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Pink-sponge protesters take aim at Israeli documentary

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Protesters interrupted the introduction of an Israeli documentary about gay Palestinians, with the film’s director then making an impassioned plea on behalf of the Jewish state.

The incident occurred June 23 at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater before the screening of “The Invisible Men,” which explores the plight of gay Palestinian men who seek refuge illegally in Israel. The screening was part of Frameline36, the Bay Area’s annual LGBT film festival, which ran June 14-24.

Just before the screening, K.C. Price, the festival’s executive director, went to the front of the theater to introduce the film and its director, Yariz Mozer. As if on cue, a dozen protesters sitting in the front row rose to vocally condemn the festival for showing a film funded by the Israeli government.

A scene from “The Invisible Men,” which screened  in San Francisco on June 23   photo/shahar reznik
A scene from “The Invisible Men,” which screened in San Francisco on June 23 photo/shahar reznik
The screening was co-sponsored by the LGBT Alliance of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the consulate general of Israel for the Pacific Northwest. The 69-minute film won a juried award as the festival’s outstanding documentary.

The protesters’ thinking, said Arthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge, a Jewish LGBT organization based in San Francisco, is that “any involvement of the Israeli government is traif. It doesn’t make a difference what the movie is about or what the director has to say.  Any organization that accepts funding from the Israeli government is a target. It’s theater of the absurd.”

Slepian, who was in attendance, said the protesters shouted and handed out pink sponges, symbolic of “pinkwashing” (a strategy that critics say Israel uses to play up its positive track record on LGBT rights and other progressive issues in order to distract attention from its conflict with Palestinians). After five minutes of making their message known, most of the protesters left the theater without seeing the film.

Price then introduced Mozer, who spoke to the capacity crowd.

Recalled Slepian: “When [Mozer] tried to say something counter to the protest, someone in the audience spoke up and said, ‘That wasn’t aimed at you.’ He very forcefully replied ‘Yes it was. My film was partially funded by the Israeli government, my visit here was funded by the Israeli government. I am a leftist and I oppose many of the policies of my government, but I am proud to be an Israeli, and calls for boycott are wrong.’ ”

Price told j. this was not the first time Frameline has been targeted by anti-Israel groups. “In the past two years, the protests were more staged outside the Castro Theatre on opening night,” he said.

Price added that to the best of his knowledge, Frameline protesters have never spoken out against any other country besides Israel.

Slepian said Price and other festival officials handled the incident well.

“Nobody tried to cut the protesters off, nobody asked them to leave,” he said. “Both the movie and the director got much louder rounds of applause. It says something positive about Israel that they are willing to send over a film and a director that highlights this important issue — [a film] that is in many ways critical of Israel.”

The film is about three gay men who, threatened with violence and perhaps even death in their own society, flee the Palestinian territories for Tel Aviv. But while Tel Aviv is considered LGBT friendly, it presents the gay Palestinians a whole new set of challenges in terms of getting by and living legally.


Posted by Dan Spitzer
06/29/2012  at  12:42 AM
The Protesters Reflect the Palestinian Suppression of...

freedom of expression. Just as JVP attempted to keep Netanyahu from speaking and the Muslim Student Union shouted down the Israeli Ambassador. Apparently, the pro-Palestinian minion feels a need to ape the repression so manifest in Arab society in general and in the Palestinian territories in particular.

As for the gays protesting the Israeli film, it would be interesting to see if they had the chutzpah to kiss and caress openly in the West Bank or Gaza. Surely, if they did they would merit that which they would receive…

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Posted by Jack Kessler
06/29/2012  at  10:13 AM

A group of Castro Street gays and Israeli Jews are captured by Palestinians who are going to kill all of them.  Before the shooting begins there is a disturbance among the gays.  They are protesting against the Israelis and in support of the Palestinians who are about to shoot them.

THAT is how stupid the gay BDS movement is.  Confronted with people who would kill them and the Jews, they protest instead against their fellow victims rather than against those who would kill them if they could.

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Posted by Gabriel
07/02/2012  at  05:06 PM
The Real Protest

The filmmmaker, Yariv, was far more effective in protest than the Pink Spongers. He documented his own and others’ civil disobedience, and yet did such a good job that, without compromising his principles, he forced the government to support the film and its dissemination.

Anyone watching the film got to see what life was like for these gay Palestinians, for Louie, who had lived in Israel so long that his Arabic was peppered with Hebrew, for Abdu whose need for an Arab identity forced him to become a gay activist in Europe, and for the Ramallah-based man (whose name I forget) who seemed least in control of his life.  The film did a wonderful job of following these men through their journeys back and forth from the Territories to Tel Aviv until they got that letter assuring them of asylum in Europe.

Of course, the Pink Sponge people didn’t even want to know what happened to the three gay Palestinians - they walked out of the movie!  Their ideology trumped any humanitarian feelings they might have been born with.  Feh.

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