew word for Samaria – which is the Biblical name of the land currently known in the world as the northern West Bank. Referring to these areas as “Judea and Samaria” is a nomenclature developed and used by Israel’s settlement enterprise and national religious movement.]
“The establishment of the Shomron Film Fund was accompanied by statements regarding the need for diversity in the Israeli arts and the imperative of giving expression to marginalized voices. While this is a worthy goal, the term ‘diversity’ becomes devoid of meaning when in practice it obfuscates systematic violence and serious violations of human rights. The Shomron Fund is not a pluralistic fund — it is part and parcel of the mechanisms of apartheid [**open to one ethnic group (Jews) and closed to another (Palestinians) living in the same geopolitical area (the occupied West Bank).]
“Filmmakers bear responsibility for the image of the societies in which they live. In an ongoing reality of occupation, and a creeping process of annexation, we must draw a red line.
“We, the undersigned, hereby declare that we will not cooperate with the Shomron Fund — neither now nor in the future. Not in its workshops, not in its selection committees, not in our filmmaking. Nor will we agree to hold the ‘Ophir Awards’ in an area subject to military occupation.
“We call upon the Israeli Academy of Film and Television, its leadership and members at large, not to turn Israeli cinema into yet another instrument in the oppression of the Palestinian people.”