Filmmaker Godard shuns Israel after boycott call

Mon Jun 2, 2008 9:12am EDT
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard has scrapped plans to attend a Tel Aviv film festival after a Palestinian group urged him to boycott Israel.

One of the founding members of the French New Wave in 1960s cinema, Godard cancelled a trip to the Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival citing "circumstances beyond his control," festival organizers said on Monday.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel urged Godard in an open letter last week to "take a courageous stand and cancel your trip to Israel."

"Did you ever go to an Afrikaner film festival in apartheid South Africa? Why Israel, then?" said the letter, entitled "Le petit soldat dancing on Palestinian graves," a reference to his 1963 film "Le Petit Soldat" (The little soldier).

A source close to his office, which declined public comment, cited political pressure for his reason to cancel the visit.

Festival organizers said they were disappointed the celebrated filmmaker, who was due to hold master classes with students, had opted not to come but said they respected his decision.

Pro-Palestinian groups have frequently called on international academics and prominent cultural figures to boycott Israel over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Britain's biggest union for university lecturers last week pressed members to "consider" its links with Israeli academics. South African activists urged author Nadine Gordimer, a Nobel laureate who campaigned against apartheid, to cancel her visit to a writers' festival last month, but she turned down the call.

Israel rejects comparison with white-rule in South Africa, and Jewish groups have condemned cultural and academic boycotts as anti-Semitic.

(Reporting by Rebecca Harrison; Editing by Mariam Karouny)

<p>Jean-Luc Godard listens to question during a press conference for his film entry 'Notre Musique' which is screened out of competition at the 57th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2004. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>