on orange & other adventures in normalization

i love orange. it’s my favorite color. i even painted my office at boise state university orange a few years ago. but in this region colors always take on new meanings that destroy colors and what they mean. for instance, when i first moved to palestine in the summer of 2005 i discovered that orange was the color that the zionist terrorist colonists in gaza were using to protest their removal from occupied gaza. you still see their orange ribbons on backpacks and and rear view mirrors. these are the same people who are building new colonies and expanding them in naqab, al quds, nasra and everywhere else.

orange

but why am i writing about orange? well, actually it’s not the color i’m speaking of. it’s the corporation. when i lived in jordan (2005-2006) i had a land line in my house from the jordanian national telecom company and i had internet from a company called wanadoo. it seems that in the time since i lived here last, both have been swallowed up by orange (which is why i won’t be having a land line or internet service or cell phone service from orange). for the land lines this is a huge issue: it means that jordan has privatized its telecommunications sector to a foreign company. apparently, this happened two years ago:

The Jordanian mobile operator, MobileCom – a subsidiary of Jordan Telecom Group (JTG) has rebranded under the Orange brand name. Jordan Telecom is 51% controlled by France Telecom which in turn, owns Orange.

“With this move, Orange becomes the sole commercial brand for JTG’s fixed, mobile, and internet services,” said Chairman of the Board of Directors of JTG Dr Shabib Ammari. “Our customers will be enjoying Orange’s competitive range of telecom solutions and top quality services, enjoying the premium offering that will meet their needs to full satisfaction through this single and reputable provider,” added Ammari.

The GSM arm of JTG was first registered on 21st September, 1999 and launched full public service across the Kingdom on 15th September, 2000. The infrastructure was provided by Ericsson.

Orange Jordan has around 1.7 million subscribers according to figures from the Mobile World, which gives the company a market share of 36%.

and orange has fully inserted itself and its brand into jordanian life. billboards are everywhere. there are orange ramadan placemats in restaurants and cafes. and they even have some magazine that i found in my hotel room when i was in amman on my way to the u.s. for a couple of days. it is inescapable. but it is also possible not to participate in this orange branding of jordan, which, according to the jordanian blogger black iris, they aren’t offering such hot service:

Since writing that open letter to Orange Telecom Jordan on their terrible service I’ve noticed the link really flying around the twittersphere. It’s gotten around 1,700 views in the past 48 hours, which, along with the comments and emails people left me, is a real indication that many are simply not happy with the Kingdom’s telecom giant and it’s level of service.

but i think there are other reasons, aside from crappy service, that people in jordan should be up in arms that their national telecom industry was handed over to orange. some of what i am about to say is speculative, but the facts will be backed up with reports. my suspicion about orange was first raised because i know it to be one of the main mobile phone companies in the zionist entity. for many years, it was the only mobile company that palestinians had access too before they created their own network, jawal. orange is not an israeli company, but i have been told it was started by two french jews. i have looked to find out more about the people who started and/or who run orange headquarters, but it has been difficult to find anything out on them. my curiosity is that is suspect they are like howard shultz, ceo of starbucks, who donates a significant amount of his profits to the zionist entity every year. i don’t have any such information yet (though if anyone out there knows the dirt on orange please send it my way! ), but here is what wikipedia has to say about it:

Microtel Communications Ltd. was formed in April 1990 as a consortium comprising Pactel Corporation, British Aerospace, Millicom and French company Matra (British Aerospace soon acquired full control of the company). In 1991 Microtel was awarded a license to develop a mobile network in the UK, and in July 1991 Hutchison Telecommunications (UK) Ltd acquired Microtel from BAe. BAe was paid in Hutchison Telecommunications (UK) Ltd. shares, giving the company a 30% share. Hutchison Whampoa held 65% and Barclays Bank the remaining 5%. Microtel was renamed Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd. in 1994. The Orange brand was created by an internal team at Microtel headed by Chris Moss (Marketing Director) and supported by Martin Keogh, Rob Furness and Ian Pond. The brand consultancy Wolff Olins was charged with designing the brand values and logo and advertising agency WCRS created the Orange slogan “The Future’s bright, the Future’s Orange” along with the now famous advertising. The logo is square because a round orange logo already existed for the reprographics company, Orange Communications Limited, designed by Neville Brody in 1993.

