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The Daily Lie – One of The Toronto Film Festival “Protest” Letter Authors Opines and Whines

You know, it is getting pretty tiresome to read these jokers. The twists and turns of misrepresenting history, the deceit or at least serious confusion involved in claiming they are the victims of some insidious campaign, the mysterious link to Palestine House and the constant harping on Israel’s supposed crimes while ignoring the Palestinian side of things is simply bad form. It’s propaganda, but couldn’t they at least deal with the issues with more integrity?

Today’s media circus comes from Kathy Wazana. I haven’t a clue who she is. One website says about her,

“Kathy Wazana is a food writer and cooking instructor, a translator and an editor, a festival programmer and a budding filmmaker who has lived in Morocco, France, Canada and Israel-Palestine. She is currently in transition between all of these spaces and places. A life-long human rights and peace activist, Kathy has spearheaded several joint Jewish-Arab community-building initiatives, including the Playgrounds for Peace Fund, the Just Peace Seder and Mimouna, and Cooks for Peace. Her current work focuses on Jewish-Arab relations in Morocco and in Israel-Palestine.”

Cool, she’s Moroccan.

But somebody still needs to tell her there is no such place as “Israel-Palestine.”

Here’s the only photo of her I could find.

Here’s a recipe she published for Moroccan chicken with olives. Yum!

Before I forget, here is our own ck’s mom’s superb shakshouka recipe.

Here’s an article Wazana published in the Toronto Star today where she pretends it’s tough to criticize Israel. It’s entitled, “To criticize Israel is a dangerous thing in today’s Canada.”

Ah, Wazana is clearly not just a cook, a filmmaker and a human rights activist, or a member of the original signatories on the protest letter to Toronto International Film Festival for showing the Tel Aviv slate of films, she is also a master of drama. Danger indeed! She writes,

In the week since the publication of the letter [the open letter protesting TIFF’s inclusion of a program of films from Tel Aviv] , the authors of the letter have been called hypocrites, censors and, worse, anti-Semites. A ludicrous charge: five of the eight are Jewish and one is an Israeli.

These accusations seek to intimidate us into silence and shut down substantive discussion. This, ironically, is the very charge that is being levelled at us.

It’s hard not to see these attacks as part of a deliberate strategy to divert attention from the real issues, namely Israel’s gross violations of human rights and disregard for international law and, in this instance, the hijacking of Toronto’s premier cultural event and putting it at the service of Israel’s political agenda.

Um, wrong.

Nobody is trying to “silence” anybody or shut down “substantive” discussion. You folks are being called out for taking an extreme position on issues that are far from clear cut and where in some cases you have, through omission, made claims that are unjustifiable.

You folks are being criticized for encouraging censorship, whether you admit that you seek such censorship or not. A letter that compares Israel to South Africa and Israel’s actions to South African apartheid in the context of criticizing a slate of films at a film festival, is not a letter that merely seeks to bring up some history. It is a call to action. It is also a warning to any other film festivals and their directors who seek to put on Israeli films that they will encounter fierce criticism in the media.

The targeting of Israeli films shown in a program at a major film festival is also a call to audiences to view those films as your group wishes them to be viewed and not as they would be viewed without your politicization of those films. Your group has set the agenda and nobody who will enter the cinemas to watch those films will be able to disengage your criticisms of Israel from their viewing. You have damaged the work of these filmmakers by doing this.

You have also falsely connected their films to the “destroyed Palestinian villages” upon which Tel Aviv supposedly resides. Never mind that this is highly misrepresentative of Tel Aviv’s history – the bulk of its land was never Palestinian land or was purchased outright – or the manner in which these “destroyed Palestinian villages” fell into Israeli hands (the villagers abandoned them before the ’48 war even began). Anybody reading your group’s letter will enter those films with false impressions.

You have created the terms of the debate, ugly and false terms, but now you wish to present yourselves as victims of those who would respond.

Your article in the Toronto Star twists and distorts facts. The “deliberate strategy” is not your critics’, because it is clear that they/we are individuals responding individually to your GROUP. On the other hand, your well-organized group (you can see the 2008 Youtube videos where Naomi Klein opens the meeting for Toronto Jews who were planning, as she said in her speech – I’m paraphrasing – to ensure that there would be no celebration of Israel’s longevity and that such celebration should be met with confrontation) is not only functioning as a group but appears to be backed by a Palestinian organization, Palestine House, which may have ties to the Palestinian Authority. Who possesses the “deliberate strategy” again?

This “deliberate strategy” is intended to politicize the City to City program and to put all film festivals on notice about putting on Israeli films in the future. It is YOUR GROUP’s “deliberate strategy” to “hijack Toronto’s premier cultural event” and to “put it at the service of the Palestinians’ political agenda.”

