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Jane Fonda retracts support for Toronto’s Tel Aviv protest (sort of)

by Danielle Berrin

September 14, 2009 | 8:24 pm

After signing a vitriolic protest letter against the Toronto International Film Festival’s Tel Aviv sidebar, Jane Fonda has issued a mea culpa. The self-proclaimed actress, activist and advocate writes in a blog for the Huffington Post that she “signed the letter without reading it carefully enough.”

I guess that means she missed the letter’s second line, which accused Toronto of becoming “complicit in the Israeli propaganda machine”—as if their choice to spotlight diverse and complex films about life in Israel is a mere extension of government policy. But that would be strange considering the content of the films included, which portray many nuanced aspects of Israeli life. Eytan Fox’s “The Bubble,” for example, is hardly the kind of story that would please Israel’s prime minister. Billed as a love story between an Israeli and a Palestinian—both of whom are men—the Israeli characters in the film consider themselves “enlightened” and spend their spare time opposing Israel’s policy towards Palestinians and organizing “anti-occupation raves.”

Of course, Fonda—and other early signatories of the protest letter—refused to see any of the films selected for the “City to City” sidebar, which festival co-director Cameron Bailey reveals on the festival website.

In the end, it may not have been Fonda’s good conscience that turned her around, but a Los Angeles rabbi who persuaded her to rethink her position.

“Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz, director of the Chai Center in Los Angeles, explained to me the meaning of the Hebrew word “teshuva”—to fix things you have done incorrectly,” Fonda writes. “Some of the words in the protest letter did not come from my heart, words that are unnecessarily inflammatory: The simplistic depiction of Tel Aviv as a city ‘built on destroyed Palestinian villages,’ for instance, and the omission of any mention of Hamas’s 8-month-long rocket and mortar attacks on the town of Sderot and the western Negev to which Israel was responding when it launched its war on Gaza,” she continued.

Her sudden clarification comes on the eve of publication of a much anticipated ad that will appear in Canada’s national newspaper, The Global Mail, and which is signed by more than 100 of Hollywood’s most powerful personalities.

Read Fonda’s entire letter here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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