And the Oscar Goes To... BDS? Hollywood Stars Snub Israel Swag Bag Visit

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: (L-R) Actress Brie Larson, winner of Best Actress for 'Room,' actor Leonardo DiCaprio, winner of Best Actor for 'The Revenant,' and actress Alicia Vikander, winner of Best Supporting Actress for 'The Danish Girl,' pose in the press room during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Loews Hollywood Hotel on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California.
(L-R) Brie Larson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Alicia Vikander, pose in the press room during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Loews Hollywood Hotel on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images/AFP
Itay Stern
Itay Stern
Itay Stern
Itay Stern

A Tourism Ministry public relations gimmick to bring Hollywood stars to Israel has bombed, with not a single one of the 26 Oscar nominees awarded free trips to Israel last year actually making the trip. Now, the BDS movement is taking credit for the failure.

The tour packages, worth tens of thousands of dollars apiece, were given to 26 nominees in the highest-profile Oscar categories, including actors Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Sylvester Stallone and Kate Winslet.

Last February, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement put out an official statement urging recipients not to use the tour packages, charging that by coming to Israel, they would be helping the Israeli government whitewash what BDS terms the crimes of the occupation.

Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the FOX Golden Globes after party on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.Credit: AP
Ellen DeGeneres' famous Oscar selfie with Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyong’o Jr., Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o and AngCredit: AP Photo/Ellen DeGeneres

On Wednesday, Yousef Munayyer, an activist with the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights who promotes the cultural boycott of Israel, said his movement’s efforts had proved effective.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.Credit: Gidon Sharon / GPO

“This is a success,” Munayyer told AFP. “I am very glad there’s no evidence that people went. I think it is clear the objective of using the actors to whitewash Israel has failed.”

When the packages were announced last year, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin waxed enthusiastic. “We’ll be delighted to bring senior members of Hollywood’s movie industry, together with [other] public opinion leaders, to Israel, so they can experience Israel firsthand instead of via the media,” he said. “If they indeed accept the invitation, their visits will create significant buzz among their fans and their followers on social media.”

Lone benefactor: Jennifer Lawrence's mother

But none of the stars came, and only one made any use of the package at all: Jennifer Lawrence gave it to her mother.

A Tourism Ministry effort to bring NFL football stars to Israel also suffered a setback when two of those invited, Michael Bennett and Kenny Stills, announced that BDS activists had convinced them not to come.

Leonardo DiCaprio at Oscars: One of the no-shows for Israeli PR tour.Credit: AFP

Ironically, however, several famous entertainers who didn’t receive paid trips did visit Israel last year. Actress and director Amy Poehler came to discuss developing a television series based on the movie “Zero Motivation,” a soloist from the band Coldplay came to look into having his band perform here, and actor Will Smith came on a personal visit.

The Tourism Ministry said yesterday that even though the Oscar packages weren’t used, “the campaign, to our delight, achieved its goal, and Israel received positive press during the [Oscar] competition from many media outlets, at no cost. As a result, we have seen a significant upswing in tourism to Israel in recent months, and January saw a 27 percent rise in the number of tourists.”

The gift bag, valued at $55,000, also included is a walking tour of Japan, a year's worth of unlimited Audi rentals, private fitness sessions and a bizarre item described as a Vampire Breast Lift.

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