John Greyson Boycotts Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival

2009 Tel Aviv International LGBT film festival

In, Cnaan Liphshiz discusses the reactions to Toronto-based filmmaker John Greyson's refusal to attend the 2009 Tel Aviv International LGBT film festival, which runs June 23-27. Below are a couple of brief quotes from Liphshiz's piece:

“'What Greyson has done is an act of violence both against Israeli gays as well as [gay] Palestinians, for whom this festival is a rare ray of light,' said Yair Hochner, the festival's Israeli-born organizer and an internationally-acclaimed director. Greyson told Anglo File this week: 'With ongoing violations by Israel of Palestinian human rights and given the specific content of my film, screening it in Israel would be hypocrisy.' The film, Fig Trees, deals with a Canadian AIDS patient's refusal to take drugs until they were made available in South Africa.”

“In his letter, Greyson, 49, cited the 'cultural boycott' that 'worked in South Africa's case, and led directly to sweeping changes.' He wrote to Hochner: 'I yearn for [the time] when we can together attend screenings - in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah.'

“Noting Hamas' popularity in the West Bank and Gaza, Hochner replied to Greyson: 'I hope so, but your dream is very far away,' adding, 'Like the terrorists and like the Israeli army, you have decided to blow up a bridge instead of building one.'”


Fucking Different Tel Aviv
Fucking Different Tel Aviv opened the 2008 edition of the Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival

In his article, Liphshiz states that homosexuality is a crime in the Palestinian territories, with sodomy carrying a ten-year jail term. I haven't heard of any cultural boycott against any country in which their gay population suffers ongoing violations of their human rights. Perhaps because that would encompass most of the world – including Israel.

Here are a few quotes from the Tel Aviv LGBT festival's About page:

“The second festival was bigger and took place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on June 13-18, 2007. We had larger theaters this time (120 and 370 seats) and received a 20,000 NIS support from the Tel Aviv city hall. Despite the small budget and the fact that other festivals receive financial support between 100,000 and 500,000 NIS, we were able to create a well rounded and respected program which included a retrospective of acclaimed director Bruce LaBruce, a concert with actor/musician Jay Brannan (Shortbus) and other distinguished guests from Germany and Canada.”

“Most every democracy currently has a LGBT film festival; it should be inconceivable for Israel not to enjoy the basic freedom to exhibit queer films. However the above described political climate directly affects our opportunities in gaining local financial support. We have repeatedly come up against obvious cases of homophobia in our search for media partners. Fashion companies, beverage, travel, beauty and their likes are reluctant to cooperate with us in fear of a boycott by religious groups.

“With your support we hope to make the festival one of the most talked about cultural events of the year. An event that will send a clear message to the Tel Aviv city hall, the ministry of culture and all business and their partners, that they should support and invest in us and stop succumbing to religious and right wing terror.

“Despite a free and liberal vibe in Tel Aviv, the LGBT community has to constantly face vicious campaigns by members of the Knesset that throw preposterous accusations our way, that we cause earthquakes and should be treated in the same way they deal with bird flu, that LGBT internet sites of news, entertainment and dating are pornographic and should be censored and prohibited.”

That's why – misguided cultural boycotts or no – it's crucial to support such film festivals everywhere

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