Bristol film festival refuses Israeli Embassy funding

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image captionFestival organisers said funding was refused to maintain neutral political status

A Bristol film festival has refused funding from the Israeli Embassy to cover travel costs for Israeli filmmakers, due to the Gaza situation.

A spokesperson for the Encounters festival said the decision was taken to maintain "neutral political status".

Yoav Homung and Niv Shpigel are due to attend screenings of their films Deserted and Load next month.

The decision has been criticised by members of the Jewish community in the city.

A statement on the festival's website states the Embassy of Israel chooses to pay for travel costs for its filmmakers through festival funding.

"In consideration of the funding streams for the festival this year, the decision was taken to refuse the offer of financial support from the Embassy of Israel to cover the costs for its Israeli filmmakers to travel to the festival, in order to maintain the festival's neutral political status," said the statement.

'Great disappointment'

A spokeswoman said the filmmakers could still attend the festival with funding from other sources.

President of the Bristol Hebrew Congregation Alex Schlesinger said the decision was a "great disappointment".

"It seems to echo what has happened in London and Edinburgh [where other funds from the Israeli government have been refused].

"It really tells us that the mob on the street controls what happens at film and arts festivals.

"It's particularly disappointing that the director said the filmmakers could attend in a personal capacity, not as representatives of the Jewish state."

But Kamel Hawwash, vice chairman of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said it supported a "cultural boycott".

He said: "Palestine Solidarity Campaign supports and actively promotes the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel until it has met the conditions of that call.

"This includes a cultural boycott, particularly where Israel funds groups and individuals to project Israel positively in order to receive funding."

The Embassy of Israel has been contacted for a comment.

The festival is due to take place from 16 to 21 September.

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