Roger Ebert amends his review of the Toronto protest

Israel/Palestine
on 53 Comments

Two thumbs way up for Roger Ebert. He has done an about-face on his criticisms of the protests against the Toronto International Film Festival’s City to City program with Tel Aviv. Here is part of the what Ebert had to say initially on his Journal from Toronto:

The protest is misguided and destructive. For what it’s worth, I believe the Palestinians deserve a homeland, and that Israel’s treatment of them has not been worthy of a nation that was itself founded as a homeland. But the artists of a nation cannot be fairly held responsible for the politics of that nation. All "sister cities" programs have a similar objective, to increase person-to-person contact with people from different lands. The City-to-City program, featuring filmmakers based in Tel Aviv, doesn’t link Canada and Israel, but simply spotlights recent work from a center of much recent cinematic achievement.

And then a day later he added this:

I’m writing this the day after first posting this entry. I now regret it. The point I make about artists is perfectly valid but I realize I wasn’t prepared with enough facts about the events leading up to the Festival’s decision to showcase Tel Aviv in the City-to-City section. I thought of it as an innocent goodwill gesture, but now realize it was part of a deliberate plan to "re-brand" Israel in Toronto, as a pilot for a larger such program. The Festival should never have agreed to be used like this. It was naive for the plan’s supporters to believe it would have the effect they hoped for.

If only all reporting on Israel/Palestine had such integrity. Ebert seems to acknowledge that critical comments made on the site led him to reconsider. If so, thanks to Mondo regulars Bruce Wolman, Dan Kelly and Jawad for helping to clarify the issue for him.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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53 Responses

  1. Saleema
    September 17, 2009, 12:09 am

    Thank you, Bruce, Dan and Adam.

    Thank youu, Phil.

  2. Dan Kelly
    September 17, 2009, 1:02 am

    Thanks for the mention, Phil!

    Jawad deserves mention here as well. It was his comment that directed me to Roger Ebert’s blog, and his subsequent comment informing me of Ebert’s amendment. I was overcome with emotion when I read Jawad’s post informing me of Roger’s change. It’s like it was a small victory that we shared after working together on something, although I don’t know if “victory” is the word I want to use. It just seems like we write so much about this stuff, yet concrete examples of change, such as Roger Ebert’s amendment, are so few and far between. I’m reminded of when the opposite occurred, during the Hampsire divestment campaign, when the college really went back on itself after receiving threats from Alan Dershowitz.

    We need things like this.

    • Dan Kelly
      September 17, 2009, 1:27 am

      That should have been “Thanks for the mention, Adam!”

      I should really go to bed now…

  3. jawad
    September 17, 2009, 2:09 am

    Thank you Dan. High fives all around. Yes Mondo, I want front page credits. (joking)
    One reason why Ebert listened to us is because MondoWeiss has raised the bar on the debate.

    Now I put on my Philip Weiss hat and scream THIS IS HUGE. I explain why. My favorite part is that even the “friends” of Israel who thought of this stunt are running away from the “Brand Israel” Brand. The game has changed. Gaza did it. In the past they would have waved the Brand Israel flag proudly in our faces and shut us up. Ebert would have risked unemployment. Now they seem to be saying “no, no, this was all innocent. We would not shove something sleazy like Brand Israel in your faces. We are good people.”

    Gene Siskel had his own neo-con Iraq moment on the movie reviews show. He boldly endorsed hateful portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in special show dedicated to denouncing hateful ethnic stereotypes. Presumably he thought that the hateful portrayals were good for the Jews. Roger Ebert sad there in silence. That was about 1995. In 2009 Roger Ebert would give him a smack down, and JVP, Modoweiss and the Jewish people of Atlanta would be there to back him up.

    I have a lot of thoughts bubbling up on this subject, maybe even a full blown Mondo guest post :).

    (BTW I am Pakistani American living in San Francisco. I have been a daily reader and evangelist of mondo since the early days. I comment rarely. Nice to meet you all. We are a team now.)

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 6:23 am

      Thank you jawad and ditto to all the regulars here on Mondoweiss and Phil & Adam.

    • Oscar
      September 17, 2009, 8:05 am

      Commendable effort, everyone. If you read the thread on Roger’s blogsite, it appears many Mondo regulars were represented. Now, if only we can get Roger to sign the Toronto Declaration.

      (N.B. – Jewish Voice for Peace is now up to 7566 signatures in support of the Toronto Declaration.)

      Phil and Adam have created a comprehensive — and searchable — body of information relating to the I/P situation, and those newly converted to the cause after reading the Goldstone Report have a resource with which to get up to speed. As always, kudos to P & A for their dedication and effort.

