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February 16, 2014 3:09 pm

Berlin Film Festival Award for UK Film Director Ken Loach Angers Jewish Group

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avatar by Joshua Levitt

Ken Loach. Photo: Wikipedia.

A Jewish human rights group on Sunday said a decision to award British film director Ken Loach a lifetime achievement award is a “disgrace,” that casts “shame” on the Berlinale, Europe’s second-largest film festival, which is co-sponsored by the German government.

Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, said, “It is a disgrace that a prominent German film festival glorifies a director who has distinguished himself through bigotry and the denial of Israel’s right to exist.”

She also said that awarding Loach the “The Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement Award” was especially deserving of “shame,” as it was taking place in Berlin.

“Shame on the Berlinale for honoring an artist who calls for a cultural and economic boycott of Israel, and to do so in a city that once boycotted Jewish shops and property due to anti-Semitic policies of the German government,” Berger said.

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As a director, Loach has used his high-profile involvement in regional film festivals to attempt to force the groups managing the events to end co-sponsorship by Israeli embassies and consulates.

Founder of the “Left Unity” party in the UK, Roach’s early films were controversial often focusing on the conflict in Northern Ireland and support for trade unions. ‘Which Side Are You On?’ a 1985 film about the songs and poems of the UK miners’ strike was not aired by British television until the film won a prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, the same group that is honoring him now.

In 2006, Loach won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley,’ a film about the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War of the 1920s.

But, in 2007, he joined a rising tide of mostly British artists who tried to directly impose lessons from Northern Ireland onto the Palestinian Authority’s conflict with the state of Israel.

At the San Francisco International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual Film Festival, he was one of 100 people to sign a petition “to honor calls for an international boycott of Israeli political and cultural institutions, by discontinuing Israeli consulate sponsorship of the LGBT film festival and not co-sponsoring events with the Israeli consulate.” The petition against Israel, which grants full human rights to homosexuals, was brought by two groups called, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism and the South West Asian, North African Bay Area Queers.

In 2008, Loach signed a letter, published in the International Herald Tribune, of “54 international figures in the literary and cultural fields” who said, “celebrating ‘Israel at 60’ is tantamount to dancing on Palestinian graves to the haunting tune of lingering dispossession and multi-faceted injustice.”

In 2009, at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, he demanded the organizers return a £300 donation from the Israeli embassy. The festival agreed, but then said it would fund Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom-Ezer’s travel to Edinburgh out of its own budget.

He then pulled his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival, which refused to cut its sponsorship ties with the Israeli Embassy. Festival chief executive Richard Moore said, “We will not participate in a boycott against the State of Israel, just as we would not contemplate boycotting films from China or other nations involved in difficult long-standing historical disputes,”according to the Australian press.

Australian lawmaker Michael Danby said, “Israelis and Australians have always had a lot in common, including contempt for the irritating British penchant for claiming cultural superiority. Melbourne is a very different place to Londonistan,” according to JTA.

Loach also signed onto the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), launched in Ramallah, in April, 2004, which is a member of the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), the umbrella group behind international anti-Israel BDS campaigns, which the director also supports.

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