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Mayim Bialik, Gene Simmons, Neil Patrick Harris Highlight Celebrities’ Letter Against Boycott of Israeli LGBTQ+ Film Festival

“We reject any attempt to boycott TLVFest – Israel’s largest LGBTQ Film Festival – which works to showcase the stories of LGBTQ people globally and create a brighter future for LGBTQ people both inside Israel and around the world,” the letter stated.

Aaron Bandler is a staff writer for the Jewish Journal, mainly covering anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

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Aaron Bandler
Aaron Bandler is a staff writer for the Jewish Journal, mainly covering anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

Multiple Hollywood celebrities signed an open letter published by the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) lambasting efforts to boycott an LGBTQ+ film festival in Tel Aviv.

The letter, which was signed by actors and actresses including Mayim Bialik, Neil Patrick Harris and Mila Kunis and musicians such as Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, states that the Tel Aviv International LGBTQ+ Film Festival (TLVFest) in November reflects the “unity and truth” of how movies bring together “people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds” in Israel and will feature “films from filmmakers of all backgrounds, including Palestinians.”

“We reject any attempt to boycott TLVFest – Israel’s largest LGBTQ Film Festival – which works to showcase the stories of LGBTQ people globally and create a brighter future for LGBTQ people both inside Israel and around the world,” the letter stated. “We stand united with all the participating filmmakers against the divisive rhetoric espoused by boycott activists who seek to misinform, bully and intimidate artists into removing their films from the festival or shame them for participating in the festival. We believe that anyone who works to subvert TLVFest merely adds yet another roadblock to freedom, justice, equality, and peace that we all desperately desire, especially for the LGBTQ community that is persecuted throughout the Middle East and around the world.

“Artists should never be silenced, and art should not be subverted for political goals.”

Writer and comedian Lee Kern, who signed the letter, also posted his own letter on the matter, calling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement a “clown show” perpetuated by “mentally incurious bozos.” “It was set up by those who wish to destroy Israel – which places those who support the BDS movement in the same company as white supremacists and reactionary Islamic fundamentalists such as Hamas and the Taliban,” he wrote. “It is a hate movement – not a justice movement.”

Kern added that singling out Israel “is pure mendacity disguising itself as progressivism. If several children in a classroom misbehave but the teacher only ever punishes the black pupil; that’s racism. It would also call into question how accurately that teacher is interpreting the behavior of the black student. Nothing they have to say about the conflict has any value.”

He also noted that LGBTQ+ Israelis actually do have something of value to say given their experience in Israel. “May the boycotting extremists fail.”

According to The Times of Israel, pro-BDS figures have alleged that the festival is an example of “pinkwashing,” meaning that in their view, Israel is touting its record on gay rights to distract from its treatment of the Palestinians.

Yair Hochner, who heads the festival, issued a statement rejecting accusations of pinkwashing. “The very existence of TLVFest stands against the homophobic, racist and misogynistic parts of the parliament (Knesset) of Israel, and we say that openly and proudly,” he said. “We will also continue to collaborate with queer Palestinian filmmakers who are interested in coexisting peacefully and building a much more tolerant and inclusive Middle East, both for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Hochner added that “the festival will never serve as a diversion from the human rights violations being committed by the state of Israel” and “will always strive to end any apartheid system and military occupation that imprisons children, demolishes homes, and holds people under siege, and to echo aloud the voices of the voiceless and oppressed.”

CCFP Director Ari Ingel said in a statement, “Anti-Israel boycott activists intentionally use inflammatory language and make provocative statements, to try and bully filmmakers into backing out. Their messages intentionally involve an element of dishonesty and misinformation that only furthers hostility and dampens hope for peace, which all of us so urgently desire.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt thanked CCFP for the letter in a tweet. “#BDS serves no one, but authentic stories — Israeli & Palestinian — can lift up the #LGBTQ experience and bring all of us closer together.”

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