Letter published in Tikkun Magazine
July 1, 2009
Protesting Israeli policies, The Yes Men have withdrawn their highly acclaimed new film from the Jerusalem Film Festival where it was scheduled to be shown.
"For Once, the Yes Men Say No"
Dear Friends at the Jerusalem Film Festival,
We regret to say that we have taken the hard decision to withdraw our film, "The Yes Men Fix the World," from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (http://www.bdsmovement.net/).
This decision does not come easily, as we realize that the festival opposes the policies of the State of Israel, and we have no wish to punish progressives who deplore the state-sponsored violence committed in their name.
This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.
But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.
It is painful to do this. But it is even more painful to hear Israeli policies described as "fascist" - not just from the ill-informed and the clueless, not just from the usual anti-semitic morons, but from well-informed Jewish activists within Israel. They know what they're talking about, and it's painful to think that they could be right.
As we're sure you know and deplore, the Israeli government has recently authorized the construction of new units in an illegal West Bank outpost - one that is illegal even according to Israeli law. On Monday, nine Palestinians were injured as Israeli authorities demolished their East Jerusalem home. Tuesday, the Israeli navy stopped a ship from delivering medicine, toys, and other humanitarian relief to Gaza, and detained over twenty foreign peace activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate. Meanwhile, a UN commission was in Gaza investigating much worse abuses committed early this year.
Whatever words are applied to such actions, our film mustn't help lend an aura of normalcy to a state that makes these decisions. For us, that's the bottom line.
There is certainly another way to do things in Israel/Palestine, and that is what we must fight for, however feeble our means. As for our film, there is another way for it to be seen in Israel... and in Palestine, so that the people most in need of comic relief, who would never have been able to see it at the Jerusalem Film Festival anyhow, will be able to see it too. Within the next few months, we will make this happen.
To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.
L'shanah haba'ah beyerushalayim,
Andy and Mike
The Yes Men