So– I wake up this morning to a barrage of emails giving me a link to a web posting that has been widely picked up. It says that Rabbi Hier at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (he and I were friends—I thought) claims I support the destruction of Israel because I signed (along with many other artists, historians, including eight Israelis, mostly filmmakers) a petition protesting the Toronto International Film Festival’s decision to feature a celebratory “spotlight” on Tel Aviv. We understand that by doing this the festival has become, whether knowingly or not,  a participant in a cynical PR campaign to improve Israel’s image, make her appear less war-like. The Israeli Consul General said a year ago that Toronto would be the launch site of an extensive “Brand Israel” campaign. Artists and others of us who love Israel do not want art to be used to whitewash the tragedies committed against Palestinians, most recently in last winter’s terrible war in Gaza (1400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, many more wounded, and there are documented human rights violations) and the ongoing blockade of Gaza that is deepening a serious humanitarian crisis, wreaking havoc on the lives of innocent people, and preventing reconstruction in the aftermath of the attack.
The letter we signed did not —repeat: DID NOT–call for a boycott of any part of the Toronto Film Festival. In fact, many of the people who signed the letter are showing films there and many of the Israeli filmmakers that go to the festival show films critical of Israel. We protest the use of Tel Aviv to rebrand Israel. We are standing up for integrity of art, not censoring anyone. The letter certainly did not call for the destruction of Israel or call into question the legitimacy of Tel Aviv as a city. But In the year when Gaza happened there shouldn’t be a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv.

I have been to Israel many times. The first was in the early 1980s and it was love at first sight…for the country and for its people. I stayed in a Kibbutz with the great Israeli novelist, Amos Oz, and his family. I raised money for a senior center in Haifa, for a girl’s shelter in Jerusalem. I have spoken at the Hebrew University. I traveled into Lebanon with the Israeli army in 1981. I went deep into Russia in the  80s to secretly meet with Soviet Refusenik, Ida Nudel, after which I a national speaking tour in the U. S. to build support for letting Ida go to Israel where she now lives. In other words, I have been intimately involved with Israel over 3 decades. On almost every visit I also went into the West Bank, met with Palestinian artists, visited Palestinian refugee camps, drove through the Israeli settlements that encroach increasingly into Palestinian territory. I have seen suffering on both sides. It is out of love for Israel and all that it promised to be that I protest the use of art (which is meant to search for truth) in this branding campaign. The greatest “re-branding” of Israel would be to celebrate that country’s robust peace movement by allowing aid to be delivered to Gaza and stopping expansion of the settlements. That’s the way to show Israel’s commitment to peace, not a PR campaign. There will be no two-state solution unless this happens.      

Share This Post
  1. In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s Wall is a violation of International Law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian villages and economy to make way for further Israeli settlements, all of which are illegal under international law.

    Negligently unreported by corporate media are the thousands of indigenous Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis and internationals who have been waging a major grassroots nonviolent campaign of resistance to the route of Israel’s Wall.

    In November 2005, this reporter-who has been to Israel Palestine 7 times on my dime since June 2005- attended the Gainesville, Florida, Anarchist’s Against the Wall Power Point Lecture by Ayed Morrar from the West Bank village of Budrus and Jonathon Pollak, an intense young Israeli and committed activist and organizer for Anarchists Against the Wall/AAtW.

    Anarchy is best understood as Rebellion against UNJUST laws. The Yang; male force of anarchy resists authority and causes disorder and is socially and politically incorrect by the norms of the status quo for it seeks the higher ground of justice.

    The Yin or feminine force of anarchy births a new order out of the chaos and chaos is creativity in action.

    Pollak: “I was six years old at my first demonstration and active on my own at thirteen. I am 23 now. When they started to build the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank I would go a few times a week and watch them deceive the world. The Israeli government successfully marketed the Apartheid Wall as a security barrier. But it is all about segregation, separation and ethnic cleansing. The Apartheid Wall has put 76% [of what had been the village of] Jayous on the Israeli side of the Wall.

    “Not such a great shock when government lies to you.