    • Adam Horowitz
      September 17, 2009, 10:51 am

      I added you Jawad! Thanks!

    • DG
      September 17, 2009, 5:04 pm

      Nice work, guys.

      Don’t waste your time sparring with Richard “Tarbaby” Witty. Anyone visiting here has already seen the light. Now get out there and change the rest of the world!

  4. Richard Witty
    September 17, 2009, 2:44 am

    I actually think the question of re-branding is a mistake to attack.

    ANY organization worth its salt is attentive and intentive as to the effects of its actions on the broader world consciousness.

    In this world, Hamas is conducting similar branding efforts. Its decision to not continue shelling Israeli civilians was publicly stated as “we are shifting to influence public opinion on Gazans and Israelis”.

    Certainly an element of that is noble, an effort to show what Gazans ARE. And an element of that is vindictive, an effort to stick it to Israel, war by other means.

    For Israel to consciously seek normalization in the area that its performance is normal and diverse, is rational and a good.

    For Ebert, for him to assume that he is never affected by institutions or organizations branding, is ridiculous.

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 7:25 am

      Arguably, all marketing is good that does not operate by way of deception of the intended audience/consumer. Good for whom is an attendant question. It’s not a mistake to question an advertisement or re-branding by a state of its image. Both Bernays and Goebbels took as first principle that any campaign should concentrate
      on the man in the street, not the intellectuals. Putting lipstick on a pig works.

    • Chaos4700
      September 17, 2009, 8:04 am

      You know, I’m starting to think that even if there was a “Palestinian Gandhi” — who hadn’t already been killed or thrown into an Israeli prison indefinitely under “administrative detention” at any rate — you’d find a reason to criticize that as well.

      Smoke and mirrors PR is exactly what got President Bush into the White House when he actually lost the election in 2000, and then later on that’s what got us into Iraq. You might not want to underestimate it.

    • Shafiq
      September 17, 2009, 9:33 am

      What a ridiculous thing to say. How is stopping rocket-fire (something of substance) comparable to a PR campaign, which aims to divert attention from the evils Israel commits?

    • potsherd
      September 17, 2009, 10:21 am

      When “branding” consists of lies and deceptions, of whitewashing reality, it is to be condemned.

      This is what Israel is reduced to, since the reality is indefensible.

  5. kylebisme
    September 17, 2009, 3:42 am

    …Hamas is conducting similar branding efforts. Its decision to not continue shelling Israeli civilians was publicly stated as “we are shifting to influence public opinion on Gazans and Israelis”.

    After Googling that alleged quote and getting nothing, I’m beginning to think I should start calling you False Wittyness.

    Anyway, Bruce, Dan, and Jawad; exelent work.

  6. pineywoodslim
    September 17, 2009, 5:48 am

    “Certainly an element of that is noble, an effort to show what Gazans ARE. And an element of that is vindictive, an effort to stick it to Israel, war by other means.

    For Israel to consciously seek normalization in the area that its performance is normal and diverse, is rational and a good.”

    When Hamas does it, it is “war by other means.”

    When Israel does it, it is “rational and a good.”

    Witty, how do you rationalize your two statements?

    • Richard Witty
      September 17, 2009, 7:29 am

      You quoted my post but didn’t read it?

      • pineywoodslim
        September 17, 2009, 11:43 am

        Of course I read your post Witty.

        You were just caught in an unintentionally honest statement, with your proverbial pants down as it were.

        And thanks for the response.

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 7:46 am

      The operative words & phrases in Witty’s logic are “vindictative,” “stick it to Israel,” and “war by
      any other means.” These inflame–address the emotions in a negative way.

      Conversely, the abstract positive assurances reside in the string of image-less adjectives, such as “normal,”
      “good,” “diverse,” “rational,” and “attentive.”

      Look at how they are respectively arrayed/allocated/attributed by Witty’s bipolar allocation of ownership.

      Worthy of Goebbels? You decide.

      • Chaos4700
        September 17, 2009, 8:06 am

        That’s the irony of Richard’s post, isn’t it? If I didn’t know better, I would have thought of it as an elaborate gesture of performance art.

      • Richard Witty
        September 17, 2009, 9:14 am

        So, its attrocious for an idiot to accuse Naomi Klein of being Goebel’s like, but its ok (I’ll leave the parallels implied) for you to accuse my use of language as Goebel’s like.

        You can address my point.

      • Chaos4700
        September 17, 2009, 1:24 pm

        See, the difference Richard is Citizen substantiated what he said with specific examples from your own words.

