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Israeli culture scene target of domestic censorship, international boycotts

Major Israeli film festivals are operating under an impossible Catch-22: on one front, Culture Minister Miri Regev threatens to slash funds of works that contradict her right-wing worldview, and on another front, Israeli cultural institutions are viewed as part and parcel of an occupying government uninterested in peace.

For the first time since the Haifa International Film Festival’s inception in 1983, the event’s directors have been unable to persuade leading movie stars to take part in the festival, which will be held this year Sept. 22 to Oct. 1. Israel’s first international festival is far from being the only such event to receive notable rejections by invited guests. The Jerusalem Film Festival, held earlier, in July and August, suffered the same fate.

The organizers of the Jerusalem festival offered a long list of directors and producers the opportunity to screen their new films but often received negative replies. They were told that the time wasn’t right to visit, as the city stands at the epicenter of a tempest. A few noted that the actions of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement had not frightened them off, because in principle, they would go to other cities in Israel. What bothered them was that participating in a film festival held adjacent to the City of David, an archaeological site near the Western Wall, could be interpreted as a political statement, as recognizing the city as the capital of Israel.

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