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British filmmakers urge cancellation of Israeli film festival

JERUSALEM (JTA) – A group of British filmmakers and actors called on a British movie theater chain to cancel an Israeli film festival. The group, including British directors Aki Kaurismäki, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, urged the theaters to refuse to host the London Israeli Film and Television Festival in an open letter published June 8 in the The Guardian. The festival is scheduled to open on June 11.

“This festival comes in the aftermath of the wanton destruction and killing in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military in 2014, and the re-election of an Israeli prime minister who denies Palestinians their equal rights and self-determination,” the letter read in part. “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. By benefiting from money from the Israeli state, the cinemas become silent accomplices to the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people. Such collaboration and cooperation is unacceptable. It normalizes, even if unintentionally, the Israeli government’s violent, systematic and illegal oppression of the Palestinians,” said the letter, directed at Curzon Cinemas, Odeon Cinemas and the Bafta Theatre.

The Curzon Cinema chain said in a statement to The Guardian: “Curzon Cinemas hosts many festivals throughout the year… We have 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.”

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