Your steps echo everything I’ve now read about what took place in Toronto just a few months ago when the people you apparently work with at Palestine House helped to “politicize” a cultural exhibition of Dead Sea Scrolls. There, too, a “premier cultural” venue was involved in something that related to Israel and there too suddenly there was politicization of an event that had nothing to do with politics.

Well, I guess it is political if somebody wants to hide that these 2000 year old documents from the Judean Desert are written in Hebrew and contain biblical books. Who would be interested in covering that up?

So please spare us the misrepresentations about who politicized what.

Wazana adds the obligatory,

“TIFF singled out Israel for a celebratory spotlight, and its timing could not have been worse, in view of the ongoing settlement and colonization of Palestinian lands, of the continued construction of the wall that is enclosing the Palestinian population of the West Bank in a series of claustrophobic, prison-like enclaves, of the daily acts of humiliation and violations of the rights and the dignity of old and young alike, and, most recently, of the lethal assault on Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinian women, men and children dead.”

We’ll disagree about this. The timing for the program is perfect. Tel Aviv is a miracle and it is celebrating 100 years of that miracle. The rest of your claims are put to rest by the simple fact that Israel offered peace and a state to the Palestinians in 2000, 2001 and 2008 (also covered in another post).

It is Palestinian terrorism and violence toward Israelis that have created the Security Barrier, the stifling checkpoints and the “prison-like” enclaves. Without such measures, hundreds and probably thousands more Israelis would be dead – prior to Israel’s return to the areas that were under Palestinian control in the West Bank, Palestinians were averaging about 150 murders of Israelis each month (take a look at the stats for the first three months of 2002). In fact, what made Israel finally go back in was the March, 2002 massacre of over 30 Jews who were attending a Passover seder in a hotel.

But it is your final sentence in that paragraph that is emblematic of your group’s entire campaign. Why do you call the Gaza campaign a “lethal assault” without mentioning the thousands of lethal assaults by Hamas and other Gazan groups upon Israel civilians in the Western Negev that preceded Israel’s attack? Why do you not mention the years that Israel waited before launching this “assault” to stem the rocket attacks on its civilians? Why do you not mention that Hamas had advanced its technology to the point where its rockets reached Ashdod and Beer Sheva, two of Israel’s largest cities? Why do you list 1400 “women, men and children” when the vast majority of the Palestinians killed were young men most of whom were Hamas fighters of which many fought the Israelis from within a civilian population as part of Hamas’s strategy? Do you not care that Hamas cynically put its own civilians at risk to elicit sympathetic media or misleading accusations such as yours? Why do you not mention that even left-wing groups like B’Tzelem have disavowed the Palestinian casualty figures, never mind the IDF’s stats which claim only 1100 were killed, three quarters of whom were Hamas fighters, or the ICT center in Herzeliya which uses the Palestinians’ own figures and thereby reveals that even using their inflated claims, around three quarters of the dead were young men who fit the profile of Hamas fighters?

At the very least, the misrepresentation of facts and the omission of other pertinent facts, smack of propaganda. That you actually claim to be a victim after your group launched this campaign, appears to be nothing less than a cynical desire to extend the debate and gain more media exposure.

Naomi Klein, from your group, is quoted in today’s Toronto Star as saying she is not promoting the destruction of Israel.

Here are questions that somebody needs to ask Klein and Wazana and Greyson et al:

1. Are you affiliated with Palestine House, as the phone number for the media contact on the protest organizers’ press release indicates?

2. If so, why do you hide this fact in your open letters, interviews and press releases?

3. If your group is affiliated with Palestine House in Toronto, why are you involved with a group that openly advocates (as seen on their web site) a single state solution?

4. How aware are you that the timing of Palestine House’s actions with another cultural event in Toronto indicates they either work with or are strongly influenced by the Palestinian Authority, whose charter refuses to concede that Israel is a Jewish state or that Jews have a history in the region?

5. Are these views reconcilable with one of your group members, Naomi Klein’s, claims that your group is not advocating for the destruction of Israel?

6. Or was this simply another semantic game by your group and what Klein meant was that you do not seek the destruction of Israel as a state but you have no objection to its demise as a Jewish state?

Here you are, Kathy Wazana, facing some simple questions. I won’t hold my breath for a response, but if you want a “substantive discussion,” we have an open forum here where you can tell us whatever you like.

Shabbat shalom.

For more Jewlicious reading about this:

Is The Toronto Film Festival Protest Organized by Palestine House, an Investigative Report

Exposing Naomi Klein’s Denials About Trying to Censor or Boycott Toronto International Film Festival. No, no, no, it was just our imaginations

Response to the “protest” letter against TIFF, 2009

Response to John Greyson’s letter to TIFF, 2009

Olmert’s offer to the Palestinians

Abbas choosing to stall on peace talks. Again.

