More than 250 of Israel’s top filmmakers have signed an open letter, saying they will not seek funding from, nor cooperate with the recently–established Shomron (Samaria/West Bank) Film Fund, following the fund’s inaugural film festival in the occupied West Bank.
The filmmakers call on the Israeli Academy of Film and Television not to partake in “whitewashing the Occupation” ahead of the Ophir Awards — Israel’s Academy Awards — later this month. Read the full text of the letter below.
Among the signatories are multiple Academy Award winners and nominees. They have signed a public letter in which they state that they will not receive grants and will not participate in “lectura” (selection of films for development and production) or in professional events held by the Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund. The goal of the Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund, write the filmmakers, is “to invite Israeli filmmakers to actively participate in whitewashing the Occupation in exchange for financial support and prizes.”
Signatories include Oscar-nominated filmmakers Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir), Guy Davidi (Five Broken Cameras), and Oren Moverman (The Messenger); Oscar-winner Sharon Maymon (Skin); Cannes alumni Nadav Lapid (Ahed’s Knee), Avi Mograbi (Avenge But One of My Two Eyes), Keren Yedaya (Or), and Amos Gitai (Kippur); Emmy-winner Rachel Leah Jones (Advocate); Israel Academy Award winners Eran Kolirin (Band’s Visit), Yaron Zilberman (Incitement), and Shira Arad (Avinu); Sundance Grand Jury winners Raanan Alexandrowicz and Liran Atzmor (The Law in These Parts); HBO creators Hagai Levi (Our Boys), Hilla Medalia, Mor Loushy, and Daniel Sivan (Oslo Diaries); veteran filmmakers and film educators Ram Loevy, Michal Aviad, Ran Tal, Barak and Tomer Heymann, and dozens of other established narrative and documentary cineastes.
The Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund was founded by controversial former Minister of Culture Miri Regev (pictured). The fund distributes grants to Jewish settlers who reside in the West Bank (“Judea and Samaria”) and to productions by Israeli citizens filmed in the West Bank. The 2.5 million Palestinian residents of this occupied territory are barred from applying to the fund. Yossi Dagan, the head of the Yesha Council, which is the umbrella organization of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, was among the founders of the fund and the CEO of the fund is also the spokesperson for the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council.
The inaugural Shomron (Samaria) Film Festival took place in July this year. Israeli film distribution veteran Moshe Edery said from the stage at the festival that, “We will make every effort to bring the Israeli Academy Awards here one day, to Judea and Samaria.”
The full text of the letter with a complete list of signatories to date (translated from Hebrew), reads as follows:
“Israeli Cinema Will Not Be Instrumentalized to Whitewash the Occupation
“In July 2022, at the inaugural opening ceremony of the “Shomron (Samaria) Film Festival,” a call was made to bring the Israel Academy of Film and Television “Ophir Awards” to the occupied West Bank. The festival was supported and/or attended by Minister of Culture Chili Tropper, the heads of the Israel Film Council, the heads of the Rabinovich Film Fund, distributor Moshe Edery, and the Israel Screenwriters’ Guild.
“What stands behind this inaugural festival, as well as behind the recently-established “Shomron (Samaria) Film Fund,” is not a love of culture but a politic aimed at erasing the green line and the distinction between military and civilian regimes [i.e. normalizing the settlements]. It is, therefore, not surprising that this political foundation is headed by Esther Allouche, spokesperson of the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council, and Yossi Dagan, chairperson of the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council. Both the foundation and the festival invite Israeli filmmakers to take an active part in whitewashing the occupation in exchange for production financing and prizes.
[** Shomron is the Hebrew word for Samaria – which is the Biblical name of the land currently known in the world as the northern West Bank. Referring to these areas as “Judea and Samaria” is a nomenclature developed and used by Israel’s settlement enterprise and national religious movement.]
“The establishment of the Shomron Film Fund was accompanied by statements regarding the need for diversity in the Israeli arts and the imperative of giving expression to marginalized voices. While this is a worthy goal, the term “diversity” becomes devoid of meaning when in practice it obfuscates systematic violence and serious violations of human rights. The Shomron Fund is not a pluralistic fund — it is part and parcel of the mechanisms of apartheid [**open to one ethnic group (Jews) and closed to another (Palestinians) living in the same geopolitical area (the occupied West Bank).]
“Filmmakers bear responsibility for the image of the societies in which they live. In an ongoing reality of occupation, and a creeping process of annexation, we must draw a red line.
“We, the undersigned, hereby declare that we will not cooperate with the Shomron Fund — neither now nor in the future. Not in its workshops, not in its selection committees, not in our filmmaking. Nor will we agree to hold the “Ophir Awards” in an area subject to military occupation.
“We call upon the Israeli Academy of Film and Television, its leadership and members at large, not to turn Israeli cinema into yet another instrument in the oppression of the Palestinian people.”
The letter has been signed by the following industry professionals:
Abadi Grebler May
Bar Yossef Adi
Ben David Amir
Ben Dor Orna
Ben Ezer Ellyot
Ben Shachar Shelly
Ben Yaacov Hagit
Biton Keren or
Carmeli Pollak Shai
Davidovitch Schicowitch Elad
de Mayo Shark
Hadad Barak Eran
Hemi Artsy Kfir
Izhaki Shepon Hila
Leah Jones Rachel
Nevo Fridental Shiri
Raul Graizer Ofir
Rozanov Michael (Mysh)
Shafir Biran Yoav
Shalom Ezer Tali
Shem Tov Aharon
Wagner Schmidt Hannah
Wind Raz Alona
Zeibak Hadad Abeer