JERUSALEM, Feb 11 — Gil Sima doesn’t support Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. But that hasn’t stopped filmmakers from dropping out of his Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival to protest the country’s policies toward Palestinians.
“We are a very human-rights-oriented film festival. Here in Israel, they think we’re left-wing queer weirdos,” Sima, its executive director, said. “But outside, it’s the same: ‘You’re from Israel, you’re right-wing, you’re an occupier.’”
Like many other entertainment and cultural events here, the film festival has been targeted by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.
Founded in 2005, BDS calls for “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.” It also advocates for the return of millions of Palestinians to the homes their ancestors left or were forced from when Israel was established in 1948.
Israeli officials allege the BDS movement is anti-Semitic and seeks to destroy the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has spent at least $15 million on combating BDS since 2015.
The campaign is reverberating in the United States, where the Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would allow states to punish businesses that take part in Israel boycotts.
But despite vigorous efforts to quash BDS, the pressure from those who support it is mounting.
Measures calling for boycotts of Israel, many of which are modeled on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, including divesting from companies that sell to Israel’s army, are roiling college campuses.
During the summer, more than a dozen performers backed out of Israel’s Meteor Festival after headliner Lana Del Rey canceled.
Last month, some 50 artists, including Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, singer Peter Gabriel, and pop band Wolf Alice published a letter calling for this year’s Eurovision song contest to be moved from Tel Aviv because of “Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.”
Scientists, academics and even fruit fans have backed BDS: Grape exports to Europe from the Jordan Valley in the West Bank have fallen by 80 percent since 2007 because of boycotts, according to the head of the regional council there.
Airbnb announced Nov. 19 that it would stop listing some 200 properties in Jewish settlements in the West Bank — an area Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East War. Palestinians and most governments consider growing settlements — thought to house some 435,000 Jewish residents — illegal and a hindrance to peace. Around 3 million Palestinians also live in the West Bank.