The PA did not change its charter as per their Oslo obligations. This was recently publicly confirmed before the Fatah conference by two of Fatah’s leaders including Dahlan.

Israel’s peace offer at Taba.

Six Day War Anniversary Post

18 Comments

  1. jkaplb

    9/13/2009 at 2:24 am

    This is great! Thank you for continuing to take the time to write such detailed posts.

  2. xisnotx

    9/14/2009 at 7:55 pm

    nobody puts tel aviv in a corner: nj.com/enterta...

  3. Barry

    9/15/2009 at 6:24 am

    That letter reads like a talking points memo. There are no original opinions expressed in it, just the usual list of lies and omissions that are characteristic of every “protest” letter of its kind. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that she all but plagiarized it from a stopthewar.org pamphlet.

    I appreciate all the work you’re putting into writing about this issue, middle, but I want to paraphrase a comment I made from one of your other TIFF posts — I would not waste my time arguing about 1948 or South Africa 1985 or Gaza 2009 with somebody as deluded as Kathy Wazana. People like her and Naomi Klein are shifting the topic of the debate into relatively uncharted territory, and you’re responding to issues that are already settled according to their warped logic.

    The only responses that are relevant at this time are:

    1. Re: “Israeli political interests hijacking of the TIFF” … for now, let’s leave aside the fact that they’re trotting out the same old Jewish conspiracy theories, by implying an overlap between the programming M.O. of TIFF and the interests of the Israeli government. What matters is this: TIFF is a movie festival. The “protesters” are the only people making this into a political issue, no political controversy existed before they showed up and claimed it to be so. They claim that TIFF is being political, but no, THEY are being political and they are LYING by characterizing the TIFF in that way. End of debate, end of story.

    2. Tel Aviv was NOT founded and built on destroyed Arab villages and anyone who claims otherwise is LYING. End of debate, end of story.

    There is simply no leeway on either of these points. She is inventing a controversy surrounding Tel Aviv’s origins, and by doing so, they are shifting the debate from the reasonable to the ridiculous. It’s just like with the Dead Sea Scrolls protests — the whole world knows that they’re writings of an ancient Jewish sect, and then one day you wake up and a bunch of maniacs are claiming that they belong to the Palestinian people. Once you start debating these people on any segment of their overall argument, then their whole argument comes up for debate. So once you start debating Gaza with Karen Wazana, then by association, Tel Aviv 1909 becomes similarly controversial.

  4. Pingback: Jewlicious » Is Toronto Film Festival Protest Organized by Palestine House? An Investigative Report

  5. Pingback: Jewlicious » National Post in Canada picks up our story about the possible connection between Palestine House and the Toronto Film Festival “protesters”

  6. richard wazana

    9/15/2009 at 6:17 pm

    I highly recommend Kathy Wazana’s moroccan chicken. It’s excellent.

  7. themiddle

    9/15/2009 at 6:41 pm

    The recipe looks great.

  8. xisnotx

    9/15/2009 at 6:55 pm

    Toronto film fest calls Israeli PR strategy into question
    jta.org/news/a...

  9. xisnotx

    9/15/2009 at 7:38 pm

    tm, fonda is backtracking: huffingtonpost...

    enuff for you?

  10. themiddle

    9/15/2009 at 8:42 pm

    Xisnotx, the TIFF has denied that they are playing a role in Israel’s branding strategy. The whole assertion by Gissin was idiotic to begin with since Israel had nothing to do with what TIFF decided to do. He was taking credit, on behalf of Israel yet, of something that had nothing to do with Israeli policy or decision-making. It’s as if I would take credit because some other site chose independently to give our website an award.

    The Israelis are morons. If they actually have a budget of $10 million to “rebrand” Israel, they should use it to brand the Palestinians as peace-destroyers for passing up on peace and state offers three times in the past decade. Why not put pressure on the Palestinians to come to peace? Why are all these supposed peace advocates not pressuring the Palestinians instead of Israel.

    As for Jane Fonda, I want to tell you that hers is the best piece of writing that has come out of this entire situation. I was planning to post about it, but I’ve been busy trying to unravel – without any tools a journalist might have – who is behind this group of “protesters.” The language they used was so aggressive and almost doctrinaire, taken together with the fact that they attacked Tel Aviv of all cities, seems truly extreme and quite odd.

  11. xisnotx

    9/15/2009 at 9:45 pm

    admittedly I haven’t digested your voluminous investigations. at first glance, I think you may be understating the role and effectiveness of Gissin & the “Brand Israel” campaign in Toronto. The consulate in Toronto was chosen as a testing ground for the re-branding campaign, & they’ve been hard at it for months:

    cjnews.com/ind...