Orange plc was formed in 1995 as a holding company for the Orange group. France Telecom formed the present company in 2001 after acquiring Orange plc (which had been acquired by Mannesmann AG, itself purchased by Vodafone shortly after, leading Vodafone to divest Orange) and merging its existing mobile operations into the company. The company was initially 100% owned by France Telecom (although there were and still remain minority investors in some of the national operating companies). In 2001 15% was sold in an IPO, but in 2003 the outstanding shares were bought back by France Telecom.

so there is no proof or connection to the zionist entity in any way yet. but that is okay. there is proof that their hands are dirty any way. like all cell phone companies that exist in the zionist entity, they are a part of the colonial infrastructure. here is a report from who profits laying out how orange, along with the other cell phone companies participate in colonialism and occupation:

All Israeli cellular communication companies are commercially involved in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights. These companies build infrastructure, maintain property and equipment in illegal Israeli settlements, much of it on privately owned Palestinian lands. They all provide services to the Israeli military and to all Israeli settlers, and some provide specially designed services. They use the Israeli control of the Palestinian territory to exploit the Palestinian frequencies and to impose their services on the Palestinian captive market.

Currently there are four Israeli cellular communication service providers: Cellcom, Partner (Orange), Pelephone and MIRS. Cellcom is part of the IDB group, a conglomerate of Israeli and international companies, one of the major players in the Israeli market; Partner is a subsidiary of the Chinese Hutchison Telecommunications International (HTIL); Pelephone is fully owned by Bezeq, the Israeli Telecommunication Corporation; MIRS is a subsidiary of Motorola Israel.

All four have dozens of antennas, transmission stations and additional infrastructure erected on occupied Palestinian land: MIRS holds at least 86 antennas and communication facilities on occupied territory, Cellcom at least 191, Pelephone 195 and Partner 165. As a survey by Yesh Din reveals, many of these antennas and communication facilities were erected on confiscated privately owned Palestinian land. Often, these devices are guarded by Israeli guards, and at least in one occasion, they were used as seeds for a new settlement outpost. Using this infrastructure, the companies provide services to Israelis in these areas, both to the settlements and to the Israeli soldiers operating in the occupied West Bank.

All four, Cellcom, Partner, MIRS and Pelephone, operate service stores in West Bank settlements. Additionally, MIRS is the exclusive provider of cellular phone services to the Israeli army (since 2005 and at least until 2011). This company installs communication units in army vehicles and it builds communication facilities in army bases throughout the West Bank and Golan Heights. The company also offers special rates for service personnel and their family members.

Cellcom, Partner and Pelephone are also operating in the Palestinian market. The conditions of the occupation ensure several advantages for these companies over the Palestinian cellular communication providers. The Israeli authorities do not provide permits for Palestinian companies to install antennas and transmission infrastructure in area C, which is under full Israeli control and constitutes 59% of the entire West Bank, making it virtually impossible for Palestinians to provide cellular coverage in many areas of the West Bank. Additionally, the frequency allocation granted by the Israeli authorities to Palestinian providers is very limited, and the Israeli authorities impose significant limitations on the Palestinian providers when it comes to the import of devices or the on ground installation of communication transmission devices. Even when the Israeli authorities do allow equipment into the Palestinian territory – it is often delayed by months or years, and by the time it arrives to the Palestinian providers it is outdated. Together, these limitations restrict the reception ranges and the overall quality of service by Palestinian providers, and the Palestinians turn to services provided by the Israeli companies, especially when traveling outside of the major Palestinian cities.

The Israeli control of frequencies and the implications of this control have been evident in the case of Wataniya Palestine. In 2007 Wataniya Palestine, a joint venture of Palestine Investment Fund and Wataniya Telecom of Kuwait, was licensed to become the second Palestinian cellular communication provider. On July 28, 2008 an agreement was signed by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, allocating frequencies for Wataniya’s use. The frequencies were supposed to be released by April 1 of 2009. As of August of 2009, none were released due to ongoing delays from the Israeli government. Consequently, Wataniya Telecom announced that it would back out of its initiative to operate cellular communication services in the occupied Palestinian territory.