        Dragging this off topic by hyperventilating isn’t going to be very persuasive, you know. Citizen pointed out the contradiction in his post, pointed out that you were using a propaganda tactic and cited another notable who used it. He didn’t exactly merely lob it as an insult.

        How can we address your point of focus when you change it on a whim?

      • Richard Witty
        September 17, 2009, 1:43 pm

        How about using the communication tool of paraphrasing?

        That is to first ask, “…… is what I heard you to be saying. Is that accurate?”

        “Yes, but with this emphasis……”

        “Ok. This makes sense in your argument, and that doesn’t. I understand that to be actually ….. I learned that from reading ….. Do you agree with my interpretation?”

        I tried this with Norman F, but he was insulted that I even used the term “interpretation” or “understanding” in summarizing his views.

        So much for communication.

      • Citizen
        September 17, 2009, 2:55 pm

        Witty, your are babbling to yourself, becoming ever more incoherent. Have you been drinking or taking illegal drugs? You are fast losing brain cells many here may reasonably concude. And now you are babbling again.

  7. Elliot
    September 17, 2009, 8:02 am

    A couple of years ago I attended a presentation by an Israeli diplomat. He was young, presented as a Yuppie. He used terms such “the brandscape” and “re-branding.” He critiqued the Jewish Federations’ campaigns for Israel for depicting Israel as a victim.
    Instead, he said, we should be marketing Israel as hip and fun.

    We were shown pictures of young women in bikinis on the Tel Aviv beach.

    What struck me about the presentation (besides gagging on the advertizing jargon) was a. this is old hat. Israel’s advertizing campaigns have always done both: we’re sexy AND we’re victims.

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 2:57 pm

      Really bad. I doubt Goebbels would have hired him; he seems so mechanically inept
      in his chosen marketing field.

  8. Rehmat
    September 17, 2009, 8:04 am

    We historical corrections.

    1. Israel is not a Nation. Even the leaders of the world Zionist Movement sold their plan for a separate state for the European Jews – to escape Western ‘anti-Semitism’ and an outpost to protect western imperial interests in the Muslim world. From the very first day – Zionists never included the Eastern Jews as part of the new western colony in the Middle East. However, they grudgling accepted the Arab and African Jews to replace the native Muslim and Christian population and make their occupation a ‘demographic’ Jewish. These non-European Jews live as ‘second’ and ‘third’ class citizens even to this day.

    2. Jews or Hebrew speaking people have never lived as a NATION since the destruction of the states of Judea and Israel – at the hands of Babylonians.

    3. Canada, like the US, is very much inter-connected to the Zionist state (politically, socially, militarily, spying, and financially) – whether the majority of Canadians like it or not.

    Canada Park

    link to rehmat1.wordpress.com

    • Richard Witty
      September 17, 2009, 9:17 am

      Of course Jews are a people, a nation (a people that self-governs).

      We’ve retained our identity (even in vastly different communities) over millenia.

      Time to get educated, even if that forces you to confront some prejudices.

      • Chris Moore
        September 17, 2009, 9:42 am

        Witty: “Of course Jews are a people, a nation (a people that self-governs).”

        And therein lies the problem, because you do this (operate as a separate nation with its own interests and agenda) even within the borders of the U.S.

        Ethnocentric Jews do this, at least. And then treat the Jews that refuse to go along like traitors.

      • Gellian
        September 17, 2009, 9:52 am

        Richard,

        Do you really, honestly believe that Jews today are the descendants, in a true and unbroken chain, from the Jews of 2,000 years ago in ancient Palestine? Really? If archaeology can prove otherwise, would you still believe it?

      • potsherd
        September 17, 2009, 10:27 am

        The problem with Israel is that it views “nationality” as a question of Jewishness or non-Jewishness. Israel has not accepted that the nationality of Israelis is “Israeli.”

        What use is a state for the Jews, when the Jews do not see their nationality in terms of the state?

      • Richard Witty
        September 17, 2009, 12:51 pm

        “Richard,

        Do you really, honestly believe that Jews today are the descendants, in a true and unbroken chain, from the Jews of 2,000 years ago in ancient Palestine? Really? If archaeology can prove otherwise, would you still believe it? ”

        A chain of tradition and identity, YES.

      • Richard Witty
        September 17, 2009, 12:52 pm

        There is no way to prove a negative Gellian. You should be smarter than that.

      • Chaos4700
        September 17, 2009, 1:27 pm

        Time to start remembering there’s “American” in “Jewish American,” I’d say. I’m still mystified by this notion that European Jews have more of a claim to Palestine than Palestinians. Are you forgetting that there actually already were Jews in Palestine before Europeans came along? And that most of them were anti-Zionist?

