Israel Film Festival Director Says Audience That Booed Jason Blum Lacked "Respect"

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Jason Blum

Meir Fenigstein's remark comes one day after Blum was booed and asked to leave the festival, where he was receiving a prize.

The Israel Film Festival has spoken up about an incident Tuesday in which filmmaker Jason Blum was booed off its stage for making anti-Trump remarks, saying audience members who participated lacked the "respect" the event holds for diverse filmmakers.

"Over the past three decades, we have never shied away from allowing a filmmaker or actor to express themselves either personally or through their work. We have often highlighted films that some may deem not to their liking or are controversial," festival director and founder Meir Fenigstein said Wednesday in a statement. "We in no way condone violence but do wholeheartedly support dialogue that allows people to share ideas and viewpoints in a respectful way. Sadly, some audience members at last night’s opening greatly lacked that respect and turned an evening of celebration and recognition into something else.

“This is the first time we have ever experienced anything like this,” Fenigstein continued. “I am in total shock, but I realize that yesterday was a very tense day in America with the elections.”

In its statement, the fest also clarified that it did not "remove" Blum; instead, a festival security guard led him off the stage "to protect him when an audience member in no way associated with the festival charged the podium."

Blum, who was at the festival to receive its 2018 IFF Achievement in Film & Television Award, was booed and physically removed from the stage after he suggested that a recent increase in anti-Semitism could be attributed to President Donald Trump. 

“As you can see from this auditorium, it’s the end of civil discourse,” Blum said at the end of his speech as noise from the crowd got loud and some attendees left the auditorium. “We have a president who calls the press the enemy of the people. Thanks to our president, anti-Semitism is on the rise.” 

After that, a man who has since been identified as Israeli pawnbroker Yossi Dina, who starred on the reality TV show Beverly Hills Pawn, tried to pull Blum down from the stage. When others began to step toward the stage, Blum was asked to leave.

On Wednesday morning, Blum posted the entirety of his speech on Twitter. "I was honored by the Israel film festival tonight and, unfortunately was not allowed to finish the speech I was trying to give. Here is the message," he wrote.

The 32nd annual Israel Film Festival, held at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Town Center 5 Theatre in Encino, runs through Nov. 20.