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Toronto Declaration unstoppable

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Despite a week of attacks, artists from around the world rush to sign the declaration. The organizers of the Toronto Declaration -- No Celebration of Occupation are pleased to announce that more than 1,000 people from around the world -- including many Israelis -- have signed on in protest of TIFF's City-to-City Spotlight on Tel Aviv.


New signatories include music and cinematic legends Harry Belafonte and Julie Christie. Actor Viggo Mortensen, who will be attending this year's festival, just added his name. Leading intellectual figures Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler and Anne McClintock have also recently endorsed the declaration, along with prominent Canadian writers Rawi Hage, Joy Kogawa, Dionne Brand and Kerri Sakamoto. Celebrated local filmmakers Velcrow Ripper, Min Sook Lee and Lynne Fernie have also signed the letter.


International support for the declaration continues to grow despite denunciations, unfounded personal attacks on earlier signatories Jane Fonda and Danny Glover, and despite an aggressive campaign of misinformation regarding the letter's content.


The organizers want to make it clear that the letter does not call for a boycott of TIFF. Several of the signatories have much anticipated films in this year's festival and many others plan to attend. Nor is it a protest against Israeli filmmakers, many of whom signed the letter. It is a statement of principled opposition to TIFF's highly political decision to honour the city of Tel Aviv with a celebratory "spotlight" this year.


Such a celebration, especially in light of the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, not only ignores Palestinian suffering, but also helps to whitewash Israel's continued violations of international law. According to Naomi Klein, one of the declaration's co-authors, "Publicly opposing TIFF's decision is not an act of censorship, but its opposite: the use of cherished rights of freedom of speech and opinion."


In an effort to promote ongoing critical debate about Tel Aviv, Israel and Palestine, organizers will be holding a public forum featuring key signatories on Monday, Sept. 14, 2009. There will be an opportunity for press to talk to spokespeople prior to the event, beginning at 5 p.m. Location and further details to follow.


The full text of the letter, including new signatories is available at the Toronto Declaration blog.

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