LOS ANGELES — On Friday, Variety Magazine rejected a proposed advertisement encouraging top Oscar nominees to reject a $55,000 trip to Israel offered to them by the Israeli government.
Despite the setback, activists in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement say they’ll keep encouraging Hollywood to join their cultural and artistic boycott of Israel.
Naomi Dann, media coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace, told MintPress News that the BDS movement wants to send a positive message to Hollywood’s finest. “We don’t want to demonize them but want them to join our movement for human rights,” she said.
JVP and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation had reserved a Tuesday slot for their advertisement, which urged celebrities to “#SkipTheTrip: Don’t endorse Israeli apartheid.”
But last week, after the groups had already raised the necessary funds to pay for the advertisement and sent the magazine their money, Variety abruptly refused to accept their business. Representatives of the publication also refused attempts to negotiate, according to a press release issued by both organizations:
“After inquiring about specific edits that could be made, Variety’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Patrice Atiee elaborated that: ‘The topic is too sensitive at this time and we will not be in a position to add it to next week’s edition.’ According to Atiee, the ad was run by the senior team at the company (legal, operations, editorial) and the decision was made by publisher Michelle Sobrino.”
While the human rights of Palestinians may have been deemed “too sensitive” a topic for Variety, the magazine published a Dec. 15, 2011 advertisement sponsored by Emergency Committee for Israel, which attacked the Obama administration for its perceived lack of support for Israel.
“They are essentially censoring the other side of the debate. As a publication that I’m sure would claim to prize free speech, we find this highly disturbing,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, in the release.
The Israel trip, which is sponsored by Israeli tourism officials, is part of a luxury “gift bag” that also includes free plastic surgery and car rentals. On Feb. 19, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences filed suit against Distinctive Assets, the creators of the bags, for misrepresenting them as official Oscars products. The move won the praise of Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), one of the major organizers of the BDS movement.
“By distancing itself from the company marketing Israel’s propaganda trip to Oscar nominees, the Academy is taking a step in the right direction,” Barghouti said, while noting:
“The Academy needs to do much more, clearly, to address the serious charges of bias and racism raised by the #OscarsSoWhite campaign as well as Palestinian human rights campaigners, among many others.”
Dann agreed with Barghouti’s comparison of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, which criticizes the lack of black representation at the Oscars and in Hollywood, in general, with the struggle for Palestinian liberation. “It is a racial justice issue,” she told MintPress.
Ramah Kudaimi, membership and outreach coordinator at the U.S. Campaign to End The Israeli Occupation, told MintPress she was “surprised at how open Israel is about these bags and the reason for the trips.”
“Their visit will have enormous resonance among millions of fans,” Yariv Levin, Israel’s tourism minister, told Haaretz and The Associated Press on Feb. 10.
Kudaimi elaborated on the trips’ intended effect on world opinion, which she said was part of “Brand Israel,” a deliberate campaign to improve the nation’s image in the face of mounting international criticism and condemnation.
“They want to counter the idea that Israel is becoming isolated in the world, that BDS is actually succeeding,” she said.
Kudaimi explained: “If they bring a celebrity over, and the celebrity comes and sees nothing of the reality of occupation, it’s intended to make it seem like Israel is not a pariah state and that things are actually normal.”
Both JVP and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation are investigating other possible ways to get the message out, including alternate publications for their advertisement.
“The whole point of BDS campaigns is to delegitimize Israel’s policies,” Kudaimi said. “As long as occupation and apartheid exist, there cannot be business as usual.”
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