Big BDS win as filmmakers pull out of Israeli festival

June 12, 2017

In its decade-long run, Tel Aviv’s LGBT Film Festival (TLVFest) has never before been hit with such pressure from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targetting Israel in support of Palestine. Now, nearly half of its international guests have pulled out from taking part.

Even TLVFest’s director, Yair Hochner, admitted the same, telling the Jerusalem Post: “I think they just did a very good job this year, the pinkwashing people, as they call themselves.”

The BDS campaign was launched by hundreds of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005 in a bid to isolate Israel internationally to defeat its occupation of Palestine and its apartheid policies.

The boycott efforts have been spearheaded by Pinkwashing Israel, which says the TLVFest “promotes the cynical use of gay rights — known as pinkwashing — to distract from and normalize Israeli occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.”

South African director John Trengove was one of the first guests to pull out. He told organisers that he could no longer take part, citing the concerns of BDS activists.

“It is impossible to look past the fact that the festival (and my participation in it) could serve as a diversion from the human rights violations being committed by the State of Israel,” Trengove wrote.

He asked organisers to pull his film as well, but they said that because they had already paid for its rights, they would be going ahead with its screening.

It was the same case with Fawzia Mirza, a Pakistani-Canadian actress and filmmaker. Mirza’s screening of Signature Move, a film about a lesbian relationship between a Pakistani and a Mexican in the United States — is still being screened, despite her canceling her participation.

Mirza cited her identity as a “Muslim queer person” when pulling out, becoming one of five out of 12 international guest to cancel.

The producers of the film Chavela also requested their movie be pulled from the show, but noted that their distribution contract would not allow them to cancel its screening.

The festival is part of Tel Aviv’s Pride Week celebrations, which culminate in a Gay Pride Parade in the city on June 9. Palestine solidarity activists have long cited these celebrations as normalising Israel’s occupation.

Organisers for the festival said the BDS’s targeting has caused “a severe upheaval and a threat to the existence of the LGBT film festival”.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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