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The tiff at TIFF continues to gather steam.

One of the most prominent U.S. rabbis said yesterday that protesters, including Toronto activist Naomi Klein, documentary filmmaker John Greyson and actress Jane Fonda, were echoing the rhetoric of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in challenging Israel's claim to Tel Aviv.

In a press conference yesterday, rabbi Marvin Hier, who produced two Academy Award-winning documentaries, fired the latest salvo in the controversy surrounding the Toronto International Film Festival's spotlight on Tel Aviv.

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Also yesterday, five major artists issued separate statements criticizing the Klein group - they include David Cronenberg, Minnie Driver, Norman Jewison, Ivan Reitman and Saul Rubinek.

Klein, Fonda and some 60 others last week signed a letter accusing the festival of being the victim of an Israeli government propaganda campaign to polish that nation's image. Klein said three more high-profile figures, actors Julie Christie, Viggo Mortensen and Harry Belafonte, had added their names to the protest letter. Greyson earlier withdrew his short documentary film from the festival in protest.

Festival officials have denied that the City to City program's spotlight on Tel Aviv was the result of Israeli lobbying.

"If the protesters were really interested in the propaganda issue," Hier said, "then why does their letter wrongly accuse Israel of being an apartheid state or wrongly claim Tel Aviv is built on former Palestinian villages?" That, he said, "shows you what their real agenda is, the de-legitimization of Israel itself."

Hier arrived in Toronto Thursday from Washington, where he had attended a reception at the home of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden. "There were 100 Jewish community leaders there," Hier said, "and all they wanted to talk about was what was happening in Toronto."

However, Klein, who has emerged as the spokesperson for the protesters, said today that her group is not making any claim about Tel Aviv.

Asked her position on whether a final Middle East settlement would include one, bi-national state or two separate states, one Palestinian and one Jewish, Klein said: "It should be up to Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to decide what kind of states or state they want. I have never advocated for any position on it and am not about to start. My only concern is that all states must abide by international law. There is absolutely no merit in the claim that the letter advocates a one-state solution." A blog by Jane Fonda also indicates that she supports the two-state solution, Klein added.

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The group's press conference at the festival is on Monday evening, Klein said.

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About the Author

Based in Toronto, Michael Posner has been with the Globe and Mail since 1997, writing for arts, news and features.Before that, he worked for Maclean's Magazine and the Financial Times of Canada, and has freelanced for Toronto Llfe, Chatelaine, Walrus, and Queen's Quarterly magazines. More

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