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

Letter of Request to Those Overseas Who Work and Study with Films

Official demands including action points:

Koreans in the film industry, individuals, activist groups, and artists have started a boycott action using Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea (hereinafter PPS, https://intifadakorea.wordpress.com/) as a communication channel. They have delivered their position and made the following requests to EBS International Documentary Festival (hereinafter EIDF):

1. Cut off all relations with the Israeli government and its embassy in Korea.

2. Cancel “The Special Session: Israeli Documentary Collection” and its related conference during the festival.

3. Refuse any relations with Israel [government] or any projects under the name of “Brand Israel” until the occupation is ended.

This boycott action has already been publicized through media and press, and some of the EIDF’s partner theaters and participating directors have also joined in this boycott. One of the participating Korean directors announced that he could not withdraw his film because of the official contract, but he expressed his endorsement of the message and aims of this boycott and said that he would wear a boycott message during the whole festival. They met EIDF representatives in an unofficial meeting and are now waiting for the first announcement of their official position.

Now, we are asking for solidarity and support to those overseas who work and study with films. Our requests are as follows:

1. Please give us your endorsement : We will add your names or your organizations’ names to our statement. It will be published through media and social network services.

2. Please write your own statement of boycott : We will deliver your voice to EIDF and Korean society, also it can be the crucial support and guide for us.

Though your stance may vary and your position on the boycott may be different, all ideas and opinions will be gratefully accepted.

Background

Gaza today

The Israeli government has been intensively bombing Gaza, murdering people and destroying civilian homes for more than a month now. As you know, the Israeli government has been occupying Palestine and systematically committing ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and other violations of international law. As global citizens sharing the same era, we cannot avoid asking ourselves what art and culture is and what its role in life is, especially when it comes to the role of documentaries. It must contemplate and reflect reality and can strongly affect people.

The Israeli films to be introduced during the session neither speak from a pro-Zionist perspective nor offer Israeli government propaganda. Nevertheless, it would be naïve to think that screening such films during the festival does not matter. Israel is trying to hide their real face as an occupying nation and systematically replace it with that of an ordinary member of the international community by representing itself as a benevolent patron of culture and art. Israel supports and hosts many different cultural events attracting international artists, and participates in international events spreading its Brand Israel. This would be acceptable if there were no Palestinians suffering from occupation, bombing attacks, massacres, land confiscation, humiliation, or human hunting by Israeli settlers, and if Israel were not responsible for these things. That’s why those academic and cultural events in which art, culture, and humanity are discussed cannot avoid responsibility if going along with the Israeli occupation.

The background of the film festival:

EBS(Educational Broadcasting System), a public broadcaster in Korea has hosted the EBS International Documentary Festival(EIDF) annually since 2004. This year, EIDF (Aug 25th – Aug 31th) is preparing an Israel documentary collection and a conference on Israel’s documentary filmmaking environment with advanced systems supported by and in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Korea which is an official sponsor of the event. The slogan of EIDF is “Hope Lies Within Us” along with the keywords of ‘Hope’ and ‘Coexistence’. All participating films are screened both at theaters and on TV through EBS’ own educational TV channel, and anybody can watch them online without registering (http://www.eidf.org/) after the films have been televised.

The starting point of the boycott in Korea:

Korean society was rapidly westernized and industrialized after Japanese occupation and US control during the 20th century, and is not accustomed to listening to or sympathizing with the afflictions of other countries. A lot of Korean people may emotionally identify themselves with the Jewish people or citizens of Israel when they first meet with Israeli ‘culture’ even after learning about the situation of the occupation through media. This is where normalization/equalization works easily. In addition, conscientious members of Korean society have never considered applying an academic/cultural boycott until now, which begs the important question of how we should apply the concept of justice in our daily lives.

On-going efforts:

However, upon the news of EIDF’s inconsiderate Israel-sponsored project to screen some Israeli films during the Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians, filmmakers and film scholars along with an activist organization, PPS (https://intifadakorea.wordpress.com/) began to boycott the film festival. PPS has been working on the Palestinian issue in Korea for a long time. PPS happened to get the EIDF screening schedule and found out its project on Israeli films, and now the first cultural boycott action against Israeli occupation is being organized by some members of the film industry, individuals, activists groups, and other artists, with the help of PPS as our communication channel.

They met EIDF representatives in an unofficial meeting and are waiting for the first announcement of EDIF’s official position this Wednesday (Aug 13th). This is right before the opening of EIDF when they have already published their programs and printed tickets, and these practical matters could be used as an excuse for them to continue with the festival. So we want to gather as many endorsements as possible and pressure EIDF from as many different angles as we can so that they don’t stick to a distorted version of so called reality but take the first step toward just change.

If this boycott action successfully stops EIDF from having relations with Brand Israel, it would offer an example to other international/domestic film festivals in Korea. It would also be the first step toward an academic/cultural boycott against the Israeli occupation of Palestine in Korean society.

