LGBTQ filmmakers refuse to let Israel use them to pinkwash its crimes

Israeli culture minister Miri Regev, who has compared Africans to cancer, right, with 2018 Eurovision Song Contest winner Netta Barzilai, May 2018. (via Facebook)

Two more directors have joined the growing boycott of TLVFest – the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival.

This brings to 11 the number of artists who have pulled out of the festival, part of a growing wave of international support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in the wake of Israel’s massacres of unarmed Palestinians during Great March of Return rallies in Gaza.

Canadian Marc-Antoine Lemire pulled his short movie Pre-Drink, which won the Toronto International Film Festival Award for Best Canadian Short Film.

“We have recently become aware of Israel’s pinkwashing strategy, and wish to express our refusal to contribute to it, in addition to our support for the LGBTQ+ community,” Lemire wrote. “Following a protest movement of several filmmakers and artists in disagreement with Israel’s policies towards Palestine, we have decided to take a stand in favor of this movement. Especially with the recent events, we refuse the instrumentalization of our movie.”

French filmmaker Antoine Héraly canceled a planned personal appearance at the festival for the screening of his movie Furniture Porn Project.

“Having had an intense week of reflection and reading, as well as discussions with organizations and a wide spectrum of intellectuals, I have come to the conclusion that, should I physically attend the screening to introduce Furniture Porn Project, my conscience would be absent from the theater,” Héraly wrote to the festival organizers.

“Had I had a longer period of time in which to get my ideas together, I would have asked you to withdraw my film from the festival, with which I cannot identify, as it is publicly funded and therefore a part of the Israeli politics of ‘pinkwashing,’” Héraly added.

He noted that the festival had in any case proceeded with screening films of other filmmakers who had asked for them to be withdrawn, something Héraly called “unacceptable.”

TLVFest is a cornerstone of Israel’s pinkwashing campaign. Pinkwashing is the public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses and appeal particularly to Western liberal audiences.

It often involves gross exaggerations of Israel’s progressive policies, accompanied by outright lies about Palestinians.

Pro-Israel governments that have pointedly failed to condemn or act to stop Israel’s deliberate killings of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza, including children, medics and journalists, have become particularly enthusiastic pinkwashers.

Several European Union embassies again participated in Tel Aviv’s pride parade on Friday, as part of their efforts to market the city as an open and progressive tourism destination, despite how it has been a violent, racist and hostile environment for Palestinians and Africans.

TLVFest is funded by the Israeli culture ministry, which is led by far-right politician Miri Regev.

Regev is notorious for her racist outburst comparing refugees from African states to “cancer,” and for posting on Facebook a video of herself with a group of Israeli football fans inciting violence against Palestinians.

Among TLVFest’s sponsors is the Saison France-Israël, a public relations initiative sponsored by both governments aimed at improving Israel’s image.

Pop-Kultur boycott

American musician John Maus has become the fourth artist to pull out of this year’s upcoming Pop-Kultur Festival in Berlin, over its sponsorship by the Israeli embassy.

The festival issued a statement that Maus and his band “prefer not to play within a politicized setting.”

Three UK acts – Gwenno Saunders, Richard Dawson and Shopping – had already announced their withdrawal.

“I cannot argue with the clear facts that the Israeli government and army are killing innocent Palestinians, violating their human rights and that this desperate situation must change,” Saunders wrote.

Calls to cancel Israel match in Ireland

These latest acts in solidarity with Palestinians come after big names Shakira and Gilberto Gil dropped plans to perform in Tel Aviv, and the coordinated announcement last month by dozens of bands that they would respect the Palestinian boycott call.

There have also been mounting calls to boycott next year’s Eurovision Song Contest if, as is anticipated, Israel hosts it following this year’s win by Netta Barzilai.

But the biggest score for Palestinians has been Argentina’s cancellation of a “friendly” football match against Israel that was scheduled for Jerusalem this weekend.

