Please read our new Open Letter to the Toronto Palestine Film Festival.

A press release went out today in the name of the group that published the protest/boycott open letter to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). It expresses satisfaction that they have hundreds of new signatories to their online letter. The letter begins:

“The organizers of the Toronto Declaration – No Celebration of Occupation are pleased to announce that more than 1000 people from around the world”

In other words, the people who have sent out the press release are the organizers of this campaign to protest TIFF. Keep that in mind for a second.

The letter goes on to say that they don’t mean to boycott TIFF, just to protest the political nature of the City to City program for using Tel Aviv as its first city. Of course, that’s a ridiculous claim since John Greyson, who is one of the letter’s authors, wrote:

To my mind, this isn’t the right year to …pointedly ignore the international economic boycott campaign against Israel. …By ignoring this boycott, TIFF has emphatically taken sides — and in the process, forced every filmmaker and audience member who opposes the occupation to cross a type of picket line.

Another of the letter’s authors is Naomi Klein who recently visited Ramallah and publicly apologized to the Palestinians for only joining their boycott movement against Israel now.

In my posts, I’ve shown that the letter relates South Africa and Israel and equates Israel’s actions with South Africa’s past immoral behavior. Of course, it took boycotting to kill SA’s apartheid, and it is clearly implied in the letter to TIFF that Israeli apartheid is just as immoral. To deny that the protest letter isn’t a boycott letter is nothing more than a clever semantic game. The intent is clear, as John Greyson informs us in his open letter.

Now to the interesting part of this post.

The press release from the “organizers” conveniently provides a media contact phone number for reporters or others wishing to make contact. The number is 416-890-3703 and a very pleasant woman answers when you call. She does not identify the place you are calling or the organization.

Interestingly, the same number was provided in a press release publicizing John Greyson’s open letter. There too it was labeled “media contact.”

A Google search on that number also brings up a number of letters promoting “Apartheid Week” in Toronto.

The phone number is was listed as Palestine House Media in Toronto. You can see evidence of this in the contact number offered here.

Hmmmm…a protest against TIFF, that is headlined by Canadian artists and writers and without a single Arab name signed on to their open letter (the letter is signed, “Udi Aloni, filmmaker, Israel; Elle Flanders, filmmaker, Canada; Richard Fung, video artist, Canada; John Greyson, filmmaker, Canada; Naomi Klein, writer and filmmaker, Canada; Kathy Wazana, filmmaker, Canada; Cynthia Wright, writer and academic, Canada; b h Yael, film and video artist, Canada), is being organized at or with the same number used for Palestine House Media in Toronto.

What is Palestine House? They have two websites. One and Two. Their mission, according to site One is:

Palestine House Educational and Cultural Centre connects people with community and government services and resources to advance positive individual, family and community life. We work towards changing lives and building stronger communities

But their media center on site Two tells a different story. Here are the first few press releases provided by their media center:

Sept. 2nd, 09: Toronto International Film Festival
July 9th, 09: 2 Dead Sea Scrolls
April 10th, 09: 1 Dead Sea Scrolls, Royal Ontario Museum
Mar 30, 09: Press release: Land Day
9 Jan, 2009: Rally Asks Ottawa to Take Firm Stand, Hold Israel Accountable for War Crimes
3 Jan, 2009: End Israel’s Assault on Gaza, Press Kit
28 Oct, 2007: Hamilton Declaration: Palestine House joins Palestinian Community Organizations in Canada to demand right of return and one-state solution

The Dead Sea Scrolls letters are related to the attempt by the Palestinians to claim the Dead Sea Scrolls are actually Palestinian artifacts and stolen by Israel. That’s right, Hebrew religious scrolls from 2000 years ago are actually Palestinian. Who knew?! There was an exhibition of the scrolls in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum and these letters from Palestine House are attempting to have the show cancelled. First Dead Sea Scrolls, now Tel Aviv movies. Anybody see a pattern emerging?

Now what is also interesting is that the Palestine House Media phone number listed on the CAF press release, which is the same one on the Greyson press release and the press release by the “organizers” of the TIFF protest nee boycott, and which is also the same phone number provided for Apartheid Week activities in Toronto, is NOT listed on the Palestine House website. Its inclusion in the press releases and the Apartheid Week activities also don’t identify it. Nope, the only way to find out that the phone number is used by Palestine House is to search on Google and find the originals of the January 2, 2009 press release by the Canadian Arab Federation that list the number as Palestine House Media.

Palestine House is, by the way, funded in part by the Canadian government. There is a note on site One that says “Programs funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.” Why is the Canadian government funding a clearing house for Palestinian activism against Israel? Who knows. But they are.

I bet the Canadian government doesn’t know they are funding an organization that supports boycotts and protests against cultural activities that involve Israel. I bet the Canadian government doesn’t know that their funds – Canadian taxpayer funds – are being spent on an organization that helped attack the Royal Ontario Museum and may be behind the attacks on the Toronto Film Festival.

Now for the best part, something which an acquaintance of mine pointed out to me and I have taken the liberty of using some of the information he provided. Let’s compare the first press release attacking the Royal Ontario Museum’s Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition with Greyson’s “open letter” and the “protest letter” written to TIFF.

Palestine House ROM letter:

This exhibit is part of the “Israel Rebranding Campaign” that was initiated by the Israeli Consulate in order to promote Israel’s image and divert attention from Israel’s systematic human rights violations and war crimes.