According to a World Bank report issued in January of 2008, 20% to 45% of the Palestinian cellular market at that time was in the hands of Israeli companies. In breach of the Oslo Agreements, the Israeli companies do not pay taxes to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for their commercial activity in the Palestinian market. The World Bank report estimated that the lost annual PA tax revenues due to unauthorized Israeli operations amounted to $60 million. Additionally, the PA claimed that these Israeli companies have been targeting West Bank clients and actively selling to the Palestinians in the West Bank although they were never licensed to do so by the PA.

Surprisingly, even when using Palestinian providers, Palestinian customers have to rely on the Israeli companies because of the restrictions on Palestinian construction of telecommunication infrastructure. The Israeli companies collect a percentage surcharge on all interconnection revenues from calls between Palestinian landlines and cellular phones as well as calls between cellular phones of Palestinian operators and Israeli operators. Similarly, Palestinian operators have to depend on the costly services of Israeli companies for any international call, for calls connecting the West Bank and Gaza and for calls between different areas in the West Bank.

For more information, see the Who Profits website at: www.whoprofits.org.

here is a brief summary on orange in the zionist entity by who profits as well (who i normally don’t link to because they are colonists who don’t see themselves as colonists merely because they don’t live in the west bank):

An Israeli provider of cellular phone services.

The company erected more than 160 antennas and telecommunication infrastructure facilities on occupied land in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

The company provides cellular communication services to the settlers and Israeli soldiers in the occupied territory. Additionally, the company enjoys the structural advantages of Israeli cellular services providers over Palestinian competitors in the Palestinian market.

Click here to read the full report about the involvement of the Israeli cellular companies in the occupation.

Involved in:

Palestinian Captive Market
Israeli Construction on Occupied Land
Services to the Settlements

51% of company shares are held by Scailex, which is controlled by Ilan Ben-Dov.

so this is why i am boycotting orange. i don’t need a land line. i have a cell phone from a kuwaiti company (zain) and internet (insha’allah soon) from a jordanian company (umniah). but what i see a lot of in jordan is heavy levels of consumption among a population who does not know, does not want to know, or does not want to sacrifice in the ways one must sacrifice in order to resist. part of this may be because i don’t have internet at my house yet and the only place near my house to get it (i.e., within walking distance) is a mall. so i’m being subjected to my least favorite sort of space with people participating in my least favorite activity all around me as i work in an internet cafe around people who eat and drink and smoke all day while i fast (it is ramadan, but there seem to be lots of jordanians who are not fasting). and i’m thinking a lot about sacrifice. not just because it is ramadan and i am fasting and my empty stomach makes me think about it, but also because i don’t understand why it consumption and globalization have turned the world numb and dumb. the divide between want and need is completely gone. and this is something i find so disturbing. i don’t know why people cannot just say no to so many things.

i also wonder why people cannot say no to normalization with the zionist entity. why they cannot say no on a personal or a collective level in places like jordan. for instance, there was a report in ha’aretz a few weeks ago about a sweatshop owned by zionist terrorist colonists in jordan:

If the term “sweatshop” used to be associated with Asian countries and global brands such as Nike, now such methods of production by exploiting workers have made aliyah. Two Israeli entrepreneurs run a sweatshop in Jordan that produces clothes for leading Israeli brands such as Irit, Bonita, Jump and Pashut, Haaretz has learned.

The National Labor Committee, a U.S.-based workers’ rights organization, has released a report accusing the Musa Garments factory in Jordan of employing workers under inhuman conditions, and charges the company with “human trafficking, abuse, forced overtime, primitive dorm conditions, imprisonment and forcible deportations of foreign guest workers.”

The report exposes what is said to be one of the biggest secrets of the Israeli fashion industry, saying the cheap production costs for Israeli labels is a very expensive price for workers’ rights at Musa Garments.

The report says Mr. Musa, the owner, is an Israeli. But the real owners are Jack Braun and Moshe Cohen from Tel Aviv. The factory is located in the Al Hassan industrial area in Irbid, Jordan. The two employ 132 people from Bangladesh, 49 from India and 27 Jordanians. Chinese, Sri Lankans and Nepalese have also worked there in the past. “They all come for one reason only: To earn as much money as they possibly can to pay off the debts they incurred to purchase their three-year work contracts in Jordan, and send money home to their families,” states the report.

