Celebrating the EBS EDIF’s Announcement – It’s High Time to Boycott Israel!

The Organizing Committee of the 11th EBS International Documentary Festival (EIDF) announced on August 13th that it had cancelled its ‘Israeli Documentary Collection’ and ‘Conference on Israeli Documentaries,’ which led to the cancellation of the official sponsorship of the Israeli Embassy in South Korea.

First of all, we Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea (PPS) appreciate The EIDF’s brave decision. As the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) stated, hosting EIDF events under “Brand Israel” demonstrates approval of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. We appreciate that The EIDF made a difficult but common sense decision to end its association with Brand Israel in this way. However, we are concerned about EIDF’s announcement that the move was made “to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding that might arise from recent occurrences in Middle East conflicts.”

PPS’s Demands of EIDF [to cancel the screening of Israeli films and its related events] EIDF’s Announcement of Response [titled “EIDF’s official statement related to unit events”]
– Cut off all relations with the Israeli government and its embassy in Korea.
– Cancel “The Special Section: Israeli Documentary Collection” and “Conference: The Frontier of World Documentary, Israel” during the festival.
– Refuse any relations with Israel [government] or any projects under the name of “Brand Israel” until the occupation is ended.
– All events at EIDF from Aug. 25 to 31 are only cultural without any political and cultural significance, already programmed 1 year ago.
– Unfortunately, however, in order to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding that might arise from recent occurrences in Middle East conflicts, [EDIF] made a final decision not to hold some unit events: the Special Section of Israeli films and the Conference.
– Films involved are supposed to screen respectively in the “World Showcase” section along with other film from all over the world.

Rather than being about “recent occurrences in Middle East conflicts,” it is about Israel’s ongoing occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It is also not a matter of “avoid[ing] unnecessary misunderstanding” for us to face the reality of what is happening with “the absolute need to understand it.” We have to make these points clear since The EIDF is not different from other Korean cultural communities and any of us can lie in the same situation. We don’t believe The EIDF prepared the Israel related programs this year because it has less social awareness than other festivals. None of us could escape the position EIDF stood in. Rather this stems from our shared position within Korean society where information about Palestine is unclear and lacking and where we are so accustomed to seeing ‘them’ as the irrelevant others.

The aim of our boycott action was neither to frame EIDF as wrongdoers defending Israel nor to damage the achievements that The EIDF has made so far. A documentary film itself selects which reality to show from amongst many aspects, and the audience sees the reality according to how the documentary arranges it. The ‘reality’ that The EIDF was about to present was the image of Israel as a supporter of a documentary film festival, a democratic society open to diversity, and the frontier of documentary making, which is exactly how Israel has systematically been trying to portray itself through its cultural policy. However, Koreans involved in film and documentary making are clearly aware of the fact that this can be used to hide the ‘reality’ of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, its violation of international law, and its destruction of civilians’ daily lives. They were able to distinguish reality from political manipulation. And this led to the raising of voices which have stopped Korean society from being a distribution channel of Israeli cultural policy.

172 people in the film industry published their statement boycotting the 11th EIDF, and 79 film makers also gave their endorsement to the statement boycotting Israel in general. Furthermore, the film makers of the documentary ‘Nobody Knows’ lodged a strong protest against The EIDF publicly even though they were in the most vulnerable position as a participant funded by The EIDF. This shows that they are trying to take responsibility as filmmakers and as global citizens, overcoming the mere art-for-art’s-sake ideas that ‘films talk only through film’ and that ‘culture should be separated from politics.’ We also appreciate the way that the audience protested to The EIDF standing for Palestine. They refused to be passive receivers of the films that filmmakers and film festivals suggest and instead played an active role in determining how the festival was arranged, raising their own voices against what they could not agree with. International mainstream media and governments restrain us within borders and nationalities. They also highlight the image of the Middle East terrorist while presenting Israel in a positive and democratic light. However, Korean audience has shown their ability to reject the manipulated images and to face the suffering and pain of others regardless of border and nationality. We have seen that politics exists not only at the meeting table but in the power of public opinion, and how these small actions and solidarity can be politically powerful.

The overall process of our boycotting Israel was a way to refuse to align with the massacre, keep our humanity, and announce that there is no place for slaughterers on this planet. We thank Palestine civil society for letting us have a chance to reflect on our own daily lives and recognize what we can do within them. The boycott action last week was an expression of our mourning through nonviolent direct action for the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel. We have confirmed that culture cannot be apolitical, and it cannot stay purely objective outside of the reality. We are willing to embark on this long road to create discussion and discourse about a cultural boycott movement in Korean society. PPS will continue the boycott against Israel until its occupation is completely ended, until Palestinians can have as much hope as Israelis.

August 14, 2014 Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea