Voight feuds with old co-star over film-festival protest

Posted: 9/10/2009 10:27:00 PM
Author: Michael Posner
Source: This article first appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail on Sept. 9, 2009.

Voight feuds with old co-strar over film-festival protest
by Michael Posner

Actor Jon Voight is accusing actress Jane Fonda - his co-star in his Oscar-winning turn in the anti-Vietnam war film Coming Home - of "aiding and abetting those who seek the destruction of Israel."

In a strongly worded letter released yesterday, Mr. Voight said "Jane Fonda is backing the wrong people again" by signing her name to a recent letter of protest against the Toronto International Film Festival's decision to shine a cinematic spotlight on Tel Aviv and 10 Israeli filmmakers.

The spotlight is one element in the 34th annual festival, which opens tomorrow.

Ms. Fonda, actor Danny Glover, musician David Byrne, activist Naomi Klein and filmmaker Ken Loach were among a group of more than 50 artists who last week signed an online letter alleging that TIFF's decision to showcase Tel Aviv made the festival complicit in an Israeli government propaganda campaign.

Their letter followed an earlier one by Toronto documentarian John Greyson, who withdrew his short film Covered from the TIFF program, also in protest.

Mr. Voight, 71, maintains that "people like Jane Fonda and all the names on that letter are assisting the Palestinian propagandists against the State of Israel. ... Jane Fonda's whole idea of the 'poor Palestinians,' and 'look how many Palestinians the Israelis killed in Gaza,' is misconstrued. Does she not remember what actually took place in Gaza? Did Israel not give the Palestinians of Gaza the hope that there could be peace? In response, did Hamas not launch rockets from Gaza into Israel, killing many innocent people?

"This seems to me to be another one of Jane Fonda's misplaced 'patriotic' duties toward the wrong people. I was in Israel. I saw the rockets coming down on Sderot, and visited many families who lost their loved ones. How long can a democratic country keep from defending itself?"

Mr. Voight, a former liberal who once made public appearances with Ms. Fonda in support of left-wing groups in Chile, renounced his former activism as "Marxist propaganda" a few years ago. "Time and again, [Israel] offered the Palestinians land," his letter says. "They always refused. They don't want a piece of the pie, they want the whole pie. They will not be happy until they see Israel in the sea."

Yoav Paz, co-director of Phobidilia, one of the 10 films in TIFF's City to City/Tel Aviv spotlight, yesterday expressed puzzlement at the protest. "Tel Aviv," he said, "is the cultural centre of Israel. There is complete freedom of expression here. Toronto runs one of the great film festivals of the world. I'm honoured to be included. I don't understand why this has become a political issue."

Meanwhile, the group orchestrating the original protest has postponed its plans for a press conference.