The report explains how the “guest workers” face inhuman conditions from their first day. Management takes away their passports, sometimes for the entire three-year period. Workers who asked for their passports back – or at least a copy – were refused, an illegal act and serious human rights violation.

The conditions are close to slavery. Until December 2008, when the economic crisis hit the company, workers averaged shifts of between 12 and a half and 13 and half hours a day, seven days a week – even though their contracts give them Fridays off. They also had to work on Jordanian national holidays. Anyone who missed a shift was fined three days’ wages, the report claims.

After December last year, the pace of production was stepped up and instead of having to sew 30 pieces an hour, workers were made to sew 40 – for the same wages.

“The public must know that products have a heavy human cost too,” said Dr. Roi Wagner of the Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline) organization. “The pursuit of lower production [costs] is very often dependent on violating human rights. The price is paid by Israeli workers whose jobs disappear, and also by the ‘cheap’ workers who produce goods in places where it is easier to abuse them. The manufacturer is not the only one responsible, but also the companies [that buy the goods] and the consumers,” said Wagner.

The list of complaints is long, including subhuman living conditions such as 4-8 people in a tiny dormitory room, no showers and water for only an hour or two a night. There is no heat in the rooms in the winter, and the bathrooms are filthy. The roofs leak.

One of the owners, Jack Braun, claims the truth is completely different. “The report is a total lie,” he said. “The workers went on strike for a reason I don’t know. As a result, human rights organizations arrived and the workers lied – though every one of their claims was proved false. They attacked the Bangladeshi consul and police who tried to talk to them. The conditions we provide them, in terms of work and food and housing, are above and beyond. We always paid them as required – they earn tiny salaries, so why shouldn’t we pay them?” said Braun.

Bonita’s management said they do not work with the company.

Kobi Hayat, one of the owners of Pashut, said: “I do not know of the place since we work through a subcontractor who receives the material from us, manufactures in Jordan and returns the clothes. I have never been there, and I do not know who receives the work, so it is hard for me to discuss the claims.”

a few days later another article appeared saying it was not a sweatshop:

Jordan’s Ministry of Labor on Wednesday rejected accusations that a local factory supplying clothing to Israel was abusing its workers, saying there was no evidence of either human trafficking or forced work.

On Sunday The National Labor Committee, a U.S.-based workers’ rights organization, released a report accusing the Musa Garments factory in Jordan of employing workers under inhuman conditions, and charges the company with “human trafficking, abuse, forced overtime, primitive dorm conditions, imprisonment and forcible deportations of foreign guest workers.”

of course, it is great to see that the government in jordan is concerned about having a sweatshop or human trafficking in their midst. but whee is the outrage over having a zionist terrorist colonist business on their land and in their midst? given that official jordanian policy is that they are at “peace” with the enemy, it makes sense that the government isn’t outraged. but where are the people? compare this to how egyptians responded recently when the government was working on a gas deal with the zionist entity as reported by adam morrow and khaled moussa al-omrani in the electronic intifada:

Opposition figures and political activists have slammed a new deal to sell Egyptian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Israel at what they say are vastly reduced prices.

“Egyptian gas is being sold to Israel at prices far below the international average,” Ibrahim Yosri, former head of legal affairs and treaties at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry told IPS. “This agreement is proof that the ruling regime is unconcerned with public opinion and is insistent on depriving the Egyptian public of its rightful national assets.”

On 28 July, Egypt formally agreed to sell between 12.5 billion and 16 billion cubic meters of LNG per year to Israel for a period of between 17 and 22 years. The Cairo-based Egyptian-Israeli energy consortium Egyptian Mediterranean Gas (EMG) will supply the gas to Israeli firm Dorad Energy for a total reported cost of between $2.1 billion and $3.3 billion.

Given longstanding popular condemnation of Israeli policies, particularly those relating to Palestinian populations in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, the deal also stirred political controversy.

