Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), a San Francisco Bay Area solidarity group, is calling on international Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer filmmakers not to participate in the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival this June. QUIT!’s call for filmmakers to respect the cultural boycott of Israel initiated by more than 100 organizations of Palestinian civil society. The call has been joined by members of South West Asian and North African Bay Area Queers (SWANABAQ) and a founder of Trikone, the largest South Asian LGBT organization in the world.
One filmmaker has already notified festival organizers of his decision not to participate. Maher Sabry, director of the Egyptian film Toul Omry (All My Life), wrote: “It would be hypocrisy of me to call for boycotting the Egyptian government for mistreating gay men and not to call for boycotting Israel for the mass punishment of innocent Palestinian civilians for assault by few militants.” Sabry added, “One day, I dream to screen Toul Omry in the Holy Land, when it becomes a place of peace, when Jews, Christians, Muslims and others can live as equal with same rights, when there are no refugee camps, no religious or ethnic discrimination, no land-confiscation, tree-burning or house-demolition, no bloodshed and mass punishment, no injustice, no militants and no military aggression.”
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. International signatories include filmmakers Sophie Fiennes, Ken Loach, Haim Bresheeth and Jenny Morgan, writers John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Amiri Baraka, Naomi Klein and Eduardo Galeano, and musicians Brian Eno and Leon Rosselson.
In a letter to British director Shamim Sarif, whose film I Can’t Think Straight has already been accepted by the Tel Aviv festival, QUIT! stated, “As queer people, we know that mainstream media and organizations don’t tell the full story of our lives, and frequently present outright lies that once accepted become difficult to refute. One example of this practice is the conscious public relations campaign presenting Israel as the ‘only democracy in the Middle East,’ and specifically representing it as a haven for LGBT people … LGBT Palestinians living in the occupied territories, like straight Palestinians, are denied their basic human rights.”
Tinku Ishtiaq, a founder of Trikone and previous co-chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission also wrote to Sharif: “Just as the international boycotts against South Africa during its apartheid era were helpful in finally bringing about the downfall of Apartheid it is hoped that similar boycotts against Israel would bring about the change that is necessary for Palestinians to survive … I believe that our rights should not supersede the rights of other oppressed groups. Your participation in the Tel Aviv film festival would be particularly sad for gay human rights activists who are struggling for Palestinian rights.”
QUIT! and its allies are asking international filmmakers to write to festival organizers notifying them that they will not submit their films or accept invitations to participate until Israel meets its obligations under international law. Israel is currently in violation of more than 80 United Nations resolutions, including Resolution 242, which affirms the right for the refugees to return home.
“Israeli queers are oppressed for their sexuality and gender identity, just as queers in every other country are,” said QUIT member Kate Raphael. “For the last several years their pride parades have been violently attacked by religious Jews. LGBT organizers in Israel should support the Palestinian boycott, which will lead to a more just society for everyone in the area. They should not ask international queers to break the boycott to participate in their event.”
QUIT! is a grassroots nonviolent direct action group based in San Francisco that has been active against war and occupation since early 2001.