Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, has harshly attacked Danny Glover after the Hollywood star affirmed his support for the cultural boycott of Israel. Lauder accused Glover, famous for his roles in Lethal Weapon and other movies, of “fan[ning] the flames of anti-Semitism in America.”
Glover, who is devoted to left-wing causes, is featured in a documentary on legendary activist Grace Lee Boggs. Lauder’s criticism came after Glover and others in the film released a pro-boycott statement after they found out the documentary, titled American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, is set to screen at an Israeli government-sponsored festival. The story was first broken by the Electronic Intifada‘s Ali Abunimah.
On May 13th and 15th, the movie will screen at the DocAviv film festival in Tel Aviv, Israel. The festival, featuring many documentaries, is supported by various arms of the Israeli government, including entities that play a role in the West Bank settlement project. Those who signed the statement say that the festival’s inclusion of the film on Boggs, a long-time activist based in Detroit, was made without their permission.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and support their call for cultural and academic boycott of Israel,” Glover, Boggs and ten others said in a statement first published by the Electronic Intifada. “We immediately took action to have the film withdrawn from the festival. The festival organizers and film producers informed us that this was not possible and they would move forward with the screening, over our objections. This film uplifts the life work and legacy of Grace Lee Boggs. She has explicitly stated her support of the boycott and believes this screening is in direct contradiction to her legacy and ongoing work as a revolutionary.”
Hours after the statement was made and spread to Israeli media, Lauder published his swipe at Glover in his capacity as president of the World Jewish Congress, an international group that dubs itself as the “diplomatic arm of the Jewish people.” “Danny Glover supported a boycott of Israel in 2009, and it therefore comes as no surprise that he does not wish the movie to be screened in Israel,” Lauder said in the statement. “We call on America’s film industry to speak out against the growing campaign to boycott the Jewish state. Just like anti-Semitism, unfair criticism of Israel should be condemned.”
In 2009, Glover and other stars sparked a controversy after signing a letter protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to celebrate Tel Aviv, though it wasn’t an explicit call for boycotting Israel.
In recent months, Lauder, who used to be one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s major backers, has become increasingly vocal about the need to defeat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. As Philip Weiss noted here, Lauder, a billionaire and former president of the Jewish National Fund, had told a London conference on the “delegitimization” of Israel that more needed to be done to fight BDS.
“We will draft and lobby for legislation that will withhold government funding from academic institutions that boycott Israel,” said Lauder. “We will draft and lobby for federal anti-discrimination statutes in the United States against banks, businesses and governments that target only Israel. We will follow the money to find out just who is funding these attacks on Israel and if there is any connection to terrorism.”