Three Lebanese filmmakers who were scheduled to participate in an international film training project in Jordan have pulled out after learning that Israel was among its key sponsors.
The filmmakers, Habib Battah, Lucien Bourjeily and Samer Ghorayeb, said they were unaware of the Israeli connection to the project when they applied to the annual event.
The group that organizes the project, Greenhouse, describes itself as an EU-Mediterranean joint venture, but it appears to be based in Israel and is run by three Israelis, according to its website.
Greenhouse was established several years ago by the New Fund for Cinema and Television, itself an initiative launched by the Israeli Ministry of Science and Arts in 1993, in partnership with the Ankara Cinema Association in Turkey, VOF Appel & Honigmann in the Netherlands, and Zebra Productions in Spain.
"We won't accept this if there was an [Israeli] connection of any kind," Bourjeily told Al-Akhbar over the phone. "If we had thought that there was even a possibility that Israel is behind this project, we wouldn't participate."
He and Ghorayeb had planned to screen their documentary, Al-Kamache, at the event until receiving a message from activists tipping them off that Israel was involved in the project.
“We contacted the organizers and asked about the financing, and they played the issue down. But they could not guarantee us otherwise, so we told them we would not participate,” he said.
Battah, who originally planned to screen his documentary Return to the Valley of Jews, which tells a story about Lebanese Jews, had also asked the organization to remove his name from the program.
“Initially it seemed to be a strictly European Union-funded project, producing films like 5 Broken Cameras which sheds light on the brutality of the Israeli occupation and humanizes the struggle against that occupation,” Battah told Al-Akhbar in an email.
“I was never told that Greenhouse was funded or backed by the Israeli government,” he added.
The event takes place between August 29 to September 3 in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, and is expected to draw participants from Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Palestine.
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement has condemned Arab participation in the event on its website.
Lebanon's 1955 boycott law outlaws interaction with Israeli citizens or organizations.