“It is absolutely forbidden that we support a country currently at war with Islam and Muslims, and which occupies the land of Palestine,” Nasr Farid Wassil, former Grand Mufti of the republic, was quoted as saying in the independent press. “All economic relations with such a country should be severed.”

Despite its unpopularity, the deal is not the first: under an earlier energy accord, Egypt has been exporting LNG to Israel since May of last year. Extracted from fields in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula, gas is pumped via submarine pipeline from the coastal town al-Arish to the Israeli port city Ashkelon.

The first accord, signed in 2005, allowed EMG to sell 1.7 billion cubic meters of LNG annually to the Israeli state-run Israel Electric Corporation for a period of 15 years. The sale price was never officially disclosed, fueling speculation by critics that gas was being sold to Israeli buyers at reduced prices.

Egypt is one of the few Arab states, along with Jordan and Mauritania, to have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Nevertheless, bilateral cooperation has remained severely hampered by popular disapproval of Israeli policies.

meanwhile the united states–and hillary clinton in particular–are pushing normalization among african countries with the zionist entity as ips reporters jerrold kessel and pierre klochendler explain:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been busy pursuing one aspect of the Obama Administration’s agenda – carrying to Africa the U.S. message of accountability. With a rather different agenda, Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Liberman also has Africa in his sights.

Whereas the U.S. is pressing a moral message hard – more democracy and less corruption, the Israeli approach is entirely pragmatic.

It’s not the first time Israel has been heavily involved in Africa.

Tanzanian freshmen at the University of Dar es Salaam will be excused for being unaware of the fact that their campus strikingly resembles facilities in Tel Aviv and Beersheba, two of Israel’s leading universities. That’s because the UDSM campus was designed by Israeli architects.

Nearly half a century ago, there was unexpected interaction between sub- Saharan Africa, just emerging from the dark years of colonial rule, and Israel – which had come into existence a decade-and-a-half earlier after ridding itself of a British presence – busily engaged in reaching out to other emerging nations.

Ever since, it’s been a relationship of ups and downs.

The aid to development programmes of Israeli experts, especially in the fields of irrigation, agriculture, communal rural development and medical training, won Israel considerable sympathy, and friends, in many of the newly- independent states. Hundreds of African students and experts underwent specialised training, tailor-made for their societies, in Israel.

But, as was the case in the Cold War era, the Israeli development projects were not entirely altruistic.

There was also the political motive of trying to break the ostracism in which Arab states and their allies in the Third World were encasing the fledgling new Middle Eastern state. This became especially acute following the 1955 conference of the non-aligned world in Bandung in Indonesia, where non- co-operation with Israel was adopted as policy.

There was a strategic dimension too. Israel’s legendary first prime minister David Ben-Gurion and his foreign minister Golda Meir foresaw a policy of encircling the circle of Israel’s regional isolation through alliances with non- Arab states on the periphery of the region – Turkey and Iran and, critically, Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.

Just back from an extensive tour of South America, Liberman is soon to set out on a five-nation African tour. The Israeli foreign ministry calls it “an out- of-the-ordinary visit”, the most extensive ever by Israel’s top diplomat to the continent. He will criss-cross Africa to take in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Angola and Nigeria.

if you look at the website for the orange company, by the way, or its wikipedia page, you’ll notice that many of the above-listed countries in africa are also being subjected to orange telecom. just say no.

on deleting madonna & other boycott news

although i tried to work it out so that my internet would be up and running by the time i got back to jordan, that has not turned out to be the case. i have tried two different companies here–one kuwaiti, one jordanian–and neither gives me a singal. the third and fourth option, well that’s my next post so you’ll have to wait to read about that. but all this is to day that for the next couple of weeks in particular, if you want to follow boycott news you should follow the u.s. campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel site via your news readers and twitter. many of you know that i also do that website; given that internet cafe time is challenging during ramadan (don’t forget to boycott those zionist terrorist colonist dates! ) for a number of reasons, on days when i can only manage a couple of hours that’s the blog i’ll be updating first.

but while i am on the subject of boycott i have a confession to make. since i was about fourteen years old i have had a secret love of madonna’s music. not all of it. not all of the time. but it was one of my closeted guilty pleasures in life. (i don’t have many.) over the past few years, enabled by the invention of mp3s and also the fact that i move so much, i no longer have any cds, just mp3 files of music i like (most of which is political). so, when macy gray had her event with the zionist terrorist colonist consolate in los angeles last year, i deleted her from my computer. likewise i did the same for madonna a few weeks ago. and here’s why:

1. During Monday’s whitewashing concert appearance in Tel-Aviv, Madonna made empty references to peace, before wrapping herself in the Israeli flag:

“I truly believe that Israel is the energy center of the world. And I also believe that if we can all live together in harmony in this place, then we can live in peace all over the world.”

