Urgent Press Release

March 3rd 2020

TLVFest: BDS Boycotts strengthen Israeli government and silence voices of dissent

Yair Hochner, Founder and Artistic Director of TLVFest – Israel’s largest LGBTQ Film Festival – today strongly urged more than 100 LGBTQ Filmmakers, who reportedly intend to boycott the festival, to reconsider. He said: “We understand that the filmmakers who declared they will boycott TLVFest think they are helping the Palestinians. However, they are wrong. It is more important than ever that the international community continue to support dissenting voices in Israel in favour of human rights and equality, especially following the re-election of the Likud governing party last night. 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. A boycott will only worsen this erosion of faith and inadvertently undermine those voices of resistance that still exist in Israel”.

Mr. Hochner added: “While we do not presume to tell our Palestinians neighbors how to run their nonviolent national campaigns, we appeal to them to recognize that this boycott would be a mistake. Harming our festival and the filmmakers who do participate in it would instead support the silencing of dissident voices in Israel. So far, the Israeli law and courts have forced the government to support the festival financially, despite government efforts to withdraw funding. Ironically, the government and the Ministry of Culture attack us as “BDS supporters”, while the BDS movement and the filmmakers who intend to boycott would actually help the government end our efforts to create positive change in Israeli society, making the situation even worse”.

TLVFest – A history of dissent beyond Tel Aviv and LGBTQ culture

The festival, based at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, is open to all types of audiences, not only to members of the LGBTQ community. The festival is also increasingly active outside Tel Aviv, and is especially proud to be bringing LGBTQ culture and cinema across the country, provoking thought, tearing down walls, and building bridges between different cultures. TLVFest events now take place in a large number of smaller towns and villages like Sderot (next to Gaza), Beer Sheva, Haifa, Jerusalem, Kibbutz Mizra, Rosh Pina, the Jordan Valley, Nes Tziona, Pardes Hanna, Karkur, and every year more and more communities ask us to come. In these events, we promote human rights, freedom of expression and encourage political dissent. This is our way of working for change.

As a result, in 2018 the Ministry of Culture illegally refused to support us financially, but through crowdfunding we were able to raise more than 200,000 NIS – roughly a third of our budget – to save the festival. The Likud party has itself already called twice for boycotting TLVFest. First in 2016, when we opened the festival with the documentary “Oriented” about Gay Palestinians who live in Tel Aviv, bringing their story and voices to the big screen. Second in 2017, when we opened the festival with the movie “The Wound” whose filmmaker a few days before the screening decided to join the BDS boycott, although he was already in the country. Since the producer was against the boycott and we had already paid huge amount of

screening fee and the event was sold out – we decided to go ahead and open the festival with that movie. The Likud party called for boycotting TLVFest because we showed a film by a filmmaker who supported the BDS movement. This absurd situation in which both the BDS movement and the right wing governing party in Israel join in boycotting TLVFest is sadly being played out again today.

We are proud that the people who come from all over the country don’t boycott us, and those Palestinians who come from the occupied territories to see the films they can’t see in their own cities don’t boycott us.

Let me also state very clearly that TLVFest is not “pinkwashing” anything. The very existence of TLVFest stands against the Homophobic, racist and misogynistic government of Israel, and we say that openly and proudly. We will also continue to collaborate with queer Palestinian filmmakers who are interested in coexisting peacefully and building a much more tolerant and inclusive Middle East, both for Israelis and Palestinians.

We call on everyone not to cooperate with the Israeli government and the BDS movement, since in their opposition to TLVFest they are, unfortunately, two sides of the same coin. Neither will is leading to peace and dialogue. To our fellow LGBT film-makers, let me ask you to reconsider, please ignore the call to boycott and come to TLVFest to support the important work we are doing to help move our country toward a brighter future.