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UJA champions free speech for those it hasn't blacklisted

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Kudos to the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto for the most galling installment of irony this week.

In a full-page ad in Tuesday’s Toronto Star, the organization proclaimed that filmmakers, actors and writers who had signed on to the Toronto Declaration in protest of the Toronto International Film Festival’s celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv, were –- among other things –- “blacklisting” Israeli films.

In fact, the Toronto Declaration states, “We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF.”

Not only is the blacklisting claim patently false (and potentially libelous – nudge to Jane Fonda’s legal team), it is astoundingly hypocritical coming from an organization that only a few months ago was embroiled in controversy over their own blacklisting of a Jewish artist.

The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto runs the Koffler Centre for the Arts, the gallery that disassociated itself from Reena Katz, a Jewish artist, for her personal involvement in Palestine solidarity organizing.

They issued a public statement denouncing Katz with false accusations, and were subsequently informed by the Toronto Arts Council that they had violated the public funder’s anti-discrimination guidelines.

The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto could learn a thing or two about blacklisting from Walter Bernstein, a Jewish American screenwriter and film producer who was blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios in the 1950s for refusing to cooperate with Senator McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Bernstein signed on to the Toronto Declaration last week.

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