This month, several editorials have been published and countless toxic comments made on social media calling on artists to boycott the Sydney Festival.
The reason? The Israeli Embassy in Sydney wanted financially to support the artists, musicians and community of Sydney, a gesture of goodwill and friendship that has been offered in past festivals by numerous other embassies and internationally affiliated companies and organisations.
As an Australian who has worked with some of the most well-known cultural, film and music acts in the world, I feel compelled to respond to this disturbing, divisive and hugely counterproductive call. A call that harms local artists, unfairly demonises and dehumanises Israelis and ultimately damages the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
My work as an entertainment lawyer has included representation of film directors, writers and actors from all over the Middle East including Egyptians, Iranians, Saudis, Palestinians as well as Israelis. At the request of the Film Festival in Beirut, I was invited to teach a masterclass to young Middle Eastern filmmakers and share my 38 years of experience in an effort to help the next generation learn about the industry. The week that I spent there was one of the most fulfilling chapters of my career. It included leading a discussion with representatives from around the Middle East on how bringing together people in the arts is a way of finding commonality – building bridges together, not pulling them down.