Twenty-one high-profile Hollywood actors, producers and film and television industry leaders are taking part in a delegation to Israel organized by The Creative Coalition (TCC), a New York-based arts and education non-profit, in conjunction with the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is affiliated with AIPAC, the US’ most powerful pro-Israel lobby group.
In a press release dated 13 November, TCC announced that the delegates will travel “through Israel to meet with Israeli and Palestinian policy leaders, members of the arts, culture and business communities, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).”
The delegates include Emmy Award-winner Patricia Arquette (“Medium,” Holes); Emmy Award-winner Alfre Woodard (“Memphis Beat,” “Desperate Housewives,” Miss Evers’ Boys); Rachael Leigh Cook (“Perception,” She’s All That); Emmy Award-winner Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos,” The Matrix); Tichina Arnold (“Happily Divorced,” “Raising Hope,” “Martin,” “Everybody Hates Chris”); Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects, Born on the Fourth of July); and Giancarlo Esposito (“Once Upon a Time,” “Breaking Bad”), among many others.
The trip, which began on 13 November, is to last one week and meetings are scheduled with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The delegation, according to TCC’s press release, will focus on “arts, culture and policy.”
Nowhere in the press release does it say which of the Palestinian “policy leaders” the delegates will meet, nor does it imply that the delegation itself will cross into the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip where, away from the neo-liberalist, sanitized bubble of Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas’ Ramallah, Palestinians face daily disposession, home demolition, land confiscation, imprisonment, torture and death by Israeli soldiers.
Naturally, if AIPAC — a highly-influential, extreme-right pro-Israeli policy propaganda organization — is leading the trip, the delegation will most likely be subjected to a barrage of anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) messages as Israel’s hasbara machine kicks into high gear.
AIEF and AIPAC working with Israeli government to assault BDS
AIEF, created as a supporting “educational wing” of AIPAC, helps finance public relations campaigns about the US-Israel relationship in public and private sectors, including on college campuses, and organizes and bankrolls trips to Israel by US political figures. A recent trip by 80 US Congressmembers in August was backed and organized by AIEF/AIPAC.
On that August delegation, the members of Congress met with Netanyahu and Peres, and also with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Michael Grimm, a Republican congressman from New York, told the New York Times after he returned: “It’s my responsibility to be able to advocate on pro-Israel issues … Coming here and being able to feel it and touch it to fully understand how daily life is for an Israeli is important.”
These types of delegations — especially those headlines under an innocuous pretense of a “focus on arts, culture and policy” — are precisely timed to combat the growing, global BDS movements. The organizations behind these trips are not only heavily-funded, but are directly targeting the academic and cultural boycott initiatives that are succeeding in marginalizing and isolating Israel the more that the Israeli government shoves apartheid policies down the throats of occupied and beseiged Palestinians.
Recently, the US-based Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) — a group of US entertainment industry leaders — was formed with the explicit intent to crush the BDS movement as it pertains to the cultural boycott against Israel. In an October article, the Jerusalem Post reported that:
Creative Community For Peace (CCFP) pledges to use a wide range of measures to bolster the resolve of artists who sign contracts to perform in or travel to Israel and then face calls from various “boycott groups” to cancel their trips, according one of its founders, Steve Schnur.
Schnur is a worldwide executive of music and marketing for Electronic Arts and president of Artwerk Music Group, and is responsible for licensing music for some of the most popular computer video games.
“We felt that if we could create a place where artists can get information from other artists and from people they know who understand what Israel is really about – the freedom, the democracy and equal rights – and not rely on the disinformation they’re given about ‘apartheid’ Israel, then maybe we could change things,” Schnur said in a phone call this week from Los Angeles.
“Our aim isn’t to applaud the fact that artists have come to Israel, but to enable others to continue to go there.”
The boycott issue has always been present with regard to international artists and Israel, but in the past few years, pro-Palestinian organizations abroad have stepped up efforts to bombard scheduled acts with e-mails, letters and Facebook campaigns urging them to cancel.
Earlier this month, as The Electronic Intifada reported, a coalition of artists — Artists Against Apartheid — called for a comprehensive boycott against CCFP, which they categorized as a “complicit propaganda institution seeking to normalize Israeli apartheid and strongarm entertainers into its service.”
CCFP is also closely linked to StandWithUs (SWU), a US-based pro-Israel and anti-boycott organization devoted to expanding Israeli propaganda on US college campuses and crushing Palestine solidarity activism in local communities. As The Electronic Intifada reported, SWU has tight ties with the Israeli government to combat BDS.
Indeed, the boycott movement is gaining momentum and popularity, and more and more artists and performers are continuing to refuse to perform in Israel. PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, says that in the last few years, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless, the Pixies and many other artists have cancelled their performances in Israel over its human rights record.
BDS holds Israel accountable
By meeting with Israeli officials and lobby organizations who advocate for ethnic cleansing, apartheid, occupation, economic subjugation, settler-colonialism and repression of civil and human rights — and a client Palestinian leadership who acquiesce to and collude with their Israeli occupiers — this delegation of the entertainment industry’s elite will be used to further the Israeli propaganda war under a cynical, false banner of “advocating” arts and culture.
As much money and effort that Israeli lobby groups are pouring into these propaganda ventures to battle the expanding BDS movement, it is a clear indication that they’re feeling the heat. With groups such as CCFP, AIEF, the Jewish Federations of North America and their public relations wing, the Jewish Community Relations Council, pouring millions of dollars into desperate attempts to stifle and censor Palestinian voices and the BDS movement, the BDS activism community will continue to hold Israel and its enablers accountable, from Tel Aviv to Hollywood.