Israel provides the most protections for LGBT people in the Middle East. And yet, more than 100 LGBT filmmakers have signed a pledge to boycott Tel Aviv’s government-sponsored LGBT film festival, TLVFest, in what they claim is a show of solidarity towards members of the Palestinian LGBT community.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that the boycott was organized by Palestinian queer organizations and PACBI, the academic and cultural arm of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to compel the world to cut all ties with Israel in protest of a so-called occupation.
Signatories include the Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger, Palme d’Or nominee Alain Guiraudie, and award-winning Indian documentary filmmaker Harjant Gill, among others.
The pledge claims that the LGBT movement “is intimately connected to the liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities” and commits “not to submit films or otherwise participate in TLVFest or other events partially or fully sponsored by complicit Israeli institutions until Israel complies with international law and respects Palestinian human rights.”
According to the PACBI, the pledge represents a “new, proactive stand by queer film artists in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and dignity.”
Despite Israel having the most protections for LGBT people in the Middle East, organizers of the boycott claim that those protections merely amount to “pinkwashing efforts,” where they use the LGBT cause to “project a progressive image while denying the rights of all Palestinians, queer and non-queer alike.”
Although LGBT rights are better in Palestine than other parts of the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, cultural prejudices and the influence of extremist Islamic organizations means that many homosexuals are routinely oppressed. Last year, the Palestinian Authority banned any LGBT activities in the West Bank, with a police spokesperson describing them as “harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society.”
Filmmakers and other artists have stepped up their anti-Zionist activism in recent years, regularly taking stands against the state of Israel. Singers including Lorde and Lana Del Rey stirred controversy when they announced they would not perform in Israel, while Madonna also drew headlines at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest final in Tel Aviv when her performance featured a dancer wearing the Palestinian flag.