Saying Jews cannot sit passively by in the face of attacks on Israel, prominent Canadian filmmaker Robert Lantos has quit the jury of a student film awards show over the involvement of a prominent critic of the Jewish state.
Mr. Lantos, who has produced films like Barney’s Version and Eastern Promises, had been recruited to judge films at Cinesiege, an annual showcase of student movies from York University set to run Oct. 25 in Toronto. But he resigned in protest after seeing John Greyson’s name in the credits of many of the films.
Mr. Greyson, a filmmaker and York professor, sparked controversy in 2009 when he withdrew his short film from the Toronto International Film Festival to protest the festival’s decision to spotlight movies from Tel Aviv. He complained the films were part of the Israeli government’s public relations campaign and decried the absence of Palestinian films. His boycott prompted the “Toronto Declaration,” a group of activists, including Naomi Klein and Jane Fonda, who signed a petition against the festival. Mr. Greyson later urged universities to boycott a student film festival in Tel Aviv.
Mr. Lantos said his decision to quit the jury because of Mr. Greyson’s involvement was a personal one as a Jew who came to Canada from Hungary, a country that deported thousands of Jews to concentration camps during the Second World War.
“When someone has made a practice out of attacking my people and hence me, I don’t believe in simply passively waiting around until he does it again,” he said in an interview. “The Jews of Hungary marched to their near extermination. I think a passive response is not an acceptable one for the Jews. When someone has said the things that this person has said and done the things that he has done, then I’m not going to rub shoulders with him.”
The school said Mr. Greyson is on sabbatical and couldn’t be reached by phone. He did not respond to an email request for comment. He was among the participants in the “Canadian Boat to Gaza” in July that attempted to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
School officials said Mr. Greyson was one of seven faculty members who oversaw the nearly 150 student films and it wasn’t the university’s role to censor its faculty for personal views outside of the classroom.
“John has a right to his views as a member of the faculty, but it’s not like that’s what he’s teaching the classroom,” said Amnon Buchbinder, chairman of York’s film department and Cinesiege’s organizer. “He’s a very accomplished filmmaker and he’s teaching filmmaking. [Mr. Lantos] had strong feelings about it and we respect his decision to do what he felt he needed to do.”
But Mr. Lantos said Mr. Greyson had gone beyond simply expressing his personal views by using his academic position to denounce Israel. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for a university to be hijacked and used by those who have an agenda and whose agenda is to vilify an entire nation,” he said.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Lantos Stands Up to York U Zion-Loathers
Kudos to Robert Lantos for this (from the National Post):