Jewish group boycotts Brussels Jewish film festival over Israeli sponsorship

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A small, left-leaning Jewish organization pulled out of the Brussels Jewish Film Festival over the involvement in the event of the embassies of Israel and the United States.

The Union of Progressive Jews of Belgium, or UPJB, announced its decision to pull out of the event, which it had agreed to sponsor, in a statement dated Oct. 24 that appeared on the organization’s website on Tuesday, the opening day of the six-day event which is taking place for the 16th consecutive year.

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The theme for this year’s festival is “under the same sun” and it features films about relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The UPJB statement referred to Israel as a “state of colonization and occupation” and affirmed UPJB’s support for the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement, or BDS, against Israel. UPJB wrote in its statement that it agreed to co-sponsor the event because it supported the theme as presented to UPJB by event organizers from the Jewish Audiovisual Memorial association, which is organizing the event.

But the association “did not make the embassies’  involvement known in any way,” the statement read.

CCLJ, a larger Belgian left-leaning group which does not support boycotts against Israel, distanced itself from the smaller group’s message and urged its followers and other members of the public to attend the event in large numbers.

CCLJ on Tuesday published on its website a letter by Simone Susskind, one of the group’s founding members, titled “We are delighted by the Israeli embassy’s support for the ‘Under the Same Sun’ festival.”

Praising the theme’s emphasis on coexistence, she wrote: “If such an initiative is supported by the Israeli embassy, which represents a government with policies that we do not appreciate when it comes to the Palestinian people and minorities, then we cannot but rejoice in its support!”