      • Richard Witty
        September 17, 2009, 1:45 pm

        And there is human in American.

        Jewish American human should be the phrase.

        How can it end with “American” and still be a genuinely progressive view?

      • DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells
        September 17, 2009, 2:43 pm

        The Israeli book buying public seem to think otherwise.

        Sand’s book is out in English next month isn’t it.

      • Citizen
        September 17, 2009, 3:12 pm

        Correct, Witty, a nation within every host nation, a nation that self-governs in solely its own interests as first (often hidden) principle. Lots of reasons for this, both self-defensive AND
        proactive, opportunistic and predatory. The key is that the jewish nation views the
        survival of the jews as jews is more important than anything else on earth, and continuity is to be followed no matter the means towards that end. There is no other
        collective of religious-ethno-centric bias that has so kept to this rule of action in history. Since Israel has become a sovereign state recognized the sovereign states of the world, the only thing that has changed is that now Israel acts like Jews could not in the past and always in the name of all jews living. This poses a dilemna for
        those born Jewish who have moral-ethical issues with Israeli activities , and ditto
        for Gentiles who do not have double standards.

      • Richard Witty
        September 17, 2009, 5:11 pm

        Quite a lot of projection there citizen.

        Caring about Israel is not the same as not caring about the US, or about humanity as a whole.

        I’ve stated before that I consider American patriotism to have the same relationship to good, that sometimes its a good, and sometimes its something worth considering renouncing.

        For me, I can’t renounce my human-ness, and I can’t renounce my Jewishness. America is someplace where I live. I love it, but I’d also love Canada, or Great Britain, or Israel.

      • Chris Moore
        September 17, 2009, 6:05 pm

        I, for one, am glad Witty is here, because he illustrates how ethnocentric Jews think, their psychology. To him, America is interchangeable with any number of other places, because he has no blood and soil connection, no particular affection for American history, accomplishment, or historic Americans, no particular love for the American people…really, no particular love for gentile people. But there’s no law against that.

        He does have a particular love for the Jewish people and Israel and its blood and soil struggle, because *they* are *his* people and he sees them as part of *his* struggle.

        Witty’s, I’m sure, is a fairly typical Jewish Zionist psychological perspective.

        The thing is, I think Americans should know that Jewish Zionists don’t particularly like them, and in fact seem to carry around a lot of latent hostility against them. I think they should know that they favor Israel’s plight over America’s. And I think Americans should adjust their voting patterns, business practices, foreign policy, and foreign aid accordingly, and in a way that penalizes instead of rewards Jewish Zionists for their Israel-first mentality.

        I think Americans need to understand that Jewish Zionists are, as Kevin Macdonald has repeatedly indicated, a hostile elite. Thus, current disproportionate Jewish Zionist influence among the American elite, far from being a wash, is actually quite bad for America, and may in fact be a big factor behind our current malaise and decline.

        “And not only do Jews see themselves as outsiders, they are outsiders with a long sense of history — an often tragic history in which people very much like the American majority participated in anti-Jewish movements. They are thus not simply indifferent to the interests of the American majority, they form a hostile elite, as they did in the Soviet Union.”–Kevin Macdonald
        link to kevinmacdonald.net

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 6:50 pm

      Witty: “Quite a lot of projection there citizen.”

      How so Witty? What exactly am I projecting? What do you think I said that is not true, but merely me echoing my own thoughts detached from history?

      “Caring about Israel is not the same as not caring about the US, or about humanity as a whole.” No? We all have a priority list, but secular humanism posits first all humans, without exception. You posit Jews first.

      “I’ve stated before that I consider American patriotism to have the same relationship to good, that sometimes its a good, and sometimes its something worth considering renouncing.”

      Phil’s blog and many regualrs commenting here keep trying to tell you that not only
      is knee-jerk American patriotism misguided, but so too is Israel First patriotism–unfortunately, for for over forty years the two have been sold as conflated.

      For me, I can’t renounce my human-ness, and I can’t renounce my Jewishness. America is someplace where I live. I love it, but I’d also love Canada, or Great Britain, or Israel.

      • Citizen
        September 17, 2009, 7:06 pm

        Why Witty, do you expect all gentiles to renounce their quality? Do you think gentiles can renounce that or their human-ness? You say you could easily renounce where you live, the place where you grew up, that gave you your freedom and privileges, which was the USA, and yet you expect that the USA should not honor similar Palestinian aspirations? What’s required to convince you, Witty, an aryan-looking Paul Neuman
        in the prequel to Exodus, called Nakba?

