British film director: Rise in anti-Semitism understandable

British director Ken Loach: Gaza op "one of great crimes of past decades."

ken loach 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
ken loach 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A leading British film director has said that a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe since Israel's operation in Gaza is "not surprising" and "understandable," claiming that Operation Cast Lead was "a cold blooded massacre." Speaking last week in Brussels at the launch of the "Russell Tribunal on Palestine" - a symbolic citizens' initiative that claims to reaffirm the importance of international law in conflict resolution - award-winning director Ken Loach said, "If there has been a rise I am not surprised. In fact, it is perfectly understandable because Israel feeds feelings of anti-Semitism." Calling for people to take a stand, he said, "When history comes to be written, I think this will be seen as one of the great crimes of the past decades because of the cold blooded massacre that we witnessed. Unless we take a stand against it, we are complicit." Loach dismissed reports of a rise in anti-Semitism following Operation Cast Lead as a "red herring" designed to distract attention away from Israel's military actions. In 2006, Loach called for a boycott of state-sponsored Israeli cultural institutions in response to Israel's actions in Lebanon. The 72-year-old Palme d'Or winner also turned down an invite to the Haifa Film Festival in the same year. "Palestinians are driven to call for this boycott after 40 years of the occupation of their land, destruction of their homes and the kidnapping and murder of their civilians. They have no immediate hope that this oppression will end," he said at the time. Speaking about the tribunal, which has no legal jurisdiction, Italian MP Luisa Morgantini said, "It will not be legally binding, but the aim is for it to operate in the same way as a court of law." "If it is proved that Israel committed war crimes, then it should be held accountable." According to the tribunal's organizers, a committee will "establish the facts and build up the legal arguments" and present them to the tribunal, which is scheduled to take place at the beginning of 2010. "A jury made up of well-known personalities who are respected for their high moral standing will consider the reports and hear the witnesses for and against," a statement from the group said. The organizers also claimed that the tribunal results will help contribute to peace in the region. "The jury will announce its conclusions which, we are persuaded, will attract widespread international public and political support, thereby contributing to a just and durable peace in the Middle East," the tribunal statement said.