Meanwhile in Gaza on Monday, fishermen were attacked by Israel “Defense” Forces for…fishing. Apparently, they failed to live “in harmony” well enough.

here is the above-referenced appalling video (if you can hold your cookies…) :

2. Any political malaise that she may have risked evoking among Israelis dissipated when she was handed an Israeli flag by one fan. Madonna used it to make her final parade on the stage draping herself in Israel’s national blue-and-white colours and displaying where her sympathies lie.

There was certainly none of the controversy she had aroused on her previous two stops, in Romania and Bulgaria.

In Sofia, the Orthodox clergy berated her for showing disrespect to Christianity. In Bucharest, she was booed for criticising discrimination against the Roma (gypsies) of Eastern Europe.

Midway through the show, breaking away from the carefully scripted performance, Madonna expressed her deep affection for Israel: “I shouldn’t have stayed so long away,” she told the adoring crowd. Her last concert here was in 1993.

The 51-year-old entertainer has long claimed a special bond with the Jewish state. For more than a decade, she’s been flirting with the Kabbalah, the essence of Jewish mysticism, and has even adopted a Hebrew name, Esther.

In the run-up to the first of her two shows, Israeli radio stations played Madonna hits round the clock. On Army Radio, a DJ quipped, “Tonight, Aunt Esther is playing at Yarkon Park.”

Brought up as a Roman Catholic, Madonna wrote in advance of her Israeli tour in an article for Israel’s best-selling newspaper, Yediot Achronot, that the study of Kabbalah helps her understand life better.

3. Madonna is reportedly spending the Sabbath eve at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home.

Y-Net reported Friday that Madonna will light the sabbath candles and will spend time with Netanyahu’s children at the official residence in Jerusalem.

The pop singer, who sold out two Tel Aviv concerts, this week toured Jerusalem’s Old City and Tsfat, the seat of Jewish mysticism in northern Israel.

and this is why i’m psyched about artists against apartheid’s new propabanda site (basically a s^(* list of musicians who don’t abide by the boycott):

The artists listed here have committed to performing in Apartheid Israel, in disregard of the Cultural Boycott of the State’s ongoing human rights violations, apartheid rule, and expropriation of land from indigenous inhabitants.

To cover its extreme racism, massacres, and flagrant violations of Human Rights and International Law, the Zionist State of Israel relies heavily on propaganda “Branding Efforts”, spending Millions of Dollars per year on public relations campaigns, and encouraging “whitewashing” events such as concerts by these International Artists:

Leonard Cohen
Sponsor: Israel Discount Bank (which also finances settlements on stolen Palestinian land)

MGMT

Madonna

Faith No More

Dinosaur Jr.

Lady Gaga

Kaiser Chiefs

Calexico

Depeche Mode

Pet Shop Boys

Macy Gray

Suzanne Vega

Steve Vai

These artists may be drawn by extraordinarily high performance fees, or the desire to “sing for peace”. However, the cultural effect of their appearance is to assist the Israeli ministries in their efforts to normalize of Israeli Apartheid, while disregarding the non-violent struggle for equal rights and justice in Palestine-Israel.

If you are an artist interested in coordinating with the non-violent resistance to colonialism and apartheid, please refer to the Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel recommended by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) before booking your tour.

i can proudly say i do not have a single mp3 song with any of the above apartheid supporting musicians.

and, the other big story on the boycott news front–with those adhering to it and respecting it, that is–is about the toronto film festival:

The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation

An Open Letter to the Toronto International Film Festival:

September 2, 2009

As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv. We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine.

