More than 130 filmmakers from fifteen countries are boycotting an upcoming LGBTQ film festival backed by the Israeli government in protest of the country’s treatment of Palestinians. “We pledge 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,” reads a statement that has been signed by Turner Prize–winning artist Charlotte Prodger, Palme d’Or nominee Alain Guiraudie, documentary filmmaker Harjant Gill, video artist Richard Fung, and Seoul Human Rights Film Festival director Hyun Lego Park.
Guiraudie told Queer Cinema for Palestine, which organized the boycott along with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel—a branch of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement—that he chose to support the action because “all cultural initiatives allow Israel to develop respectability, an image of an open and tolerant state. The boycott now remains the only instrument for the international struggle against Israeli policy, the only instrument that I have in order not to be complicit in this oppression of an entire people.”
The event’s artistic director, Yair Hochner, told the Hollywood Reporter that protesting the festival isn’t helping Palestinians; he claims it is actually undermining BDS’s cause. “It is more important than ever that the international community continue to support dissenting voices in Israel in favor of human rights and equality,” he said, “especially following the re-election of the Likud governing party. . . . They must understand that the Likud party—which opposes the festival, called for its boycott, and works against it—gained in strength due to the erosion in belief among most Israelis that there can be a better future for Israel with the Palestinians.”
While the BDS movement intends to secure human rights victories for Palestinians, it has been called anti-Semitic by dozens of politicians in the United States and Europe, and cultural figures who are associated with the movement have faced repercussions. Last fall, the German city of Aachen withdrew its sponsorship of a prize awarded to Lebanese artist Walid Raad after he failed to clarify whether he supported BDS; a few months prior, Peter Schäfer, the director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, stepped down from the helm of the institution after he tweeted a statement criticizing German parliament’s decision to condemn the movement.
Most recently, the French Algerian artist Zineb Sedira came under intense scrutiny because of her decision to remove work from the Mediterranean Biennial in Sakhnin, Israel, in 2017—some believed the move was in solidarity with BDS. After she was chosen to represent France at the upcoming Venice Biennale, a number of activists called for France to give the prestigious commission to a different artist. Sedira has since been forced to publicly defend her nomination.
The fifteenth edition of TLVFest is scheduled to take place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque from June 4 to June 13.