Berlin festival honors British filmmaker who backs Israel boycotts

A British film director who supports boycotting Israeli artists received the highest honorary award at the International Film Festival in Berlin on Feb. 13.

Jewish leaders in Germany reacted with dismay to the decision to give a lifetime achievement award  to Ken Loach, director of such films as “My Name Is Joe” (1998) and “Bread and Roses” (2000).

“Ken Loach uses his prominence to call for a cultural boycott of Israel, singling out the only democracy in the Middle East where there is complete freedom of expression. It is a disgrace that a prominent German film festival panders to a film producer who has distinguished himself through bigotry and the denial of the right to existence of Israel,” said Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee.

Festival director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement on the festival’s website that he admires Loach for his “profound interest in people and their individual fates, as well as his critical commitment to society.”

In a recent interview with Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, Loach said he supported an academic and cultural boycott because Israel “presents itself as a Western democracy … and at the same time breaks international agreements, fails to uphold the Geneva Convention, takes land to which it has no right, throws children in prison and lies to the world about its nuclear weapons.”

A boycott, Loach said,  is the only way to get Israel to give up what he called “occupied land.” — jta