San Francisco gay film fest to challenge pinkwashing of Israel’s crimes

Gay rights and Palestine solidarity activists have protested at Israel’s sponsorship of the Frameline festival in San Francisco. (Steve Rhodes)

The organization Queers for Palestine is calling for submissions for the new Outside the Frame film festival, to be held at San Francisco’s Brava Theater in June.

While the festival is not solely concerned with films about Palestine, its entire rationale is based on challenging the danger of “pinkwashing” — efforts to promote Israel as progressive on gay rights in order to distract attention from its crimes against the Palestinians. The festival follows a number of other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) events that had accommodated Israeli pinkwashing initiatives.

In recent years, two LGBT festivals — San Francisco’s Frameline and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival — either accepted sponsorship from Israel or screened movies that had received funding from the Israeli government. Participants in these two festivals will not be eligible to submit films to Outside the Frame.

Films at Outside the Frame may, according to the call for submissions, come from a range of categories. These include addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and struggles against capitalism and colonialism.

While work on Palestine and pinkwashing is welcomed by the call, the wider scope emphasizes that Palestine is an issue for all LGBT people, not just those with an existing interest in Palestinian rights.

The battle over the New York LGBT Center’s ban on events related to Palestine illustrated the problem of anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab sentiment among some North American gay and lesbian activists. That center had banned Palestine-related events for two years, before lifting the ban in 2013.

Respect call for boycott

The call for submissions for Outside the Frame focuses on Frameline’s cooperation with Israel.

It stipulates the participants must sign up to a “mission statement” that reads: “As queer activists for social justice, including Palestinian liberation, we recognize that Israel is attempting to co-opt the queer struggle for liberation while the Israeli government continues to kill, exclude and deny rights to Palestinians, including queer Palestinians. This is pinkwashing and Frameline must stop participating in it.”

The call also urges Frameline to respect the cultural and academic boycott of Israel which many Palestinian organizations have been campaigning for since 2004.

Outside the Frame joins a growing and significant history of challenges to Israeli attempts to portray itself as “gay-friendly” both through funding works — including films — by gay artists or featuring gay characters and storylines about them.

Resistance to Israeli pinkwashing has come from within the Palestinian community, via Palestinian LGBT organisations such as Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for BDS, and from allies such as Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT) and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

Outside the Frame’s call for submissions runs until 14 February.


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.