“Canadian Artists” “Protest” Letter:

In 2008, the Israeli government and Canadian partners Sidney Greenberg of Astral Media, David Asper of Canwest Global Communications and Joel Reitman of MIJO Corporation launched “Brand Israel,” a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions of Israel. Brand Israel would take the focus off Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its aggressive wars…

John Greyson Open Letter:

In the Canadian Jewish News, Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin described how this Spotlight is the culmination of his year-long Brand Israel campaign, which includes bus/radio/TV ads, the ROM’s notorious Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit…

Palestine House ROM letter:

“I was shocked to learn about the ROM’s plan to show the looted Dead Sea Scrolls. I was doubly shocked to see how the ROM is being recruited by Israel to divert attention from Israel’s crimes” said Samir Jabbour, a spokesperson for Palestine House.

The ROM’s willingness to collaborate with the Israeli authorities less than 4 months after Israel’s brutal attacks on the Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip is an insult to the 1,400 victims of that war… It also shows complete disregard for the Palestinian campaign which calls for enforcing international law through a boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS). Instead, the ROM decided to reward the Israeli authorities for their violations.

Greyson Letter:

This past year has also seen: the devastating Gaza massacre of eight months ago, resulting in over 1000 civilian deaths…

To my mind, this isn’t the right year to celebrate Brand Israel, or to demonstrate an ostrich-like indifference to the realities (cinematic and otherwise) of the region, or to pointedly ignore the international economic boycott campaign against Israel. Launched by Palestinian NGO’s in 2005, and since joined by thousands inside and outside Israel, the campaign is seen as the last hope for forcing Israel to comply with international law.

On the Palestine House website (Two), there is a “press release” regarding the “Canadian artists” letter. It reads:

It is no coincidence that TIFF has chosen to shine a spotlight in Tel Aviv this year. In 2008, Toronto was selected as a ‘test market’ for a year-long public relations campaign launched by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve Israel’s image. Israel’s Consul General announced then that the culmination of this ‘Brand Israel’ campaign would be a significant Israeli presence at the TIFF.

“Canadian Artists” letter:

In 2008, the Israeli government and Canadian partners Sidney Greenberg of Astral Media, David Asper of Canwest Global Communications and Joel Reitman of MIJO Corporation launched “Brand Israel,” a million dollar media and advertising campaign aimed at changing Canadian perceptions of Israel. …An article in Canadian Jewish News quotes Israeli consul general Amir Gissin as saying that Toronto would be the test city for a promotion that could then be deployed around the world. According to Gissin, the culmination of the campaign would be a major Israeli presence at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.

John Greyson asks a pertinent question in “his” “open letter.” He asks, “Why does this feel like a propaganda campaign?”

Excellent question and one that has to be thrown right back at the boycotters, um, protesters.

Another question I have is, was this entire campaign against Toronto International Film Festival and before it, the Dead Sea Scrolls show at the Royal Ontario Museum, run and choreographed by Palestine House? This newspaper article indicates that the Palestinian Authority first attacked the Dead Sea Scrolls show in April, and that is precisely when the first letter to the ROM from Palestine House is dated.

Another question, does this have anything to do with the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival where John Greyson is a board member and which was apparently “conceived” by Palestine House?

And another question, is Palestine House directly connected to the Palestinian Authority or taking guidance from the Palestinian government?

Aside from taking Canadian taxpayer money, there is nothing wrong with what they’ve done if their role is indeed to actively pursue the Palestinian propaganda agenda (I have no idea what their tax-exempt status declaration states). But if this is the case, why are they not being up-front about it? Why are they silent partners to the “Canadian” signatories on the letter to TIFF? I mean, there I was thinking I was reading the fruits of Naomi Klein’s and John Greyson’s pens but now I have to wonder whether I’m actually reading the impressive craftsmanship of Samir Jabbour, the “spokesperson” for Palestine House.

To conclude…the press release from today states:

International support for the declaration continues to grow despite denunciations, unfounded personal attacks on earlier signatories Jane Fonda and Danny Glover, and despite an aggressive campaign of misinformation regarding the letter’s content.

There is no “campaign” of misinformation against the “protest letter” or its signatories, unless you count individuals such as me who have no affiliation with any group, government or organization, or the many commenters in blogs and discussion groups on the internet (such as the acquaintance who pointed out the similarities in the letters to me) who have attacked these letters, as a “campaign.” There is certainly no “misinformation” on my part at least and I challenge any readers of my posts to find “misinformation.” Rather, I believe it has now been shown that the misinformation and the campaign are coming from the organizers of these letters and protests and boycotts, organizers who may actually be from Palestine House and who may be guided by the Palestinian Authority.

UPDATES: There are two more updates to this post. One involves a press conference where a former adviser to the PLO was on the podium with John Greyson and Elle Flanders. It also includes mention of a National Post article by Jonathan Kay that covers this “investigative” post. That National Post article elicited a response from the phone number owner that was used under the title “Palestine House Media” and also a response from Palestine House itself. Both are covered in this post. Also, I’ve adjusted some of the language of this post to reflect Jenny Peto and Palestine House’s responses and I’ve added a question about Palestine House and the Toronto Palestinian Film Festival of which at least one press release has indicated they are the conceivers.

For more reading about this:

The Daily Lie

Exposing Naomi Klein’s Boycott Denial

Response to the “protest” letter against TIFF, 2009

Response to John Greyson’s letter to TIFF, 2009

Olmert’s offer to the Palestinians

Abbas choosing to stall on peace talks. Again.

The PA did not change its charter as per their Oslo obligations. This was recently publicly confirmed before the Fatah conference by two of Fatah’s leaders including Dahlan.

Israel’s peace offer at Taba.

Six Day War Anniversary Post

John Greyson, Elle Flanders and Mazen Masri. (Credit: Vince Talotta)

John Greyson, Elle Flanders and Mazen Masri. (Credit: Vince Talotta)

(Greyson, Flanders, Masri photo source)

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