Open Letter to John Michael McDonagh from Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

Dear John Michael McDonagh,

We write you this letter in the hope that you will carefully consider cancelling your participation in and the screening of your film “The Guard” at the Haifa International Film Festival in October 2011 in Israel.  Your participation will undoubtedly be interpreted as a political statement in support of Israel’s harsh and illegal apartheid.

As described by the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI), “the Festival is sponsored by Israel’s political establishment, from the Minister of Culture and Sport to the Mayor of the city of Haifa. The Israeli Haifa elite celebrates Haifa as “a city that has become a symbol of co-existence, tolerance and peace,” in flagrant contradiction to the realities of segregation, discrimination, and racism suffered by the native Palestinian residents of Haifa, and in denial of Israel’s violent history of ethnic cleansing in that city.” [1] Thus, by screening “The Guard” at this festival, you would be lending your support to the Israeli government and its policies of apartheid, occupation and war crimes against the Palestinian people.

The PACBI call to boycott has been made by over 200 Palestinian civil society organisations, and has been endorsed by filmmakers and  artists such as Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Roger Waters, Pixies, Iain Banks, Leftfield, Arundhati Roy, Elvis Costello, Naomi Klein, John Berger, Breyten Breytenbach and Gil-Scott Heron among others. Indeed, since 2006, Ken Loach has refused to participate in the Haifa Film Festival or any other cultural events in Israel while this terrible oppression of the Palestinian people continues. [2] [3] [4]

Over 200 artists in Ireland, including great directors and actors, have signed a pledge to boycott Israel. [5] These artists refuse to allow their work to be exploited by an apartheid state that disregards international law and universal principles of human rights.  Attending cultural events in Israel truly is a political statement in support of apartheid, and against human rights.  Please be aware of the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s statement in 2005 that “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”

The BDS (Boycott, Divesment and Sanctions) movement has reached global proportions and people around the world are joining in solidarity with the oppressed people who live under Israel’s harsh, oppressive, racist apartheid system.

There are many reasons not to participate in this film festival, some of them follow. The recent International Red Cross report on the siege of Gaza demonstrates how terribly damaging it is to Palestinians. [6] The siege most definitely constitutes human rights abuse. Also, the UN Report of 200found that Israel commited war crimes in its assault on Gaza in 2008/2009, including using white phosphorous on civilians and using human shields. [7]

In the light of last year’s murder of humanitarian activists by the Israeli military and the ongoing illegal and immoral siege of Gaza, as well as the occupation of Palestine, it is profoundly important that Israel not be allowed to profit from artists visiting the state until it upholds international law. Apartheid was wrong in South Africa and is wrong in Israel; please take a stand against it. [8] [9]

Our sincere hope is that you honour both  your craft and human rights,  and refuse to cross the picket line drawn by the Palestinian call for cultural boycott and cancel your film screening in Israel.


Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

We are a group of 774 members representing many nations around the globe, who believe that it is essential for artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.

[1]  Israeli International Festivals: Occasions for Whitewashing Oppression or Resisting it?

[2] Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

[3] After the Flotilla Massacre: Cultural Boycott of Israel Takes Off

[4] Filmmaker Ken Loach Joins the Cultural Boycott of Israel

[5] IPSC “Irish artists’ pledge to boycott Israel”

[6] Gaza Closure: Not Another year!

[7]  UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

[8] Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) study : Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

[9] United Nations Report on Movement and Access in the West Bank


2 thoughts on “Open Letter to John Michael McDonagh from Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

  1. I’ve just heard that John Michael McDonagh has declined to attend the Haifa showing of his film “due to the political situation” – he contacted the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign expressly to inform us.

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