Clinton intervenes to block Israeli film boycott

25th Sep 2015

Elham Asaad Buaras

Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton asked former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to intervene in a row between the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Israeli Embassy in London, and filmmaker Ken Loach at the behest of pro-Israeli lobby in 2009, according to emails released on September 2.

Then Secretary of State asked her officials to press Brown to intervene after Loach convinced the film festival to reject a grant from the Israeli Government to cover the travel expenses of Tali Shalom Ezer, whose film Surrogate was being shown in Edinburgh.

At the time Loach called for a boycott of the festival after it announced the Israeli film in the programme. “The massacres and state terrorism in Gaza make this money unacceptable. With regret I must urge all who might consider visiting the festival to show their support for the Palestinian nation and stay away,” he said.

In an email urging Clinton to get involved, prominent members of the US pro-Israeli lobby said Edinburgh’s film festival, one of the world’s oldest, was inherently anti-Semitic.

Clinton was contact by Brian Greenspun, the publisher of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, who forwarded an email from his brother-in-law, Bruce Ramer, former President of the American Jewish Committee.

Ramer warned that the festival’s decision could damage a UK-Israel treaty on film production. He wrote: “We need, for many reasons, to have the US protest and condemn this outrageous boycott and to oppose the anti-Semitism inherent in it.”

Ramer continued: “Because of the inherent wrongness of it and that if it succeeds, it will encourage and motivate those who fomented the boycott to other, probably even worse, action”.

Greenspun warned Clinton that there was “no voice” speaking out against Loach.

Clinton replied to say she was working on “the most effective way forward,” adding: “We have some good ideas as to what our govt can do, but we also want to see pressure from local people brought on the British and Scottish govts.”

Clinton then tasked Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department, Jacob Sullivan, to “reach out to the community in London and Edinburgh to urge them to raise this with PM Brown and other govt officials? We’d like to see top down and bottom up pressure. Let me know what you think.”

In the end, the film festival paid directly for Ezer’s trip to Edinburgh, rather than accept the Israeli Government’s money.

The email exchange was part of a tranche from Clinton’s private server.

The Democrat presidential hopeful has come under fire for using a personal email address rather than her official, secure State Department address. It only came to light after journalists found themselves unable to use Freedom of Information to access information held in correspondence.

Clinton has since handed over the emails.

Pro-Palestinian activists slammed Clinton’s partisan intervention. The blog Electronic Intifada accused Clinton of “anti-BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement] meddling” and BDS proponent Philip Weiss wrote that the evidence that Clinton “stuck her nose” into the matter “demonstrates the intensity of the Israel lobby when dealing with our highest officials.”

The US Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel condemned the “interference” by Clinton and said that “we pledge to continue and escalate our campaigns to boycott and internationally isolate Israel, despite all efforts and threats by the Israeli state and its partner, the US Government.”

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