Frequently Asked Questions on why filmmakers are pledging not to participate in the Israeli government-sponsored LGBT film festival in a stand for Palestinian rights.
Why are Palestinians calling on filmmakers and film artists not to participate in TLVFest?
For years, Palestinian queers and civil society groups have denounced TLVFest’s partnership with the Israeli government. One outcome of this partnership is the festival’s deafening silence on Israel’s war crimes and grave human rights violations against all Palestinians, including Palestinian queers.
By covering up Israel’s system of oppression against Palestinians, TLVFest subscribes to Israel’s pinkwashing propaganda agenda–the cynical use of LGBT rights to hide its apartheid and occupation regimes against Palestinians.
Conscientious filmmakers have long urged TLVFest to refuse Israeli government funding and to take an unequivocal public stand against Israel’s decades-old denial of rights and freedoms to the Palestinian people. Dozens of filmmakers have supported the Palestinian call to withdraw from TLVFest and eloquently explained the reasons behind their decision to festival organizers.
TLVFest has also enlisted Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) to counter the call from Palestinian queers. CCFP is a front group for Stand With Us, a right-wing, pro-settlement lobby group tied to the Israeli government. Stand With Us has allied itself with the homophobic pastor John Hagee and his organization Christians United for Israel.
All those committed to queer and trans liberation are urged to refuse to participate in TLVFest until the festival ends its complicity in Israel’s pinkwashing of its oppression of all Palestinians, queer and non-queer alike.
What is pinkwashing and what does it have to do with Israel?
Pinkwashing refers to the use of LGBTQIA+ rights by states and corporations in branding campaigns to project a progressive image, often in an attempt to distract from unfavorable publicity.
The Israeli government actively promotes a pinkwashing agenda designed to portray itself in a positive light because it offers some rights to some members of the LGBTQIA+ community, while distracting attention from the daily reality of its military occupation, apartheid and violent racism against Palestinians. The pro-Israel pinkwashing organization “A Wider Bridge,” for example, claims to promote LGBTQIA+ rights and progressive values, yet receives funding from right-wing, anti-Muslim, and homophobic organizations.
Palestinian queer activists have long noted that “underneath the rainbow” Israel is hiding an ugly, decades-old regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
How will boycotting TLVFest help Palestinians?
By pledging not to participate in TLVFest as long as the festival serves as “progressive” cover for Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses, filmmakers are heeding the call from oppressed Palestinians not to assist their oppressor or prolong their oppression.
Filmmakers are taking a principled stand while helping unmask Israel’s deceitful co-optation and exploitation of LGBTQIA+ rights to ensure its impunity as it continues to expand illegal settlements on Palestinian land, demolish Palestinian homes, hold two million Palestinians in Gaza under siege, incarcerate Palestinian political prisoners and raid Palestinian children’s bedrooms during the night.
Resisting Israel’s pinkwashing agenda has grown steadily among LGBTQIA+ communities. In 2019, more than 100 international queer and trans liberation groups supported the call from Palestinian queers to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest in apartheid Tel Aviv.
For more than one hundred years, boycotts have proven to be a viable non-violent tactic successfully employed by oppressed communities and progressive allies to challenge injustice around the world, from colonial rule in India, to racial segregation in the US Jim Crow South, to anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Russia and the US, to apartheid in South Africa, and now in Palestine.
Queer filmmakers play a crucial role in giving visibility to queer communities, to the injustices against LGBTQIA+ persons and to queer and trans emancipation. Palestinians are calling on queer filmmakers not to allow the Israeli government, through the TLVFest partnership, to use this valuable work as a pink smokescreen to hide its harsh discriminatory policies that South Africans have described as worse than their country’s defunct apartheid regime.
Hasn’t TLVFest had funding problems?
Since at least 2011, TLVFest has made false or wildly exaggerated statements that the festival risks being closed due to funding problems with Israel’s Ministry of Culture. In some cases this is stated to be due to changes in funding criteria, in others due to procedural errors on the part of the film festival itself.
Despite these annual announcements, TLVFest continues to be sponsored every single year by the increasingly fanatic Israeli government. This year is no different. This trend reveals an attempt by its organizers to paint the festival as a victim, to distract from its reality as a willing accomplice in Israel’s pinkwashing propaganda.
Rather than look to other forms of funding free of complicity with Israel’s apartheid regime, and to come out in clear support of comprehensive Palestinian human rights, TLVFest has fought to maintain government funding.
While it may be true that Israel’s fanatic government, which includes at least one openly homophobic minister advocating gay “conversion therapy,” is working to undermine TLVFest, the festival has invested extensive efforts into maintaining the government partnership instead of rejecting it and ending its role in Israel’s pinkwashing strategy.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), as part of the peaceful BDS movement for Palestinian rights inspired by the South African anti-apartheid struggle, has established two very basic conditions that would exempt Israeli festivals, including TLVFest, from the boycott:
- Publicly recognizing “the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as enshrined in international law” and
- Ending “all forms of complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law, including discriminatory policies and practices as well as diverse roles in whitewashing or justifying Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.”
TLVFest has thus far refused to meet even one of these conditions, choosing instead to allow the festival to continue to be used — by the very same government that is supposedly working to end the festival — to promote Israel as a “gay haven.”