Over 100 LGBT Filmmakers Abroad Call for Boycott of Tel Aviv Festival

The signatories back the Palestinian queer community, but TLVFest's founder says 'harm to the festival and the artists who choose to take part will only paralyze the voices of optimism in Israel'

Protesters take part in a LGBT community members protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 22, 2018.
Corinna Kern/ REUTERS

More than 100 LGBT filmmakers abroad have signed a petition calling for a boycott of an annual LGBT film festival in Tel Aviv, TLVFest, out of solidarity with the struggle by the Palestinian queer community.

The petition was launched by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, an arm of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and in cooperation with Palestinian LGBT organizations.

The signatories include the British filmmaker Charlotte Prodger, winner of the Turner Prize for visual artists, and the French director Alain Guiraudie, who directed the film “Stranger by the Lake,” which won acclaim in Israel. Also onboard is the award-winning Indian documentary director Harjant Gill, as well as the AIDS historian Sarah Schulman.

According the petition, the filmmakers oppose the festival because it is supported by Israeli public funding. They call on filmmakers around the world not to submit their work to it, saying they will continue their opposition until Israel respects international law and basic human rights for the Palestinians.

The festival, scheduled to take place from July 4 to July 13, receives support from the Tel Aviv municipality and the Culture and Sports Ministry.

The festival’s founder and artistic director, Yair Hochner, told Haaretz that calls to boycott the festival by queer artists abroad is nothing new and preparations for the event are moving ahead.

TLVFest added in a statement: “We know that artists who call for a boycott of the gay film festival in Tel Aviv think they are helping the Palestinians but they are mistaken. Today it’s more important than ever that the international community support voices that oppose the Israeli establishment, especially after Likud’s achievement in the election this week.”

According to Hochner, calls for a cultural boycott only intensify many Israelis’ feelings that dialogue with the Palestinians is impossible.

“While we don’t pretend to tell our Palestinian neighbors how to conduct nonviolent national campaigns, we ask that it be made clear to them that a call for a boycott is a mistake,” he said. “Harm to the festival and the artists who choose to take part will only paralyze the voices of optimism in Israel.”

TLVFest, which was founded in 2006, is Israel’s largest LGBT film festival. It has made headlines for its screening of political and pro-Palestinian films.

For example, in 2016 it showed the film “Oriented” about gay Palestinians living in Tel Aviv. The following year it showed “The Wound,” whose director said he would not attend the festival’s opening because of his support for BDS. For its part, the government called for a boycott of the festival, which it called a BDS supporter.

Regarding allegations of “pinkwashing” the occupation, Hochner said: “The festival comes out strongly against homophobia, racism and the misogyny of the Israeli government, and we state this loudly and proudly. We will also continue to collaborate with queer Palestinian filmmakers who want to continue working together to build a better and more tolerant society – in both Israel and Palestine.”