In 2008, the Israeli government and Canadian partners Sidney Greenberg of Astral Media, David Asper of Canwest Global Communications and Joel Reitman of MIJO Corporation launched “Brand Israel,” a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions of Israel. Brand Israel would take the focus off Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its aggressive wars, and refocus it on achievements in medicine, science and culture. An article in Canadian Jewish News quotes Israeli consul general Amir Gissin as saying that Toronto would be the test city for a promotion that could then be deployed around the world. According to Gissin, the culmination of the campaign would be a major Israeli presence at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. (Andy Levy-Alzenkopf, “Brand Israel set to launch in GTA,” Canadian Jewish News, August 28, 2008.)

In 2009, TIFF announced that it would inaugurate its new City to City program with a focus on Tel Aviv. According to program notes by Festival co-director and City to City programmer Cameron Bailey, “The ten films in this year’s City to City programme will showcase the complex currents running through today’s Tel Aviv. Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2009, Tel Aviv is a young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity.”

The emphasis on ‘diversity’ in City to City is empty given the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program. Furthermore, what this description does not say is that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine’s main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries, including Canada. Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city’s past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto.

We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However, especially in the wake of this year’s brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime.

This letter was drafted by the following ad hoc committee:

Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, Canada

Endorsed by:

Ahmad Abdalla, Filmmaker, Egypt

Hany Abu-Assad, Filmmaker, Palestine

Mark Achbar, Filmmaker, Canada

Zackie Achmat, AIDS activist, South Africa

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Filmmaker, Jerusalem

Anthony Arnove, Publisher and Producer, USA

Ruba Atiyeh, Documentary Director, Lebanon

Joslyn Barnes, Writer and Producer, USA

John Berger, Author, France

Dionne Brand, Poet/Writer, Canada

Judith Butler, Professor, USA

David Byrne, Musician, USA

Noam Chomsky, Professor, USA

Guy Davidi Director, Israel

Na-iem Dollie, Journalist/Writer, South Africa

Igor Drljaca, Filmmaker, Canada

Eve Ensler, Playwright, Author, USA

Eyal Eithcowich, Director, Israel

Sophie Fiennes, Filmmaker, UK

Peter Fitting, Professor, Canada

Jane Fonda, Actor and Author, USA

Danny Glover, Filmmaker and Actor, USA

Noam Gonick, Director, Canada

Malcolm Guy, Filmmaker, Canada

Mike Hoolboom, Filmmaker, Canada

Annemarie Jacir, Filmmaker, Palestine

Fredric Jameson, Literary Critic, USA

Juliano Mer Khamis, Filmmaker, Jenin/Haifa

Bonnie Sherr Klein Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Laverty, Producer, UK

Min Sook Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Paul Lee, Filmmaker, Canada

Yael Lerer, publisher, Tel Aviv

Jack Lewis, Filmmaker, South Africa

Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK

Arab Lotfi, Filmmaker, Egypt/Lebanon

Kyo Maclear, Author, Toronto

Mahmood Mamdani, Professor, USA

Fatima Mawas, Filmmaker, Australia

Tessa McWatt, Author, Canada and UK

Cornelius Moore, Film Distributor, USA

Yousry Nasrallah, Director, Egypt

Rebecca O’Brien, Producer, UK

Pratibha Parmar, Producer/Director, UK

Jeremy Pikser, Screenwriter, USA

John Pilger, Filmmaker, UK

Shai Carmeli Pollak, Filmmaker, Israel

Ian Iqbal Rashid, Filmmaker, Canada

Judy Rebick, Professor, Canada

David Reeb, Artist, Tel Aviv

B. Ruby Rich, Critic and Professor, USA

Wallace Shawn, Playwright, Actor, USA

Eyal Sivan, Filmmaker and Scholar, Paris/London/Sderot

Elia Suleiman, Fimmlaker, Nazareth/Paris/New York

Eran Torbiner, Filmmaker, Israel

Alice Walker, Writer, USA

Thomas Waugh, Professor, Canada

Howard Zinn, Writer, USA

Slavoj Zizek, Professor, Slovenia

and if you want a real treat check out an amazing artist and musician who has an amazing vision and history. here is an interview with the incomparable harry belefonte and avi lewis on al jazeera’s fault lines: