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I said no to a Netflix audition because I support Palestinian rights

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A version of this article was first published by Truthout on August 7, 2019.

I’m an actor in the U.S. film and television industry. I’ve been around for more than 40 years. Recently, I was invited to audition for a new Netflix television series with the working title “Sycamore.” The appointment sheet informed me that I would be trying out for the role of Martin Wexler, a series regular character described as an American politician, living in New York — “approachable, distinguished, practiced, and elusive.”

I was intrigued by the role, and I was preparing, with some enthusiasm, to make a “self-tape” — a home video recording of my audition performance, which I would then submit to the casting directors. The casting directors, I hoped, would then show my video to the producers of the series. They, in turn, might give me the job.

While I was preparing my audition, I noticed the last two lines at the bottom of the appointment sheet:

Start Date: Sept 2019
Location: NY & Tel Aviv

I decided to do a little research in the Hollywood trade papers, and discovered that “Sycamore” had to be the new working title of a series announced in 2018 as “Hit and Run.” It was further revealed that “Sycamore/Hit and Run” will be a co-production of U.S. and Israeli companies. Two of the creative executive producers of the new series, Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz, are also the creator-producers of the Israeli Netflix series “Fauda.”

“Fauda” is an action-adventure drama set in Israel and the Occupied Territories. I was aware that the show had been criticized for its portrayal of Palestinians and for its tendency to justify Israel’s human rights abuses.

Mitchell Abidor reviewed the series in Jewish Currents. He wrote, “Fauda, in its second season, is clearly not, as its creators have pretended, a humanizing portrayal of Palestinians, but rather is quite clearly aimed at solidifying an Israeli image of them as cowardly beasts who must be dealt with by any means necessary.”

I watched the show myself and noticed there was a missing narrative element: “Fauda” doesn’t give its international audience the historical context of the conquest of Palestine, which the Palestinian people continue to resist with a range of strategies and methods.

“Sycamore/Hit and Run” may or may not be as offensive as “Fauda,” but there is an equally important issue here: Israeli production companies like those of Issacharoff and Raz stand to benefit enormously from their alliances with their American partners and Netflix. In addition to substantial revenue for the companies and the Israeli economy, the Israeli government will benefit from the prestige of creative partnerships with Hollywood. These show business relationships matter, politically. The Israeli Foreign Ministry runs the “Brand Israel” campaign to use culture, entertainment and technology to counter Israel’s negative image in the world as a racist state that systematically violates human rights.

I have supported the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel since the 2014 Israeli War on Gaza. (That astonishing display of high- and low-tech cruelty, I believe, opened the eyes of many Americans.) The Academic and Cultural Boycott is part of a larger movement on behalf of the human rights and self-determination of the Palestinian people. The overall campaign is known as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and originated within Palestinian civil society.

I’ve come to think of Israel as a European settler-colonial state, which practices apartheid in order to control the Indigenous population it has conquered militarily. In this respect, Israel is similar to the previously apartheid state of South Africa, where white European colonists had conquered the Indigenous Black African population and occupied their land.

In the same way that human rights activists boycotted the South African regime to abolish apartheid, many now are boycotting Israel to pressure its government to end its own practice of apartheid and its other constant, daily, gross violations of the human rights of the people of Palestine.

I believe the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel is of special importance, and I admire the professors and artists who have refused to lecture or to perform in Israel. Through their refusal, they have denied Israel the legitimacy and the prestige it seeks in the world community. I have been encouraged by intellectuals and artists like Stephen Hawking and Lorde, who have honored the boycott.

I haven’t been employed for a year and a half. So, with considerable reluctance, but inspired by the example of so many others, I chose not to participate in the whitewashing of Israel’s image. I did not submit a video audition to the casting directors.

I’m not a high-profile performer. My refusal to collaborate with Israeli producers will have a negligible effect on this expensive and ambitious project. My decision is just one individual’s act of conscience in solidarity with the Palestinian people — and with dissident Israelis who envision a better future for both peoples.

I decided on a small act of resistance. I take some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. And I’m optimistic that others in our industry will seriously consider withholding their talent and their moral support from a regime that abuses the dispossessed, impoverished — but still resistant — people under its control.

Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission

David Clennon

David Clennon has appeared in the feature films Being There, Missing, The Thing, Syriana and Gone Girl. His television credits include “thirtysomething,” HBO’s “From the Earth to the Moon” and Netflix’s “House of Cards.” His guest actor turn on HBO’s “Dream On” brought him an Emmy award.

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17 Responses

  1. smithgp on August 9, 2019, 1:18 pm

    Thank you, David, for the sacrifice you have made for principle, and for making your stand so public (thus probably incurring future sacrifices). BDS may take the form of economic and cultural boycott, but the deeper purpose is to ostracize Israel as a country (not individual Israelis) until it commits itself to justice and equality for all its citizens, including the ~6 million Palestinians it has permanently exiled from Palestine.

  2. philweiss on August 9, 2019, 2:54 pm

    brilliant piece of writing. humble, plain and thoughtful. Thank you

  3. JohnSmith on August 9, 2019, 3:40 pm

    He may not be a “big-deal” actor in terms of being hugely famous, but his face is instantly recognizable–I’ve known his work for at least 40 years since I saw him in the 1979 movie “Being There” with Peter Sellers! And I would have seen his work at least a few years before in the two-part miniseries “Helter Skelter,” which my mother let me watch, although she shouldn’t have. Imdb lists “Helter Skelter” as dating to 1976, but I’m pretty sure that has to be at least a year off–I think it would have been more like 1975, considering how old I was and where I was living when I watched it on TV, since it was a “television event.”

    I suspect most of the characters he’s played are “unprepossessing,” but it’s nice to know that the real person stands up for what’s right and what’s decent!

    • Misterioso on August 10, 2019, 10:20 am

      @John Smith

      Yes, being a movie addict, I recognized him immediately.

      As you said, “He may not be a ‘big-deal’ actor in terms of being hugely famous,” but unlike most in his profession, he’s got the guts, integrity and morality to risk his career and publicly support the long suffering Palestinians. Bravo David Clennon!!! Mabruk!!

  4. annie on August 10, 2019, 12:13 am

    thank you.

  5. RoHa on August 10, 2019, 3:26 am

    Now that you have taken this public stance, I suspect that the “never work in this town again” sentence will be passed.

    I applaud your courage and commitment.

  6. Jackdaw on August 10, 2019, 2:55 pm

    Clennon appeared in the movie, ‘Syriana’, which was filmed on location in Lebanon and Dubai.

    Palestinians have more civil rights in Israel than in Lebanon, and Dubai’s (U.A.E.) human rights record is quite poor indeed.

    https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE25/018/2014/en/

    https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/lebanon

    So , Clennon was unconcerned about Palestinian rights in Lebanon, where Syriana was partly filmed, and Clennon was unconcerned with human rights in Dubai.

    Clennon just doesn’t like Israel.

    Oh my.

    • Talkback on August 11, 2019, 5:33 am

      Jackdaw: “Palestinians have more civil rights in Israel …”

      Except the Palestinians that Israel keeps expelled and denationalized to prevent them from having “civil rights”.

      Jackdaw: “So , Clennon was unconcerned about Palestinian rights in Lebanon, where Syriana was partly filmed, and Clennon was unconcerned with human rights in Dubai.”

      Oh, Palestinian rights in Lebanon:
      “There are also approximately 174,000 Palestinian longstanding refugees living in Lebanon, where they continue to face restrictions, including on their right to work and own property.”

      Seems to me that this Lebanon has nearly the same attitude towards Palestinians refugees like Israel with the only difference that Lebanon allows these Palestinians to live there and doesn’t illegaly confiscate their properties.

      But please. Continue to distract from Israel. That’s the only thing Hasbara can do these days except crying “antisemitism”.

      • Jackdaw on August 11, 2019, 9:17 am

        Palestinians who make their home in Israel, have full rights, which are nonexistent for the Palestinians living in Lebanon.

        No distraction, only Clennon’s sorry hypocrisy.

      • oldgeezer on August 11, 2019, 1:01 pm

        @jackdaw

        The reason that those Palestinians are in Lebanon is the ethnic cleansing , murder rape, dispossession and terrorizing, of the Palestinian population by the terorrists in Israel.

        If it wasn’t for the rogue state of Israel these people could be living in their homes.

        The blood is entirely on Israeli hands.

      • RoHa on August 11, 2019, 8:42 pm

        Palestinians who avoided being driven out of Israel do not have the right to put a comma after a defining relative clause, and neither do you.

      • Kay24 on August 12, 2019, 6:30 am

        For Jackdaw, same rights eh?

        “Since 1948, we, the Palestinian minority, have been exposed to unfair laws, budgeting and planning, land confiscations, surveillance and political suppression. The state and Jewish Israelis constantly remind Palestinian citizens of the fragility of our Israeli citizenship.
        The discriminatory treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel escalated drastically after the Second Intifada. This was the result of a series of public incitements by Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his right-wing government against Palestinian citizens and their elected representatives. These provocations often follow in the wake of Arab Members of the Knesset expressing support of for Palestinians or when the Arab community protests Israel’s policies against them.
        For instance, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has referred to Joint (Arab) List party leader Ayman Odeh and his parliamentary colleagues as “terrorists” who belong in jail. That was in response to the Arab MK lashing out at police for their violent dispersal of a Gaza solidarity protest in Haifa where protestors raised the Palestinian flag; in 2017 he called for a boycott of Arab businesses. A few months ago he again called another Joint List MK a “terrorist” – the same MK whose citizenship he’d previously called to be revoked.”

        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-what-it-s-like-to-be-a-palestinian-citizen-in-israel-1.6878243

  7. JWalters on August 10, 2019, 7:00 pm

    Thank you David. And while Palestinians are suffering on the front line of this fight, there is another important battle front, significant on the global stage.
    “Israel’s Stranglehold on American Politics”
    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/israels-stranglehold-on-american-politics/

    And the media, of course, is a major battle front.

  8. Arby on August 12, 2019, 9:00 am

    Thank you for caring David Clennon.

  9. larick on August 12, 2019, 6:34 pm

    “My decision is just one individual’s act of conscience in solidarity with the Palestinian people — and with dissident Israelis who envision a better future for both peoples.” This activity, the “individual’s act of conscience in solidarity” is the central element in the advance of all human freedom. We each need to emulate it as often as possible. Way to go Dave!!

  10. DaBakr on August 14, 2019, 12:33 am

    Two bit has been. But, he made his political stance known. No disrespect for that. His career.

  11. dianeshammas on August 18, 2019, 4:15 pm

    Truly, thank you David very brave and noble of you. It takes one act like yours and thousands like yours BDS will prevail as it did in the overthrow of Apartheid South Africa. Sentient Americans (and the international community) acted against our government’s support of Apartheid South Africa . The same will happen with Palestine —-Palestine shall be free .

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