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Re: “Letters for the Week of August 7-13

Re Lexi Leban's Letter: "Politics Played No Role in Film Festival"

In her letter, the Director of the Jewish Film Institute (JFI) responds to my guest editorial about how Jewish Federation grantees like JFI are prohibited from partnering with any group that the Federation deems to "undermine the legitimacy" of Israel or that supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
Ms, Leban claims that JFI "...does not engage in community partnerships with political organizations working directly on the Israel/Palestine conflict. This policy applies to organizations on both ends of the spectrum on this issue. "

This new policy of neutrality must have been very recently adopted. JVP, which supports BDS and equal rights for Palestinians, has been dropped as a SF Jewish Film Festival partner since the Jewish Federation blacklist went into effect in 2010. During that same period, the Film Festival has partnered with the most staunch Israel-aligned groups in the Bay Area. Last year, for example, the Film Festival's Community Partners included Birthright (providing free trips for young Jews to Israel in order to forge emotional ties with that country), StandWithUs ("...inspired by our love of Israel to Stand Up for Israel"), Hillel Stanford (which is required under Hillel national rules to ban BDS supporters from speaking at its venue), Onward Israel (a Hillel International Program), and the Jewish Community Relations Council (which enforces the Jewish Federation blacklist). Indeed the Israeli consulate itself was a Community Partner last year, and, along with the Jewish Federation, a Premier Sponsor this year.

Many of the groups listed as Community Partners not only defend Israel's policies, but work to suppress Palestinian voices, particularly on campus, and promote legislation that punishes those who are critical of Israel or support BDS.

As my editorial notes, the Film Festival still features movies about Israel-Palestine, including some that portray Palestinian suffering under Israeli rule. But they are far fewer in number than before the Federation prohibition was imposed, and their content must not cross the lines set by the Federation.

At the time the Federation rules were first put in place, the then-director of the SF Jewish Film Festival decried fear-based boundary making, and a former director described them as "...putting a chill on programming decisions. Its very frightening." The rules that caused these two former directors such alarm are the same ones that the current director must work under.

Carol Sanders
Member, Jewish Voice for Peace

Posted by gitelsura on 08/09/2019 at 9:40 PM

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