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Over 130 filmmakers to boycott Tel Aviv’s LGBT film festival

Signatories cite violations of Palestinian human rights and pinkwashing as reasons to avoid cultural event
Critics have accused Israel of using LGBT rights to 'pinkwash' the occupation and human rights violations (AFP)

Over 130 names from the film industry have signed a pledge to boycott TLVFest, Tel Aviv’s government-sponsored LGBT film festival, in solidarity with queer Palestinians and the struggle for Palestinian human rights.

The pledge was organised by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and Palestinian queer groups. 

“As filmmakers, film artists and production companies committed to LGBTQIA+ liberation, we understand that our liberation is intimately connected to the liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities,” a statement read. 

“We pledge not to submit films or otherwise participate in TLVFest or other events partially or fully sponsored by complicit Israeli institutions until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian human rights.” 

TLVFest, which is now in its 15th year, receives funding from the Israel Film Council, the ministry of culture and sport and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality. In 2019, its corporate sponsors included Microsoft and Delta. 

'All cultural initiatives allow Israel to develop respectability, an image of an open and tolerant state'

- Boycotters

Signatories of the boycott pledge include Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger and Palme d'Or nominee Alain Guiraudie. 

“The Israeli government has imprisoned the Palestinian people for decades, colonised them, stole their lands and resources, denied them their right to exist as a nation,” Guiraudie said. 

“All cultural initiatives allow Israel to develop respectability, an image of an open and tolerant state. The boycott now remains the only instrument for the international struggle against Israeli policy.”

Activists say the festival is part of Israel’s "pinkwashing" agenda, which uses LGBT rights to project a progressive image of Israel and cover up the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, and violations of Palestinian human rights. 

“In Korea, I constantly learn of these pinkwashing issues, so I have tried my best to engage in the BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions] movement,” said South Korean director and writer Minji Ma. “I send Palestinians solidarity with all my heart.”

Last year, over 100 queer and trans organisations from around the world supported a boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest and Tel Aviv Pride, which they saw as “an entire month of pinkwashing”. Eurovision has a strong following among the LGBT community, and was hosted in Tel Aviv after Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won the competition in 2018. 

The cultural boycott of Israel has become increasingly prominent in recent years, with New Zealand singer Lorde and American pop star Lana Del Rey cancelling planned concerts in Tel Aviv.