A Dozen Queer Filmmakers Drop Out of Israeli Government-Sponsored TLVFest

Queer filmmakers stand in solidarity with queer Palestinians calling to boycott TLVFest over its role in pinkwashing Israel's crimes. A webinar coinciding with TLVFest opening night features filmmakers joining Queer Cinema for Palestine.

More than a dozen filmmakers have withdrawn from TLVFest, the Israeli government-partnered LGBT film festival, which runs from November 12-21.

Queer Palestinians are calling for a boycott of TLVFest over its role in the Israeli government’s pinkwashing agenda, which uses LGBTQIA+ rights to cover up its apartheid regime and its oppression of millions of Palestinians, queer and non queer alike.

This year, TLVFest expanded its partnership with the far-right Israeli government to include  the notorious Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which leads the government’s overt and covert repressive efforts to stem the tide of international solidarity with Palestinians, in coordination with Israel's criminal secret services, the Mossad.

Six of the filmmakers withdrawing from TLVFest this year joined more than 160 filmmakers from over two dozen countries signing the Queer Cinema for Palestine pledge, including John Eames, director of the feature film March for Dignity (UK), Maggie Bailey, director of Sweet Sweet Kink (US), Andrew Blackman, director of Inferno (New Zealand) and Victor Costa Lopes, director of Revoada (Brazil). Signatories pledge not to participate in TLVFest or other Israeli government-sponsored events “until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian human rights.” 

South Korean filmmaker Shin Seung Eun, who also signed the Queer Cinema for Palestine pledge, said in a statement:

I have withdrawn my film Mother-in-Law from TLVFest in Israel. I'm against the pinkwashing of Israel's military occupation of Palestine. I'm in solidarity with the Palestinian queers!

Greek filmmaker Artemis Anastasiadou also signed the pledge, stating:

I most 100% stand for the Palestinian cause and I have withdrawn my film I am Mackenzie from TLVFest because of its partnership with the Israeli government. I stand in solidarity with the call from Palestinian queers.

An additional seven filmmakers responded to appeals from activists and members of Queer Cinema for Palestine saying they had asked TLVFest to withdraw their films in solidarity with Palestinians. As in past years, TLVFest is refusing to honor these requests.

Ghadir Shafie, co-founder and director of Aswat - Palestinian Feminist Center for Gender and Sexual Freedoms, said:

TLVFest’s ridiculous claims of supporting Palestinian queers, trotted out each year in response to withdrawals from conscientious filmmakers, are even more obvious this year by its pinkwashing partnership with the very Israeli ministry committed to fighting international solidarity with Palestinians through criminal means. TLVFest even refuses to respect the requests of filmmakers wishing to stand in solidarity with Palestinians not to screen their films at the festival.

TLVFest sought to hide or obscure its partnership with the Ministry of Strategic Affairs following the first filmmaker withdrawals. It first replaced the English version of the ministry’s logo with a Hebrew version, then removed it altogether only to replace it again with a non-branded logo.

Filmmakers informed Queer Cinema for Palestine that TLVFest had once again enlisted Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) to counter the call from Palestinian queers. CCFP is a US-based propaganda front group for Israeli government lobby organization Stand With Us, which has allied itself with John Hagee’s racist and homophobic “Christians United for Israel.”

Shafie added:

TLVFest is an essential part of Israel’s pinkwashing strategy, which extends its colonial narrative depicting the Indigenous Palestinians as foreign to their homeland to Palestinian queers, showing them as outsiders in their own society. TLVFest erases Palestinian and Arab queers by making the racist claim that it is the “only LGBT film festival in the Middle East.”

We are heartened by the outpouring of support from queer filmmakers this year. We encourage others to join the Queer Cinema for Palestine pledge in recognition of our intimately connected intersectional struggles against oppression. 

Dozens of filmmakers have responded positively to calls from Palestinian queers and allies to withdraw from TLVFest over the past few years.

More than 15 filmmakers sent videos explaining why they pledged to boycott TLVFest, including Palme d’Or nominee Alain Guiraudie, Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky of the award winning collective Public Studio and Touch of Pink director Ian Iqbal Rashid.

Award winning Canadian director John Greyson said:

In 2009, I withdrew my film Fig Trees from TLVFest. I couldn’t allow my film, which talks about how AIDS activism in South Africa grew out of the anti-apartheid movement, to be used as a pink smokescreen to conceal Israel’s apartheid regime oppressing Palestinians. It is uplifting to see so many filmmakers from across the world withdrawing from TLVFest – and pledging to boycott TLVFest – in response to the call from Palestinian queers. Queer filmmakers are saying queer liberation is indivisible from Palestinian liberation -- and that boycott is an effective and constructive queer tactic.

Shafie, Greyson and Flanders will be joined by Shohini Ghosh and Syrus Marcus Ware for the “Love Queer Cinema. Hate Apartheid.” webinar on Thursday, November 12, coinciding with the opening night of TLVFest.

Stephanie Adam from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said:

TLVFest gets underway as Israel entrenches its decades-old apartheid system and military occupation that imprisons Palestinian children as young as 12, demolishes Palestinian homes, nearly 400 since March alone, and holds millions of Palestinians under siege in Gaza, predicted by the United Nations in 2012 to be unlivable by this year.

TLVFest’s partner, the fanatic Israeli apartheid regime, has allied itself with far-right, intolerant, racist and homophobic leaders around the world, from Trump to Bolsonaro, and from Modi to Orban. The Palestinian nonviolent boycott movement is instead part of the global, progressive, justice-for-all movement defending the rights of oppressed communities everywhere. It is only natural that queer filmmakers are joining our struggle demanding justice for the Indigenous Palestinians by boycotting TLVFest.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was initiated in 2004 to contribute to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. PACBI, a key part of the global, Palestinian-led BDS movement, advocates for the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, given their deep and persistent complicity in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law. Visit PACBI at https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi and follow us on Twitter @PACBI



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