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Boycott Calls Against Israel
[Ex-Dean at Sapir College, now UEL] Haim Bresheeth to the Coen Brothers: Don't Accept Tel Aviv U Dan David Prize


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Prof. Haim Bresheeth is a film studies scholar at the University of East London. He is part of the London One State Group, which opposes the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because it "denies Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right of return.”   Bresheeth is also involved with the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, which sent a letter to Leonard Cohen asking him to not perform in Israel and other BDS related activities.   They have also sent boats to Gaza, and Bresheeth can be seen on youtube interacting with the BRICUP members who participated in it.   On top of that, Bresheeth was part of a panel that gave a presentation to Jews against Zionism, where he blamed Israel that Palestinians “live in a combination of a concentration camp and Warsaw ghetto for so many years that we have stopped counting.”   Bresheeth also argued that the Zionist project is “about the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinian population of Palestine” and called upon his audience to boycott Israel so that “more Israelis will come to their bloody senses.”  


In May 2008, Bresheeth addressed the Nakba Day events at the University of East London.   He spoke as part the following panels: “Nakba: From Memory to Struggle,” ”Nakba on Film,” and “A State of Danger.”   In 2007, Bresheeth spoke for a SOAS Palestine Society Conference, where he spoke about “The Israeli and British media and the boycott issue” and “the British media and the Israel-Palestine Question.”   In 2006, PACBI reported that Bresheeth decided to stop chairing the Cinema South Film Festival in Israel due to his overall pro-BDS positions, despite the fact that he has spent years aiding that particular film festival.    And in December 2004, Bresheeth partook in a SOAS Palestine Society and Palestine Solidarity Campaign conference entitled “Resisting Israeli Apartheid: Strategies and Principles.” For this conference, Bresheeth presented a paper entitled “Stand Up and Be Counted,” where he argued that Israel was guilty of ethnic cleansing, compared Israel to the regimes of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, accused Israel of terrorizing the Arabs, referred to Israel as a “rogue and brutal state,” claimed that the international players leading the War against Terrorism are engaging in terrorism that is worse than Bin Ladin’s, called upon people to boycott Israel, Etc.   The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs quoted Bresheeth as stating at this conference that “the occupation started in 1948” and that “there is no valid comparison between South Africa and Israel: Israel is much worse. South Africa exploited its native population while Israel expelled and committed genocide against its native population.”          


Coen Brothers: Don't Accept Dan David Prize!

Sunday, 13 March 2011 11:04

British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

The British Commitee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) calls on filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen to refuse the Dan David Prize, awarded jointly with Tel Aviv University, and not attend the 15 May award ceremony in Tel Aviv in the company of Israeli President Shimon Peres.   

Dear Joel and Ethan Coen:

We understand that you’re among this year’s winners of a $1mn Dan David prize, awarded jointly by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University.   We read that you’re likely to attend the award ceremony in Israel on May 15, in the company of Israeli president Shimon Peres.

All this may seem unexceptional to you.   But we think you’re too smart not to understand that nothing in this situation is simple.

The Dan David judges apparently like your ability ‘to tell a simple story in a complex manner’.  Allow us to complicate your reported acceptance of this prize.

Your much-celebrated presence will adorn a colonial settler state still vigorously engaged in the business of dispossessing and driving out the indigenous inhabitants, who are the Palestinians. Of course the United States itself is built on the bones and demolished civilizations of its own indigenous inhabitants, but for the Palestinians the struggle is real and present – an every day battle to hang on to land, houses, livelihoods, hopes and ambitions. 

Your appearance in Israel will unfortunately help camouflage the brutal realities of a powerful and illegal military occupation. However much you believe you can go there simply as artists, your presence will be spun to reassure the Israeli public that their ruthless colonial society is ‘normal’, and to promote Brand Israel abroad.   You will be saying, to Israelis and to the world, that Israel’s violently racist treatment of the Palestinians is acceptable.

Do you really want to do this?

Palestinian civil society organisations, grouped together as PACBI,are asking international artists not to go to Israel while it flouts international law and denies Palestinian rights.   In the last few weeks, musicians Roger Waters and Pete Seeger have announced their support for this boycott call; they join film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, writers John Berger and Arundhati Roy, musicians Massive Attack, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, The Pixies, and many others. You may reject the idea of ‘taking a stand’ like this; you may feel it’s antithetical to the whole spirit and ethos of your writing and filmmaking.   But by accepting the prize and going to Israel, you are already taking a stand.

Boycott is a non-violent form of direct action.   It gives citizens the power to act in favour of justice when our governments fail to do so. Is it conceivable that during the long struggle against apartheid South Africa, you would have travelled there to receive a award from an apartheid institution?   If it isn’t, you’re already willing to boycott an unjust system.

Right now a group of Israelis organising as Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within are threatened with legal sanctions by an anti-boycott bill that has just passed its first reading in the Israeli parliament.   You could maybe stand with them.   Or with these Palestinian children, woken from sleep by an Israeli army unit and photographed because, apparently, they represent a threat to the state.   Or with 11 year old Kareem Tamimi, arrested in January in the chilling circumstances of this video.

But if you go to Tel Aviv and accept the prize, you’ll be standing with Shimon Peres, capo dei capi of the security forces whose activities one gets a glimpse of in these clips.   Won’t it make you queasy to do so?   We think it ought to.   Please don’t go.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Haim Bresheeth
Mike Cushman
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

London, 10 March 2011


Professor Haim Bresheeth is a filmmaker, photographer and a film studies scholar at the University of East London since early 2002. His books include the best-selling Introduction to the Holocaust (with Stuart Hood, 2 reprints since 1997), the first version was titled Holocaust for Beginners (1993) and was also reprinted a number of times; This title was also published in Turkish, Croatian and Japanese translations, and is being translated into other languages. His edited volumes include The Gulf War and the New World Order, (with Nira Yuval-Davis) published in 1992 by Zed Books, Cinema and Memory: Dangerous Liaisons, Co-edited with Sand, S and Zimmerman, M Jerusalem, Zalman Shazar Centre (Hebrew) 2004, and a co-edited volume with Haifa Hammami The Conflict and Contemporary Visual Culture in Palestine & Israel, special double-issue of Third Text on Palestinian and Israeli Art, Literature, Architecture and Cinema. He has been on the Editorial Board of the JournalKhamsin for many years until its demise in 1991, and has published widely in Hebrew and English on Palestinian and Israeli film, and is currently working on the representation of the other and stranger in European film. His films include the widely-shown State of Danger (1989, BBC2) – a documentary on the first Palestinian Intifada. He has also written many newspaper articles in Hebrew, mainly published in the Israeli Ha’aretz broadsheet, as well as English language articles, mainly published by the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Weekly. He is Director of the new UEL research centre – Matrix East Research Lab – concentrating on the Digital Arts and Cybercultures.Before coming to UEL, Prof. Bresheeth was Dean of the School of Media, Film and Cultural Studies, at Sapir College, Israel.


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