The match, part of the preparations for this summer’s World Cup, had been the jewel in the crown of Israel’s propaganda efforts.

Building on the momentum from that victory for the BDS campaign, the Irish party Sinn Féin is now calling for the cancellation of a “friendly” between Israel and Northern Ireland scheduled for September.

“I made this call on the back of the recent massacre of over 100 demonstrators and the maiming of thousands more by the Israeli army,” Sinéad Ennis, a Sinn Féin member of Northern Ireland’s legislature, said. “The international community should be standing up to the Israeli state for the indiscriminate slaughter and ongoing discrimination against Palestinians.”

“Sinn Féin support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel under which cultural, academic and sporting links fall,” Ennis stated.

The IFA, the football governing body for Northern Ireland, is already resisting that call.

Sinn Féin traditionally represents Irish nationalists who believe that Northern Ireland should become part of a united Irish state.

Nationalists generally do not identify with the Northern Ireland team in international contests and cheer for the Republic of Ireland.

Sinn Féin is one of the two largest parties in Northern Ireland, the other being the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which strongly supports maintaining the division of Ireland and keeping the north as part of the United Kingdom.

As an all-Ireland party, Sinn Féin runs for office in the Republic of Ireland as well, and the Sinn Féin mayor of Dublin has been an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights, reflecting broad Palestine solidarity in Irish society.

In April, Dublin City Council became the first European capital city to endorse BDS.

And in May, the council in Derry, a city in the British-controlled part of Ireland, passed a Sinn Féin-sponsored motion to light up municipal buildings in the colors of the Palestinian flag as a show of solidarity.

By contrast, the Christian Zionist and strongly pro-Israel DUP currently props up the London government of Prime Minister Theresa May, giving it outsize clout in the United Kingdom.

DUP politicians strongly support the Israel-Northern Ireland match.

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Comments

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As Natasha Roth says above, "With Tel Aviv's annual LGBTQ carnival underway, some reminders:
There is no same-sex marriage in Israel
Religious Zionist rabbis regularly incite against the queer community
Bills to improve LGBTQ rights continually fail to pass
Gay "conversion therapy" is still a thing in Israel"
Israel is all pretense and no morality.

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The descriptions of the Irish issues, in the last section, are correct but may be confusing.

My take: the Republic of Ireland, now being 80% of the island "Ireland", went independent from London (UK/GB/Queen/whatever) in the 1920's. This was the first crack in the British Empire, read: the first *colony* that turned their back, and not without violence. A colony it was: products being stolen, famines & starvation, local people being denigrated. Incidentally, this was a colony within Europe, and with white people being colonised. It happened to be that the local people were predominantly catholic, while the colonisers were protestant (/Anglican). For starters, and in general, the "Irish nationalists" (Sinn Féin) vs. the "UK lovers" (DUP) are quite overlapping "catholics" vs. "protestants".

Britannia Rule did not give up their colony completely. They kept Northern Ireland as a London-governed part of the UK, with a large (London backed) militant protestant population. This civil war ("the troubles", if you like British understatement) has cost some 3000 deaths and was pacified only in 1999 with the "Good Friday" agreements. (Brexit is undoing this agreement by reinstating a border on the island!).

If you see a pattern or parallel: go ahead.

(TBH, I'd like to read more on why, from Europe, especially the Republic of Ireland is so strong & good in advocating BDS, and opposing Zionist bullying, apartheid, killings, etc.)

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It seems the countries that support Israel the most, are the countries that became rich by colonizing. Mostly USA, which is still doing (somewhat) what Israel is doing with Gaza and the West Bank - with Hawaii, Marshall Islands, US/Mexico border, to name a few). As you, as Irish person, know, UK is/was also quite keen on colonizing - as were quite some countries in Europe (although lot's lost a lot during the wars, which, I presume, made them softer).
Ireland knows what it means to be suppressed, perhaps that helps to related to the suppressed. Whereas USA and UK know better how it is to be the oppressor.

Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.