  9. Ed_Frias
    September 17, 2009, 8:37 am

    Rehmat, you say Israel is not a nation.
    You’ve been reading the Hamas and PLO charter to much.
    Tell me exactly when did the Palestinias have a state?
    Who was the leader of this state?
    Keep thinking and thinking?

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 3:19 pm

      The Jews didn’t need a state to be a nation and neither do the Palestinians. Part of their sense of self as a nation is due to Jewish-Israeli predatory actions against them; you could say the Pals can thank anti-arabism in the same way the Jews can thank anti-jewishism in part for their respective consciousness of being a nation. Where would Israel the state be today without Hitler? And where would the Palestinians be today
      without Israel?

    • Chaos4700
      September 17, 2009, 8:09 pm

      One notes that when Palestine belonged to the Palestinians it was home to Christians, Muslims and Jews. That all changed in 1948 thanks to a gang of well armed, well funded immigrants of European descent.

    • MRW
      September 18, 2009, 10:54 pm

      Palestine issued coinage and paper money, which if you understand the history of currency and it’s relationship to the legal structure of a country makes it significant. But I am not about to give you a history lesson now. As for the leader? It was the Grand Mufti.

      Israel, technically, is not a state now. It does not have defined borders and it lacks a constitution.

  10. Uri
    September 17, 2009, 10:18 am

    that’s good news. i’ve always thought roger ebert was a good man, so the fact that he amended his position upon reflection and consideration of further facts is heartening. it looks to me as though he essentially endorses the protest letter.

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 3:22 pm

      Did you read all the comments on Ebert’s blog, and his occasional response to some of them? From those it seems, as old as he is, and as attuned to the socio-political
      nuance of films, he’s basically a baby when it comes to awareness of the history of
      the I-P conflict and the USA’s enmeshed and one-sided foreign policy and the impact of that on the whole world.

      • Dan Kelly
        September 17, 2009, 5:54 pm

        he’s basically a baby when it comes to awareness of the history of
        the I-P conflict and the USA’s enmeshed and one-sided foreign policy and the impact of that on the whole world.

        I think that describes a majority of people in this country, even among the “educated” classes. But the veil is slowly being lifted…

  11. munro
    September 17, 2009, 3:47 pm

    “NICOLE Kidman has made a public stand against terrorism. The actress, joined by 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today’s Los Angeles Times newspaper. It specifically targets “terrorist organisations” such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. “We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas,” the ad reads. “If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die. “We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs.” A who’s who of Hollywood heavyweights joined Kidman on the ad. The actors listed included: Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, James Woods, Kelly Preston, Patricia Heaton and William Hurt. Directors Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Dick Donner and Sam Raimi also signed their names. Other Hollywood powerplayers supporting the ad included Sumner Redstone, the chairman and majority owner of Paramount Pictures, and billionaire mogul, Haim Saban.”
    http://www.chronwatch-america.com/blogs/577/Nicole-Kidman—84-other-Hollywood-heavyweights-stand-against-terrorists.html

    The Day Nicole Kidman Shamed Our Nation
    (by signing a petition supporting Israel 2006 bombing of Lebanon)
    link to newsblaze.com

    • munro
      September 17, 2009, 5:52 pm

      I want to add that I posted the Kidman stuff because it sheds light on Liberal Hollywood. I vote at the same place as Danny De Vito and his wife Rhea Perlman and know them to be outspoken Liberals, that he signed this is typical. De Vito and the others have gained a lot through pandering, atonement, or like Kidman and Ridley Scott (director of the Arabist film Kingdom of Heaven) both.

      • Citizen
        September 17, 2009, 7:18 pm

        Kidman et al know which side their bread is buttered 0n. That’s most of Hollywood.
        They are not only intentionally ignorant, but proud of it because they think so little of the masses who come to their films. If not, they are merely easily manipulated.

      • tree
        September 17, 2009, 8:44 pm

        Many of the actors listed in the 2006 petition are not in fact liberals, nor would they ever categorize themselves that way. Hopper, Stallone, Wills, Johnson, Woods, and Heaton in particular would more correctly categorize themselves as either conservatives or moderate Republicans. Although I wonder if the term “moderate Republican” isn’t an oxymoron these days.

      • munro
        September 17, 2009, 10:07 pm

        The petition and signatories:
        link to farm1.static.flickr.com

        Check out the comments on this blog in response to a protest against the petition:
        link to akramawad.com

    • munro
      September 17, 2009, 10:28 pm

      #3 to sign was Ari Emanuel brother of Rahm and the model for Ari Gold of Entourage, a show that inserts lots of pro-Israel elements.
      link to farm1.static.flickr.com

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