Vancouver Queer Film Festival urged to come out against Israeli Apartheid

 (Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories) August 22, 2012.  Queer activists and allies gathered outside the Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF) screening of “The Invisible Men”, carrying sparkly signs and handing out pink informational leaflets to festival patrons.

The group came together under the banner “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” (QuAIA) in response to the VQFF’s screening of two films – “The Invisible Men” and “Joe + Belle” – that have received funding from the Israeli government and support from Israeli cultural institutions.  In response to the screening of these films, QuAIA has called on the VQFF to stand in solidarity with Palestinian queers and come out against the Israeli apartheid regime.

“The Israeli government tries to cover up its ongoing and brutal occupation of Palestine through public relations campaigns that tell us Israel is a friend to queers everywhere,” stated Isabel Krupp.

Photo by Dave Markland, Vancouver Media Co-Op

According to Arielle Friedman, “Israel’s attempt to pinkwash apartheid includes its funding and support for movies like ‘The Invisible Men’, which fail to portray the realities of Israel as a settler colonial state.”  Friedman stressed that “when movies like this – produced by Israeli film makers and supported by the Israeli state – are screened at queer film festivals, it perpetuates the silencing of Palestinian queers who resist colonization as queer minorities on a daily basis.”

The QuAIA action is not the first to call out “The Invisible Men” for collusion with the Israeli state and pinkwashing.  At the 2012 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, queer activists called out the Executive Director of the Festival during the introduction to the film, criticizing the festival for engaging in pinkwashing through its partnership with the Israeli Consulate (http://quitpalestine.org/actions/frameline%202012.htm).  When confronted by activists at the Festival, “The Invisible Men” director, Yariv Mozer, labeled the West Bank and Gaza as “primitive” and stated that he was “helping Palestinian queers,” despite the stated positions of all Palestinian queer organizations – including PQBDS, Al-Qaws, and Aswat – in support of the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including cultural boycott (audio available:  http://www.indybay.org/uploads/2012/06/25/interview_with_filmmaker-ed.mp3).

QuAIA also delivered an open letter to VQFF staff and Board of Directors, calling on the Festival to support the global movement for BDS against the state of Israel by endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel for future festivals, via the guidelines proposed by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).  The open letter has been endorsed by a number of local anti-racist and Palestinian solidarity organizations, including Trikone (Vancouver), No One Is Illegal (Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories), Salaam (Vancouver), Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (Vancouver), and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (UBC).  International organizations, including Palestinian Queers for BDS, Pink Watching Israel, NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism, have also endorsed the letter.

“VQFF staff have been open so far in allowing us to have space to share our views,” stated Amal Rana.  “They made space for us to read our open letter during the panel discussion after the screening, for which we’re very thankful, and they’ve agreed to stay in dialogue with us around these issues.”

“We chose not to boycott or protest at these film screenings in order to work in partnership with members of our community in the coming months to build dialogue and solidarity regarding this critical issue,” Rana continued.  “The theme for this festival is lovers and fighters, and we’ve come forward on this issue with a deep love for our community and our collective legacy of fighting injustice.”  With the VQFF coming to a close this weekend, Rana emphasized that “this is a queer issue and we’re committed to working with a broad spectrum of people in the community for what may be a long struggle as has been the case in other cities where there are strong BDS campaigns.”

“We urge the VQFF to come out against Israeli apartheid and pinkwashing by supporting the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel,” reiterated Emma Ellison.  ”We’re certainly encouraged by the widespread support we’ve already received from local queer communities for this campaign.”

Media contact: quaia.vancouver@gmail.com

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Open letter submitted by QuAIA Vancouver to VQFF Executive Director, Drew Dennis, Director of Programming, Amber Dawn, and Board of Directors: http://www.boycottisraeliapartheid.org/biac/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/QUAIA-letter-to-VQFF.pdf

If you would like to add your name or community organization to the list of endorsers, please contact: quaia.vancouver@gmail.com

Backgrounder: Israeli Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and Pinkwashing

For over 60 years, the Israeli occupation and expanding apartheid system have denied the Palestinian people their basic human rights. Palestinians in the West Bank live under a brutal military occupation, which takes the form of illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and a system of walls, barriers, and roads accessible solely to Israeli settlers. Palestinians living inside Israel face discriminatory policies; currently there are over 25 laws which specifically target them as non-Jewish and reduce them to second class citizens of Israel. Palestinians in the Diaspora and in UN-administered refugee camps are by default denied their UN-sanctioned right to return to their lands. Finally, over 1.8 million Palestinian in the Gaza Strip are living in an open air prison under an illegal siege, described by many prominent international experts as “slow genocide.”

In 2005, Palestinian civil society organizations called upon people of conscience around the world to engage in boycott, divestment and sanctions – similar to the campaign focusing on apartheid South Africa – to use popular power of economic boycotts, divestment, sanctions advocacy, but also cultural and academic boycott. This call has been taken up by cultural workers and academics around the world, including John Greyson, Barbara Hammer, John Berger, Judith Butler, Alice Walker, Ken Loach, Marilyn Hacker, Adrienne Rich, and Lisa Zuhair Hajaj.

In particular, queer activists have found it necessary and urgent to take up the cultural boycott in light of what has become known as Israel’s “pinkwashing” campaign. Israel has launched an aggressive public relations campaign to market itself as an oasis of liberal tolerance in the Middle East. In particular, Israel is working to brand itself as the only gay-friendly country in an otherwise hostile region. By appealing to the global LGBTQ community to support the Israeli state at the expense of the Palestinian people, Israel is actively engaged in the “pinkwashing” of apartheid and occupation.

For more information:

Palestinian BDS National Committee: http://www.bdsmovement.net/

Palestinian Queers for BDS: http://www.pqbds.com/

Boycott Israeli Apartheid Committee (Vancouver): http://www.boycottisraeliapartheid.org/

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (Toronto): http://queersagainstapartheid.org/

Pinkwatching Israel: http://www.pinkwatchingisrael.com/

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel: http://www.pacbi.org/

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