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Vanessa Redgrave Backs Israel

And criticizes Toronto Film Fest protestors in ‘NYRB’

Sara Ivry
October 07, 2009
Redgrave at a UNICEF press conference in Berlin last year.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Redgrave at a UNICEF press conference in Berlin last year.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Vanessa Redgrave is known of course for her acting but also for her criticism of Israel and her sympathetic stance toward Palestinians. So it’s surprising to see a letter she published in the October 22 issue of the New York Review of Books challenging those who protested the choice of Tel Aviv as the showcased city at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival. In their declaration, the protestors referenced Israel as an “apartheid regime” and said the festival’s Tel Aviv pick ignored “the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries.”

Redgrave, cowriting with artist Julian Schnabel and screenwriter and playwright Martin Sherman, takes umbrage at the declaration’s use of the phrase “apartheid regime,” and clarifies, “We oppose the current Israeli government, but it is a government. Freely elected. Not a regime. Words matter.” The three go on to question the declaration’s subtext that Tel Aviv should not exist and note that a great many Israelis are similarly critical of their government’s policies toward the Palestinians, “none more so than the Tel Aviv creative community,” they assert. “These citizens of Tel Aviv and their organizations and their cultural outlets should be applauded and encouraged. Their presence and their continued activity is reason alone to celebrate their city…. If attitudes are hardened on both sides, if those who are fighting within their own communities for peace are insulted, where then is the hope? The point finally is not to grandstand but to inch toward a two-state solution and a world in which both nations can exist, perhaps not lovingly, but at least in peace.”


Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.