A Word from the Director of Le Monde Diplomatique

Exactly 60 years ago on November 29, 1947, the United Nations' General Assembly divided Palestine into two states, one Jewish, the other Arab. But the war of 1948 had a different outcome: only the state of Israel was to come into existence; it broke into parcels the territory of the stillborn Arab state with Jordan and Egypt, and 800,000 Palestinians went into exile.

The Middle East was caught in a tragic escalation, marked by six outright wars, two Intifadas, the Lebanese civil war and the Gulf wars. Sixty years later, the region is in chaos: not only are the United States plunged in a bloody quagmire in Iraq, but they now threaten to bomb Iran; Lebanon is again on the brink of the abyss and, notwithstanding purely symbolic meetings, the impasse between Israel and Palestine appears to have taken over.

More than ever, in the region as everywhere else, only the enforcement of international law as defined by the United Nations can bring about de-escalation. The creation of a real Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel is undoubtedly necessary - but not a sufficient-pre-condition in the achievement of peace in the region.

It is the responsibility of the international community to force the issue so that the UN partition of this land be upheld. It is therefore also the responsibility of national governments, ours in particular, to persuade its partners in the European Union to work towards this end. And it is up to public opinion to push the rulers to do so.

Artists and intellectuals have a pioneering role to play in the awakening of consciences; it is particularly true of those who work in the mass cultural industries.

 The outstanding wealth of films by Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers, and filmmakers of the Middle East in general, demonstrates to the world that in the midst of conflict, which devastates the different regions, there are men and women who suffer but don't give up.

This is "what cinema can do": it makes us see, behind the names of countries which spell war, the human faces of peoples' thirsting for peace, our brothers and sisters in despair and in hope. There lies the merit of this festival, that we have an opportunity to encounter these people.

Ignacio Ramonet

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