    “Civilian uprising and non-violent activism is not like the Gandhi movie. It’s not carrying posters and saying we don’t like your wall, go away. We stand in front of Caterpillar’s knowing we will be shot and arrested. I was shot five times in the last two years by rubber bullets which are 1/2 inch steel bullets covered with plastic. I have been shot in the head and the more I experience I have the scarier it is. One learns to recognize the ritual of it all: when the IDF will begin using the billy clubs, when the tear gas will come, when the bullets will come…..We are not a dialogue group, AAtW is an Israeli organization and we are not colonial liberators. All the strategy is done by Palestinians, we are with them seeking justice and giving support. There is no price to high to pay for freedom, equality and universal rights. Without justice there can be no peace.

    “Although Israel marketed the Wall as a security barrier, logic suggests such a barrier would be as short and straight as possible. Instead, it snakes deep inside the West Bank, resulting in a route that is twice as long as the Green Line, the internationally recognized border. Israel chose the Wall’s path in order to dispossess Palestinians of the maximum land and water, to preserve as many Israeli settlements as possible, and to unilaterally determine a border.

    “In order to build the Wall Israel is uprooting tens of thousands of ancient olive trees that for many Palestinians are also the last resource to provide food for their children. The Palestinian aspiration for an independent state is also threatened by the Wall, as it isolates villages from their mother cities and divides the West Bank into disconnected cantons [bantusans/ghettos]. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem conservatively estimates that 500,000 Palestinians are negatively impacted by the Wall.

    “We believe that, as with Apartheid South Africa, Americans have a vital role to play in ending Israeli occupation – by divesting from companies that support Israeli occupation, boycotting Israeli products, coming to Palestine as witnesses, or standing with Palestinians in nonviolent resistance.” [1]

    According to a UN report, Haaretz columnist Danny Rubinstein admitted that “Israel today was an apartheid State with four different Palestinian groups: those in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israeli Palestinians, each of which had a different status…even if the wall followed strictly the line of the pre-1967 border, it would still not be justified. The two peoples needed cooperation rather than walls because they must be neighbors.” [2]

    “An apartheid society is much more than just a ‘settler colony’. It involves specific forms of oppression that actively strip the original inhabitants of any rights at all, whereas civilian members of the invader caste are given all kinds of sumptuous privileges.” [3]

    On May 14, 1948, The Declaration of the establishment of Israel affirmed that, “The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations.”

    However, reality intrudes, for “The truth which is known to all; through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced-in, or blocked-in, detention camp.”- Israeli Minister of Education, Shulamit Aloni quoted in the popular Israeli newspaper, Yediot Acharonot on December 20, 2006.

    How could a state founded on “equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants” come to be such a state of hypocrisy?

    A Little History:

    On July 5, 1950, Israel enacted the Law of Return by which Jews anywhere in the world, have a “right” to immigrate to Israel on the grounds that they are returning to their own state, even if they have never been there before. [4]

    On July 14, 1952: The enactment of the Citizenship/Jewish Nationality Law, results in Israel becoming the only state in the world to grant a particular national-religious group—the Jews—the right to settle in it and gain automatic citizenship. In 1953, South Africa’s Prime Minister Daniel Malan becomes the first foreign head of government to visit Israel and returns home with the message that Israel can be a source of inspiration for white South Africans. [IBID]

    In 1962, South African Prime Minister Verwoerd declares that Jews “took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. In that I agree with them, Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” [IBID]

    On August 1, 1967, Israel enacted the Agricultural Settlement Law, which bans Israeli citizens of non-Jewish nationality- Palestinian Arabs- from working on Jewish National Fund lands, well over 80% of the land in Israel. Knesset member Uri Avnery stated: “This law is going to expel Arab cultivators from the land that was formerly theirs and was handed over to the Jews.” [IBID]

    On April 4, 1969, General Moshe Dayan is quoted in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz telling students at Israel’s Technion Institute that “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You don’t even know the names of these Arab villages, and I don’t blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either… There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”[IBID]

