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LGBT+ filmmakers boycott Israeli film festival in solidarity with queer Palestinians

Josh Milton March 2, 2020
Israel: LGBT filmmakers boycott film festival in solidarity with Palestine

People hold signs during a protest rally condemning recent violent acts against members of the gay community in Jerusalem, Israel. (NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

More than 100 filmmakers and film artists have signed a pledge to boycott a queer film festival in Tel Aviv, Israel, in “solidarity” with the LGBT+ community in Palestine.

The bloc of more than 130 figures in the film industry – at least 100 of which being LGBT+ – have vowed to snub the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, a government-sponsored event focused on celebrating queer cinema, Hollywood Reporter said Monday.

Organised by grassroots Palestinian queer organisation, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the cultural arm of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, the pledge aims for the “liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities”.

What is the pledge about?

PACBI argue that queer Palestinian refugees are poorly treated by Israel.

Support for LGBT+ rights is on the rise in Israel, yet ultra-Orthodox lawmakers locked within the embattled Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have stonewalled many advances in rights for the country.

In Palestine, the state, fractured by war and diplomatic division, has a mixed legal recognition of LGB lives. Being gay is illegal in the Gaza Strip, but not in the West Bank.

Members of Queers for Peace during a demonstration against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in Jerusalem, 2003. (GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

Yet, overall, LGB lives are not protected by law. Having little to no protections, some queer folk in Palestine have reported of corrupted officers keeping tabs on LGBT+ citizens, being blackmailed into working as spies or information for law enforcement.

Although, when LGBT+ Palestinians flee to neighbouring Israel, asylum laws in the county stymie them. Israeli authorities subject refugees to house arrest or deportation.

LGBT+ film festival example of ‘pink washing’ Israel, say activists.

As a result, film scholars, directors and screenwriters signed the pledge to protest the gruelling treatment of queer Palestinians under Israel. The pledge, the PACBI claim, marks a “new, proactive stand by queer film artists in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and dignity”.

Moreover, the group claimed that campaigners have long tried to engage with TLVFest organisers. Yet, across the festival’s 15 years, attempts at talks have been scuppered.

Israelis take part in the 12th anniversary Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on September 18, 2014. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
Israelis take part in the 12th anniversary Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on September 18, 2014. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

Activists also added that the festival continues to maintain a partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Culture, which they argue is being used by minsters for “pink washing efforts” and to “project a progressive image while denying the rights of all Palestinians, queer and non-queer alike.”

Signatories range from Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger to ward winning avant-garde filmmaker Su Friedrich. AIDS historian and screenwriter Sarah Schulman and Touch of Pink director Ian Iqbal Rashid have also pencilled their names down.

Cultural events in Israel are regularly pelted with threats of boycotts due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Campaigners urging artists and fans alike to boycott 2019’s Eurovision Song Contest – held in Tel Aviv – similarly drummed support by slamming the contest as an example of “pink washing” to distract from its “colonial and apartheid reality”.

Festival founder: ‘A boycott will only worsen this erosion of faith.’

Yair Hochner, founder and artistic director of TLVFestm told PinkNews“We understand that the filmmakers who declared they will boycott TLVFest think they are helping the Palestinians.

“However, they are wrong. It is more important than ever that the international community continue to support dissenting voices in Israel in favour of human rights and equality, especially following the re-election of the Likud governing party last night.

“They must understand that the Likud party – which opposes the festival, called for its boycott, and works against it – gained in strength due to the erosion in belief among most Israelis that there can be a better future for Israel with the Palestinians.

“A boycott will only worsen this erosion of faith and inadvertently undermine those voices of resistance that still exist in Israel”

He added: “While we do not presume to tell our Palestinians neighbours how to run their nonviolent national campaigns, we appeal to them to recognize that this boycott would be a mistake.

“Harming our festival and the filmmakers who do participate in it would instead support the silencing of dissident voices in Israel. So far, the Israeli law and courts have forced the government to support the festival financially, despite government efforts to withdraw funding.

“Ironically, the government and the Ministry of Culture attack us as ‘BDS supporters’, while the BDS movement and the filmmakers who intend to boycott would actually help the government end our efforts to create positive change in Israeli society, making the situation even worse”.

More: Israel, palestine, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival

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