TORONTO (JTA) – The co-director of an international film festival showcasing Tel Aviv said the city "remains contested ground."
In an open letter in response to a protest by dozens of celebrities protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to showcase the city of Tel Aviv, festival co-director Cameron Bailey wrote that spotlighting Tel Aviv was "not a simple choice and that the city remains contested ground. We continue to learn more about the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement."
"As a festival that values debate and the exchange of cultures, we will continue to screen the best films we can find from around the world," Bailey said in the letter posted on the festival’s Web site.
Tel Aviv is the inaugural city in the festival’s new City to City series.
More than 50 prominent filmmakers, writers, artists and academics — including Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Alice Walker — have signed a letter denouncing the move at the festival, which runs Sept. 10-19.
"As members of the Canadian and international film, culture and media arts communities, we are deeply disturbed by [the festival's] decision to host a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv," states the letter, set to be published online Thursday. "We protest that TIFF, whether intentionally or not, has become complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine."
"We do not protest the  individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City," the letter continues. "Nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF. However … we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of … an apartheid regime."
Other signatories include singer David Byrne, actor Wallace Shawn and Canadian author Naomi Klein.