    On April 28, 1971: C. L. Sulzberger, writing in The New York Times, quoted South African Prime Minister John Vorster as saying that Israel is faced with an apartheid problem, namely how to handle its Arab inhabitants. Sulzberger wrote: “Both South Africa and Israel are in a sense intruder states. They were built by pioneers originating abroad and settling in partially inhabited areas.” [IBID]

    On September 13, 1978, in Washington, D.C. The Camp David Accords are signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and witnessed by President Jimmy Carter. The Accords reaffirm U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which prohibit acquisition of land by force, call for Israel’s withdrawal of military and civilian forces from the West Bank and Gaza, and prescribe ‘full autonomy’ for the inhabitants of the territories. Begin orally promises Carter to freeze all settlement activity during the subsequent peace talks. Once back in Israel, however, the Israeli prime minister continues to confiscate, settle, and fortify the occupied territories. [IBID]

    On September 13, 1985, Rep. George Crockett (D-MI), after visiting the Israeli-occupied West Bank, compares the living conditions there with those of South African blacks and concludes that the West Bank is an instance of apartheid that no one in the U.S. is talking about. [IBID]

    In July 2000, President Bill Clinton convenes the Camp David II Peace Summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Clinton—not Barak—offers Arafat the withdrawal of some 40,000 Jewish settlers, leaving more than 180,000 in 209 settlements, all of which are interconnected by roads that cover approximately 10% of the occupied land. Effectively, this divides the West Bank into at least two non-contiguous areas and multiple fragments. Palestinians would have no control over the borders around them, the air space above them, or the water reserves under them. Barak called it a generous offer and Arafat rightly refused to sign. [IBID]

    August 31, 2001: Durban, South Africa. Up to 50,000 South Africans march in support of the Palestinian people. In their Declaration by South Africans on Apartheid and the Struggle for Palestine they proclaim: “We, South Africans who lived for decades under rulers with a colonial mentality, see Israeli occupation as a strange survival of colonialism in the 21st century. Only in Israel do we hear of ‘settlements’ and ‘settlers.’ Only in Israel do soldiers and armed civilian groups take over hilltops, demolish homes, uproot trees and destroy crops, shell schools, churches and mosques, plunder water reserves, and block access to an indigenous population’s freedom of movement and right to earn a living. These human rights violations were unacceptable in apartheid South Africa and are an affront to us in apartheid Israel.” [IBID]

    October 23, 2001: Ronnie Kasrils, a Jew and a minister in the South African government, co-authors a petition “Not in My Name,” signed by some 200 members of South Africa’s Jewish community, reads: “It becomes difficult, from a South African perspective, not to draw parallels with the oppression expressed by Palestinians under the hand of Israel and the oppression experienced in South Africa under apartheid rule.” [IBID]

    Three years later, Kasrils will go to the Occupied Territories and conclude: “This is much worse than apartheid. Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armored vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale.” [IBID]

    April 29, 2002: Boston, MA. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he is “very deeply distressed” by what he observed in his recent visit to the Holy Land, adding, “It reminded me so much of what happened in South Africa.” The Nobel peace laureate said he saw “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. Referring to Americans, he adds, “People are scared in this country to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful. Well, so what? The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.” [IBID]

    “From Moses to Jeremiah and Isaiah, the Prophets taught…that the Jewish claim on the land of Israel was totally contingent on the moral and spiritual life of the Jews who lived there, and that the land would, as the Torah tells us, ‘vomit you out’ if people did not live according to the highest moral vision of Torah. Over and over again, the Torah repeated its most frequently stated mitzvah [command]: “When you enter your land, do not oppress the stranger; the other, the one who is an outsider of your society, the powerless one and then not only ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’ but also ‘you shall love the other.'” [5]

    For more information about AATW, please visit:

    [1] Eileen Fleming, Memoirs of a Nice Irish-American ‘Girl’s’ Life in Occupied Territory, pages 55-56
    [3] Apartheid Ancient, Past, and Present Systematic and Gross Human Rights Violations in Graeco-Roman Egypt, South Africa, and Israel/Palestine, By Anthony Löwstedt. Page 77.
    [4] The Link, “About That Word Apartheid”, April-May 2007, Published by Americans for Middle East Understanding, Inc.
    [5] Rabbi Lerner, TIKKUN Magazine, page 35, Sept./Oct. 2007

  2. Pingback: Fonda Vanessa

  3. David – what “daily violence” by Hamas are you talking about? That’s rubbish. They are legally resisting an illegal and brutal occupation. Thats why we who protest against Israel don’t say anything about Hamas. That and they don’t have anywhere near the capability of Israel.