 

Banda (documentary director), Heejeong Son (former film festival programmer and researcher), Haoon Kim (publisher), Yaping Dyung (activist), Nyaong (activist), Sara Shin (activist), Kirak (activist), Hyeran Park (translator), Eric (activist), Seejin Baek (activist), Kirin (activist), Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea

Dear Directors and Staff participating in the EBS International Documentary Festival

Koreans in the film industry, individuals, activist groups, and artists have started a boycott action using Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea (https://intifadakorea.wordpress.com/) as a communication channel. Regarding this Boycott, they have delivered their position and made some requests to EIDF, which is attached here below. Hopefully we will expect you to join this boycott action in solidarity.

Official demands including action points:

Koreans in the film industry, individuals, activist groups, and artists have started a boycott action using Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea (hereinafter PPS, https://intifadakorea.wordpress.com/) as a communication channel. They have delivered our position and made the following requests to EBS International Documentary Festival (hereinafter EIDF):

1. Cut off all relations with the Israeli government and its embassy in Korea.

2. Cancel “The Special Session: Israeli Documentary Collection” and its related conference during the festival.

3. Refuse any relations with Israel [government] or any projects under the name of “Brand Israel” until the occupation is ended.

This boycott action has already been publicized through media and press, and some of the EIDF’s partner theaters and participating directors have also joined in this boycott. One of the participating Korean directors announced that he could not withdraw his film because of the official contract, but he expressed his endorsement of the message and aims of this boycott and said that he would wear a boycott message during the whole festival. They met EIDF representatives in an unofficial meeting and are now waiting for the first announcement of their official position.

Now, we are asking for solidarity and support. Our requests are as follows:

1. Please withdraw your participation in EIDF: This will be the strongest boycott action expressing your endorsement.

2. Please send your messages of protest to EIDF: You can individually deliver your objection to EIDF, its conference on Israeli documentary filmmaking systems, its special session on the Israeli collection, and its official relations with the Israeli Embassy in Korea. You can make a public statement expressing your opinion about the situation.

3. Please give your endorsement to us: We will add your name to our statement and it will be published through media and social networking services.

Though your stance may vary and your position on the boycott may be different, all ideas and opinions will be gratefully accepted.

Background

Gaza today

The Israeli government has been intensively bombing Gaza, murdering people and destroying civilian homes for more than a month now. As you know, the Israeli government has been occupying Palestine and systematically committing ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and other violations of international law. As global citizens sharing the same era, we cannot avoid asking ourselves what art and culture is and what its role in life is, especially when it comes to the role of documentaries. It must contemplate and reflect reality and can strongly affect people.

The Israeli films to be introduced during the session neither speak from a pro-Zionist perspective nor offer Israeli government propaganda. Nevertheless, it would be naïve to think that screening such films during the festival does not matter. Israel is trying to hide their real face as an occupying nation and systematically replace it with that of an ordinary member of the international community by representing itself as a benevolent patron of culture and art. Israel supports and hosts many different cultural events attracting international artists, and participates in international events spreading its Brand Israel. This would be acceptable if there were no Palestinians suffering from occupation, bombing attacks, massacres, land confiscation, humiliation, or human hunting by Israeli settlers, and if Israel were not responsible for these things. That’s why those academic and cultural events in which art, culture, and humanity are discussed cannot avoid responsibility if going along with the Israeli occupation.

The background of the film festival:

EBS (Educational Broadcasting System), a public broadcaster in Korea has hosted the EBS International Documentary Festival (EIDF) annually since 2004. This year, EIDF (Aug 25th – Aug 31th) is preparing an Israel documentary collection and a conference on Israel’s documentary filmmaking environment with advanced systems supported by and in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Korea which is an official sponsor of the event. The slogan of EIDF is “Hope Lies Within Us” along with the keywords of ‘Hope’ and ‘Coexistence’. All participating films are screened both at theaters and on TV through EBS’ own educational TV channel, and anybody can watch them online without registering (http://www.eidf.org/) after the films have been televised.

The ongoing boycott in Korea:

Upon the news of EIDF’s inconsiderate Israel-sponsored project to screen some Israeli films during the Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians, filmmakers and film scholars along with an activist organization, PPS (https://intifadakorea.wordpress.com/) began to boycott the film festival. PPS has been working on the Palestinian issue in Korea for a long time. PPS happened to get the EIDF screening schedule and found out its projects on Israeli films, and now the first cultural boycott action against Israeli occupation is being organized by some members of the film industry, individuals, activists groups, and other artists, with the help of PPS as our communication channel.

They met EIDF representatives in an unofficial meeting and are waiting for the first announcement of EIDF’s official position this Wednesday (Aug 13th). This is right before the opening of EIDF when they have already published their programs and printed tickets, and these practical matters could be used as an excuse for them to continue with the festival. So we want to gather as many endorsements as possible and pressure EIDF from as many different angles as we can so that they don’t stick to a distorted version of so called reality but take the first step toward just change.

If this boycott action successfully stops EIDF from having relations with Brand Israel, it would offer an example to other international/domestic film festivals in Korea. It would also be the first step toward a academic/cultural boycott against the Israeli occupation of Palestine in Korean society.

 

Banda (documentary director), Heejeong Son (former film festival programmer and researcher), Haoon Kim (publisher), Yaping Dyung (activist), Nyaong (activist), Sara Shin (activist), Kirak (activist), Hyeran Park (translator), Eric (activist), Seejin Baek (activist), Kirin (activist), Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea