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Ads Call on Hollywood Celebrities to Reconsider Before Going to Cannes

May 13, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jewish ire over a recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks in France may spread to a new battleground — the film industry.

Concerned by the attacks, the American Jewish Congress is urging Hollywood stars and studios to consider France’s current and past anti-Semitism before attending the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

The full-page ads, placed in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter — the two leading dailies covering the entertainment industry — and the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, draw parallels between the collaborationist Vichy regime of 1942 and the France of 2002.

The ad also reprints a “travel advisory” issued recently by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, urging Jewish tourists “to exercise extreme caution while traveling in France.”

Gary Ratner, executive director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the AJCongress, who placed the ads, told JTA that he wants Hollywood figures to rethink their plans to go to Cannes or, if they go, to raise the issue of French anti-Semitism with their hosts.

The festival was slated to begin Wednesday.

Ratner said that since the ads appeared, he received some 50 supportive phone calls and e-mails, and two or three negative responses.

He also heard reports that some personalities in the entertainment industry were indeed reconsidering plans to go to Cannes.

Though he did not mean to equate the Nazi-friendly Vichy regime with today’s France, Ratner noted that anti- Semitic incidents have risen sharply this year.

Ratner also emphasized that he did not call for a boycott of the Cannes festival or tourism to France, although the ad refers readers to the AJCongress’ Web site,

An indignant Jean-Luc Sibiude, the recently arrived French consul general in Los Angeles, told JTA he was shocked and outraged by the “sick analogy” between wartime Vichy France and his country today.

While he did not contest the sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents, Sibiude argued that “99 percent” were perpetrated by Arab immigrants from the former French colonies in North Africa, or their descendants, who number around 4 million.

“The anti-Semitic incidents represent almost entirely a spillover from what is happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said.

If there is prejudice in France, it is directed more against Muslim immigrants than Jews, Sibiude maintained, and he urged American Jews to listen to the leaders of French Jewry, who have opposed any economic or tourism boycott of France.

The AJCongress has traditionally been a liberal organization, with emphasis on such issues as civil rights and separation of church and state.

However, in recent years, some say the AJCongress leadership has moved to the right, and in 1999, the Los Angeles-based regional chapter split from the national organization, claiming that it had forsaken its founders’ liberalism.

Since then, a new regional chapter representing the AJCongress was established — and it was this new chapter that placed the controversial ad.

In another development, the Cannes Film Festival committee chose “Kedma,” an Israeli-French-Italian co- production by Israeli director Amos Gitai, as one of 21 features in competition for top honors. The film centers on a boatload of European refugees trying to reach Palestine shortly before the establishment of the State of Israel.

For the first time, a Palestinian film, “Intervention Divine” by Elia Suleiman, also will be shown.

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