    Israel has kidnapped thousands of Palestinians – thousands of them held without charge in many cases.
    Lebanese, too. That’s why we don’t talk about one Israeli soldier held by Hamas.

    There was a major outcry in the mainstream media about the Netanyahu protest, so you don’t have your facts right, unfortunately. Thats why we don’t talk about that.

    The reason we’re protesting a celebration of Tel Aviv is the same reason we protested apartheid South Africa. Because the situation in South Africa was grossly unjust, brutal and violent and violated everything civilized and decent people stand for. Much the same way Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and the slaughter of innocent people violates basic human values.

    So this is not the time to be celebrating anything Israel until it stops it’s brutal, underhanded behavior and starts to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians.

    Thanks Dave….

  4. Using this same logic you could argue that a festival dedicated to showing films about LA, while US troops are engaged in the occupation of Iraq is a whitewash too

    There is more to Israel than war. There are people going on with their lives and movies being made. If you demanded a similar action against any festival focusing on say New York or London filmmakers, you would not be accused of bigotry.

  5. So thrilled you have so many Jewish friends and so concerned about Israel and support the Peace movement. By the way, are you planning on protesting films produced by Palestinian Arabs at a film festival too? Equal opportunity, after all. and we know you support that concept. What about their Peace movement? The only movement we saw in Israel were rockets flying at civilians.
    Let me remind you Ms. Fonda, you are an accomplished performer, that does not give you any credibility in politics. On the contrary, your history is full of regrets for stupid actions with regard to politics, let’s not bring them all up here. You might be best advised to do what you know how to do well, sell exercise tapes, tout face creams, get an acting gig if you can and let people use their intelligence to make decisions instead of indulge in covert censorship that you call artistic protest. Artistic my foot.
    Try fixing up the mess in the US first, you certainly have enough to choose from there.
    Dr. Ben-Sefer

  6. Hello Miss Fonda

    I do enjoy your deep, active engagement in life.
    Wishing you continued peace, health and happiness.

    I trust you enjoyed Toronto while you where here.


  7. It’s very sad that Israel is the only country singled out for boycotts and this kind of abuse.

    Consider the situation in Zimbabwe, Iran or Burma. Where are you all then?

  8. Peace Be Upon You Mrs Jane Fonda

    I’m Algerian writer and I want to tell you : Thanks for your courage !
    In Palestine we want justice before peace, because when we obtain justice, peace could be exist.

    Afaf Aniba

  9. Thank you so much Jane Fonda for telling the truth! I’m late commenting this but I want you to know how thankful I am that you are talking about this. Rarely do any celebrities or even newscasters speak out against the crimes Israel commits. I am a Palestinian and watching the years go by with various tragedies in Palestine I wonder if anyone over here in US knows about what is going on; it feels as if the world has forgotten about us.

    Thank You,

    Shahed K.

  10. how do you rationalise this admirable position and your emplpoyment with L’Oreal _ a company that finances miliotary research in Israel and operates a factory built on land that was ethnically cleansed of Palestinians in 1952 (a year when there were no wars and no excuse for driving these people from their homes)
    speak up Jane _ you can’t have your cake and eat it too _ you’re being given achance to respond before i release a movie about your involvement with this war-mongering international company _ and believe me that’s just the first step _
    remember what it’s like to be on the ground 24/7 activist (as opposed to being a guest speaker)
    well that’s what’s coming for you right now _
    explain how/why you are ignorant of the actions of a company you profess to love so much

    • I will look into this. This is the first time I have ever heard such things.

  11. You neglect to mention that those in gaza do not want peace. Why else would they choose Hamas, who openly call for Israel’s destruction and death to all Jews?
    Or is that of no consequence to you?

    Are you now saying that Israel in not allowed to defend itself?

Leave a Reply