The following letter, by Asian American individuals and organizations, was written to the Center for Asian American Media to protest the Center’s sponsorship of the Israel China Film Festival, an event sponsored by the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco. This letter joined the call from USACBI and a number of other organizations. Individual signatures to this letter are not posted, but have been sent directly to CAAM.
June 13, 2012
Dear Mr. Stephen Gong,
On behalf of the Asian American organizations and individuals listed below, we are writing to express our deep concern regarding the Center for Asian American Media”s (CAAM) participation as a co-sponsor of the Israel China Film Festival, as part of the Israel China Cultural Festival, in San Francisco.
We ask CAAM to respect the call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel (www.usacbi.org), a growing movement of international civil society modeled after the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), in the face of Israel”s countless violations of human rights. As Asian Americans, we have a long history of struggles against racism and injustice–from mobilization against the anti-Chinese exclusion act and Japanese American internment camps to exploitation of Filipino American laborers and hate crimes and violence against South Asian and other Asian Americans–not to mention histories of struggles against colonialism and wars in our homelands. Thus we are in solidarity with the Palestinian people who have faced many injustices caused by Israel, including the colonization and theft of Palestinian land, displacement and dispossession, military occupation, massacres of civilians, home demolitions, racial segregation, restrictions on freedom of movement, and countless war crimes that have been condemned by the United Nations.
It is therefore very disturbing for us to learn that CAAM is partnering with the Israeli consulate to sponsor an Israel film festival as part of the Israel China Cultural Festival. This festival uses cultural exchange as a means of whitewashing the reality of occupation and apartheid–a reality in which Palestinians have lived under an illegal military occupation and siege for 45 years, the “Apartheid Wall” restricts the daily lives of Palestinians, thousands of Palestinians are detained as political prisoners, Palestinians in Israel face systemic discrimination in multiple realms simply because they are not Jewish, Palestinian families have been refused the right to return to their homes for generations and many continue to live in refugee camps in Palestine and elsewhere. Yet not one of the films featured in this festival seems to address these realities, which we find shocking.
As a community media organization, it is important for CAAM to recognize the political significance of this “cultural” partnership with the Israeli consulate, which is essentially a partnership with a government body. By participating in this festival, Asian Americans are being used as cultural ambassadors to sanitize the public image of Israel, while hiding its human rights violations. By excluding the voices of those who have been affected by Israeli occupation, war crimes, and apartheid, this cultural festival is an insult to Palestinian and Arab American communities and a disgrace to Asian American communities and people of conscience who strive to stand in solidarity with oppressed communities, locally and globally.
We are also troubled by this partnership because as a community that is generally stereotyped as the “model minority,” Asian Americans are often pitted against other marginalized communities and used to erase the historical exclusion and oppression of other minority groups. It is critical for our community to show solidarity with other communities of color, including the Palestinian and Arab American community, as Japanese Americans and other groups have done since 2001 in forming coalitions against the racial profiling of Arab and Muslim Americans. CAAM”s partnership will be a huge blow to these coalitions and a violation of these principles of solidarity against racial injustice and colonial oppression. Participating in the festival allows Asian American communities to be used in the normalization of Israel’s human rights abuses.
Many important CAAM productions and SF International Asian American Film Festival films have documented how Asian Americans have taken an active stance in the civil rights movement, labor movement, immigrant rights struggles, and protests against warfare and imperialism. CAAM has consistently tried to be an outlet for the stories of Asian American and underrepresented communities and we hope that it would try to do the same for West Asian/ Arab American communities as well, or at the least, not erase their experiences. It is our hope that CAAM will maintain its commitment to supporting Asian American voices against injustice and stand in solidarity with Palestinian and Arab American communities by not participating in the Israel China Cultural Festival.
We call on CAAM to join the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in opposition to Israeli human rights violations and to join the hundreds of groups across the US and around the world that stand on the side of human rights for all. BDS is an expression of principled opposition to the notion that certain groups can be excluded from human rights and the right to freedom and self-determination, due to their race or religion. The cultural boycott campaign is an institutional, not individual, boycott and so it does not oppose screenings of Israeli films that are not part of a whitewashing campaign nor censor collaboration with Israeli artists. The cultural boycott does not preclude cultural exchange or freedom of expression; on the contrary, it champions honest and fully open dialogue in which the stories of those who suffer from racism and colonialism are not silenced.
Anakbayan – East Bay
ASATA (Alliance of South Asians Taking Action)
Asian Americans for Peace and Justice (AAPJ)
Asian Prisoner Support Committee
BAYAN – USA
BAYAN USA-Northern California
Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans (HOBAK)
League of Filipino Students – BAYAN USA
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
South Asians for Justice – Los Angeles
Xicana Moratorium Coalition