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David Clennon, an Emmy-winning U.S. actor with more than four decades of work across film and TV, has revealed that he turned down an audition for a new Netflix series from the makers of hit Israeli show Fauda because of his support for Palestinian rights.
In a online op-ed, Clennon — who starred in ABC’s thirtysomething, John Carpenter’s The Thing, won an Emmy award for his guest appearance on the series Dream On and was recently seen in Gone Girl and two episodes of House of Cards — explained that he was invited to audition for a regular role on a show with the working title Sycamore.
However, it was on discovering that the political espionage thriller — announced in 2018 as Hit and Run — came from the creators of Fauda, Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz, that Clennon changed his mind.
“I was aware that the show had been criticized for its portrayal of Palestinians and for its tendency to justify Israel’s human rights abuses,” he wrote.
Indeed, Fauda — set in Israel and the Occupied Territories — came under for fire for its depiction of the Arab-Israeli conflict and was described as an “anti-Arab racist, Israeli propaganda tool that glorifies the Israeli military’s war crimes against the Palestinian people” by PACBI, the academic and cultural arm of the growing pro-Palestinian Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, which called on Netflix to ditch the series in early 2018.
“I watched the show myself and noticed there was a missing narrative element: Fauda doesn’t give its international audience the historical context of the conquest of Palestine, which the Palestinian people continue to resist with a range of strategies and methods,” added Clennon.
The actor — who said he strongly supported the boycott of Israel and has been encouraged by intellectuals and artists like Stephen Hawking and Lorde — acknowledged that Sycamore/Hit and Run may not be “as offensive as Fauda.” But he said that co-productions between Israeli production companies and U.S companies, such as Netflix, weren’t purely beneficial to the partners, with the Israeli government benefitting from the “prestige of creative partnerships with Hollywood.”
“These show business relationships matter, politically,” he wrote. “The Israeli Foreign Ministry runs the Brand Israel campaign to use culture, entertainment and technology to counter Israel’s negative image in the world as a racist state that systematically violates human rights.”
Clennon said that he was “not a high-profile performer” and his refusal to audition for Sycamore would have only a “negligible effect” on the project.
“My decision is just one individual’s act of conscience in solidarity with the Palestinian people — and with dissident Israelis who envision a better future for both peoples,” he concluded. “I decided on a small act of resistance. I take some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. And I’m optimistic that others in our industry will seriously consider withholding their talent and their moral support from a regime that abuses the dispossessed, impoverished — but still resistant — people under its control.”
In a statement, PACBI said that it warmly welcomed Clennon’s decision. “Israeli production companies are deeply complicated in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights and violations of international law, benefitting directly and indirectly from its military occupation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid against Palestinians,” it said, again requesting that Netflix drop Fauda.
“We urge Hollywood actors, filmmakers and industry worked to do no harm to our peaceful struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”