    “Upon his posting to Canada last year, Gissin made it clear that his mission was to ‘make Israel relevant. to Canadians and use Toronto as a test market for the Israel brand during his term.
    […]

    “Gissin said the upcoming Toronto campaign is the outgrowth of partnerships with local Jewish business leaders who are not afraid to ‘combine their businesses with their love for Israel.’

    “According to Gissin, the campaign launch could not have been achieved without the help of a triumvirate of high-powered business leaders in the community, namely Sidney Greenberg, vice-president of Astral Media; Joel Reitman, president and CEO of MIJO Corporation; and David Asper, executive vice-president of Canwest Global Communications Corp, all of whom have dedicated resources to Brand Israel.

    “This trio has come together in a significant way to help Israel create a $1-million campaign based solely on new brand thinking,” Gissin said. ‘Never has there been this [scale] of combination of business and philanthropy for Israel.’

    […]
    “The consul general also alluded to other major plans for next year in his Brand Israel attack arsenal.

    “He revealed the Dead Sea Scrolls are scheduled for exhibition in Toronto in 2009 and that plans are in the works for a major Israeli presence at next year’s Toronto International Film Festival, with numerous Israeli, Hollywood and Canadian entertainment luminaries on hand.

    “With the help of the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, Israel will also have a ‘significant presence’ at this year’s TIFF, he said.”

  12. themiddle

    9/15/2009 at 10:30 pm

    Xisnotx, that is the same article that the “protest” writers have been bandying about as evidence of some massive conspiracy. The film festival has denied it unequivocally. They have said they came to their decision to highlight Tel Aviv independently.

    The only way to dismiss such a denial is to call the organizers of the film festival liars. They wrote, “Furthermore, the City to City series was conceived and curated entirely independently. There was no pressure from any outside source. Contrary to rumours or mistaken media reports, this focus is a product only of TIFF’s programming decisions. We value that independence and would never compromise it.”

    Isn’t that perfectly clear?

    Gissin said that “that plans are in the works for a major Israeli presence at next year’s Toronto International Film Festival, with numerous Israeli, Hollywood and Canadian entertainment luminaries on hand.” That isn’t what happened at the festival though. Not even close.

    I repeat my contention that this is a person pulling a career enhancing stunt by preening for a Jewish media outlet. Maybe he hoped the three people he named would be appreciative of a public thank you, maybe he thought somebody would think he actually was doing something proactive to promote Israel, but I don’t see how Israel can influence either a major foreign international film festival to put on a slate of films or how Israel can influence a large foreign museum to exhibit scrolls.

    By the way, it appears that John Greyson had extensive conversations with the festival attempting to influence them not to have a Tel Aviv spotlight. He appears to be quite influential based on the impact he’s had in this situation and on the basis of his claim to be personally acquainted with the organizers of the TIFF for two decades. Does that count as influence-peddling? He is clearly an advocate for the Palestinians and is one of the board members of the recently founded Toronto Palestinian Film Festival which now has acquired a much higher public profile.

  13. xisnotx

    9/15/2009 at 10:58 pm

    I dont doubt TIFF made up its own mind on the merits of focusing on whatever city they chose, & I doubt it was susceptible to “pressure.” but it seems kind of odd to suggest, if that’s what you’re doing, that the TIFF board had zero interest in & completely ignored efforts to get Tel Aviv chosen. & I see nothing wrong with them hearing what Gissin & friends had to say in plugging Tel Aviv. whether or not it was effective, who knows — but I don’t see any kind of sinister “hidden hand” thing with trying to get a film festival to consider focusing on your country’s city. big whup.

    Another article on re-branding:

    nytimes.com/20...
    “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits,” said Arye Mekel, the ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs. “This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

  14. themiddle

    9/15/2009 at 11:11 pm

    Xisnotx, forgive me but you’re rehashing stuff I’ve been reading for days. I did write somewhere in my volumes of posts on this festival that countries try to do this kind of stuff all the time. The issue here, however, is that collusion is being suggested and has been denied. To my mind the “protest” writers don’t care whether there was or wasn’t collusion and don’t care whether there is or isn’t a “brand Israel” campaign (which is doing pretty poorly if it exists since I can’t find any evidence of one and Naomi Klein, in presenting examples, had to reach back to the Paris Book Fair of two years ago, before this supposed campaign was launched). What they care about is riding the media attention that accompanies these events. It’s free publicity and it can generate plentiful publicity. It’s propaganda 101. Good for them. At the same time, we can call them on their falsehoods and misrepresentations.

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