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Why the Yes Men Said "No"

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From Andy (the floating head on the left above the green letters):

A few weeks ago, I was telling an Israeli filmmaker friend how excited I was to be going to Jerusalem. Why are you coming to Jerusalem? he asked. Our film is in the Jerusalem International Film Festival, I told him excitedly. You can't go, he said, and then explained why. It was like a bucket of freezing cold water had been poured on my head.

I lived in Jerusalem many years ago, and loved it for all kinds of reasons. I was really looking forward to going back. But over the next several days, we spoke to many Israelis and others who either supported or didn't support the boycott. And we came to realize that we had to boycott the festival, which, incidentally, is run by a progressive bunch of people and attracts a progressive audience.

Some friends asked us why we didn't boycott the U.S. instead. After all, the U.S. has done and is doing things abroad that are every bit as bad as what Israel is doing. Or why not direct our efforts at the Congo, for example? There are war crimes occurring every week in the Congo, ultimately fueled by U.S. consumerism, that absolutely dwarf any that are alleged against the IDF and, incidentally, any that have ever occurred in Darfur (search on "Congo" and "massacre" and you won't sleep at night).

One answer, of course, was that we haven't been invited to the Kinshasa Film Festival (and we wouldn't have been able to afford the private security force if we had been). More importantly, changing U.S. policy (and the direct and indirect results of that policy, e.g. in the Congo) is going to take a lot more than a boycott—whereas in Israel, a boycott could actually work.

Why? For one reason or another, unconditional public support for Israeli government policies is eroding among the American public (and today's Amnesty report won't help). This changing weather has not yet been clocked by the Israeli public, who are the only ones who have ultimate control over what their government does. The sooner it becomes clear to the Israeli public that we in America don't like their government's policies, the sooner those policies will have to change. A boycott—cultural and economic—is one way to send the message to the Israeli public that things aren't normal, and that things need to change. Especially if the message is sent not in blind anger, but with consideration, hope, and even love, it might have a chance of coming across.

We know our decision won't get us too many friends in Israel, even among progressives—after all, 94% of Israelis supported the war on Gaza, which means that most progressives did too. But we have to do what seems right to us, and hope the message gets through.

Here is the text of our letter to the Jerusalem Film Festival, that more fully explains our decision.