[Boycott - Cultural]
WikiLeaks: Arab League boycotts Spielberg after Israel war donation
Amelia Hill, The Guardian
17 December 2010
Leaked dispatch reveals diplomats from 14 Arab states voted to ban the director's films in response to his donation to Israel.
Steven Spielberg was blacklisted by the Arab League's Central Boycott Office after making a $1m (£570,000) donation to Israel during the 2006 conflict in Lebanon.
The Anti-Defamation League, a leading Zionist lobby group,
honoured Spielberg with a special awards ceremony in
December 2009 (Photo shows ADL National Director
Abraham Foxman giving award to Spielberg)
A US embassy memo released by WikiLeaks reveals that during a meeting of the group in April 2007, diplomats or representatives from 14 Arab states voted to ban all films and other products related to Spielberg or his Righteous Persons Foundation.
At the confidential US briefing, the head of the Syrian regional office for the boycott of Israel, Muhammad al-Ajami, said that Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen had agreed to ban all Spielberg's works.
Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia were also present at the meeting and voted in favour of the boycott. The memo from the US embassy in Damascus to Washington says that "they and other countries will likely implement their own bans" similar to that adopted by the Arab states.
At the same meeting, cosmetics giant Estée Lauder was added to the blacklist while financial services behemoth Merrill Lynch was placed on a "watchlist".
The only Arab states which did not attend the meeting were those who have signed separate peace accords with Israel, namely, Egypt (which also has a thriving film industry and holds the annual Cairo film festival), Mauritania and Jordan. Djibouti and Somalia were not present at the meeting either.
Marvin Levy, spokesman for Steven Spielberg, said: "While we can't comment on a leaked cable, we know that the films and DVDs have been sold globally in the normal distribution through all this time."
But Chris Doyle at the Council for Arab-British Understanding said the boycott was an "understandable" reaction to Spielberg's donation.
"It would be consistent with other decisions in the past over boycotting both companies and people who have done something equivalent," he said. "The donation would have been seen as hypocritical, given the ethical stance Steven Spielberg has taken on other issues including Darfur, and would have caused a lot of anger.
"The depiction of Arabs in Raiders of the Lost Ark was very poor, cartoon-like and full of the usual stereotypes," he added. "In a broader context, this applies to so many Hollywood films where Arabs for decades have been ludicrously depicted."
The Arab League boycott is a systematic, pro-Palestinian effort by Arab League member states to economically isolate Israel and weaken the country's economic and military strength.
Israeli boycotts by the League are, however, inconsistently enforced across the member states, with individual states often going their own way. Only Lebanon and Syria now adhere to it stringently.
Steven Spielberg set up the Righteous Persons Foundation in 1994. Using his personal profits from the film Schindler's List and, later, Munich, the Foundation is dedicated to helping create a strong Jewish community in the United States.
US embassy cable: Arab League Boycott Meeting - Spielberg Designated
Monday, 30 April 2007, 10:58
C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 000409
EO 12958 DECL: 04/30/2017
TAGS ECON, KBCT, PHUM, SY
SUBJECT: ARAB LEAGUE BOYCOTT MEETING: SPIELBERG DESIGNATED
REF: 06 DAMASCUS 05302
Classified By: CDA Michael Corbin for reasons 1.4 b/d
1. (U) Summary. The semi-annual meeting of the Arab League Boycott group was held April 23-26 in Damascus. Participation and results followed expectations and closely paralleled last November,s gathering (reftel). No companies were dropped; the one announced addition to the blacklist of entities is film director Steven Spielberg and his Righteous Persons Foundation. End Summary.
2. (C) The semi-annual meeting of the Damascus-based Arab League Boycott Office (ALBO) was held April 23-26. In attendance were diplomats and/or representatives from Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, according to Muhammed al Ajami, head of the Syrian Regional Office for the Boycott of Israel. The Arab League main body and the Organization of Islamic Conference also had members present, he said. Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia showed support (via the OIC) for the boycott, and they and other countries will likely implement their own bans following the ALBO format, Ajami speculated. As with prior meetings, the most notable absences were those Arab states who have signed separate accords with Israel: Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania, Ajami said. Djibouti and Somalia did not attend, despite earlier efforts by ALBO seeking to encourage their presence, said Ajami.
3. (C) No companies were removed from the list during this most recent meeting. The one addition mentioned was film director Steven Spielberg, who was singled out for his USD one million donation to Israel last year during the summer conflict in Lebanon, according to Ajami. The committee banned all films and other products related to Spielberg or his Righteous Persons Foundation, Ajami said. Generic enforcement guidelines given to ALBO members include the banning of DVD imports and airing of Spielberg,s films. XXXXXXXXXXXX
4. (C) Comment. Ajami was much more forthcoming with EconOff than he was in a November 2006 meeting, expressing confidence that the boycott was growing stronger and asserting that Israel,s position in the region was becoming weaker. Echoing what seemed like a SARG-supplied talking point, Ajami also claimed that Syria is now being recognized as a key player in regional problems and beyond. CORBIN
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