Israel sponsoring film, music festivals in Istanbul

A screenshot from the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art website shows ArtIsrael as a sponsor of the film festival. 

Actors, directors and producers are boycotting the Istanbul Film Festival after it became known that the Israeli government is sponsoring it.

“Just like the apartheid regime in South Africa, Israel uses such sponsorship to art-wash its decades-old regime of military occupation and apartheid,” the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said in a statement on Twitter.

The film festival, which is taking place from 6 to 17 April, is also screening Israeli films.

In addition to the film festival, Israel’s foreign ministry organization ArtIsrael is also sponsoring the Istanbul Music Festival and the Istanbul Jazz Festival. All festivals are headed by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art, a nongovernmental organization in Turkey.

BDS Turkey urged the foundation to cancel Israeli sponsorship, but the foundation maintained its position “despite two weeks of attacks in which Israeli forces have used live ammunition on peaceful Gazans,” BDS Turkey wrote in a statement.


The films Wajib and The Reports on Sarah and Saleem were both withdrawn from the festival, along with crewmembers, in protest of Israeli sponsorship.

Annemarie Jacir, Ossama Bawardi, Saleh Bakri, Mohammad Bakri, May Odeh, Muayad Alayan and Adeeb Safadi are among the actors, directors and producers boycotting the festival.

Mohammad Bakri, who stars in Wajib, announced in a Facebook post that the film’s crew will boycott the festival “as long as the Israeli government kills innocent people in Gaza, and lies to itself and to the world.”

Bakri stated that Wajib’s crew is willing to participate if the festival announces a full withdrawal of Israeli sponsorship.

May Odeh, a Palestinian director who was due to participate in one festival event, wrote in a Facebook statement that she “can’t believe that such a festival will collaborate” with a country that has committed war crimes. She added that her boycott was dedicated to her colleague Yaser Murtaja, a Palestinian journalist who was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper in Gaza while he was wearing a vest clearly marked “PRESS” on 6 April.

Orchestrating apartheid

Meanwhile, 100 artists, scholars and 33 social justice organizations are calling on the Philadelphia Orchestra to cancel its June trip to Israel.

Those protesting the tour say that while the Philadelphia Orchestra claims the trip is not “a political mission,” officials in Israel’s consulate in New York confirmed that the performance is meant to mark 70 years since Israel’s founding and the “unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as its capital,” according to a press release from the Philadelphia Don’t Orchestrate Apartheid campaign.

The campaign noted that the orchestra is due to meet with Israel’s culture minister Miri Regev, a far-right Israeli politician notorious for her racism against Palestinians and Africans.
“Intentionally or not, the orchestra’s tour is wholly in the service of the Israeli government’s propaganda strategy that exploits visits by international artists” to whitewash its crimes, according to Susan Abulhawa, a member of the Philadelphia Don’t Orchestrate Apartheid campaign.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.