Protest planned for LGBTQ film festival over Israeli backing

Pro-Palestinian activists in the Bay Area will protest in June at Frameline40, San Francisco’s LGBTQ international film festival, because organizers will continue to accept financial support from foreign governments — including Israel.

“We will be protesting at the festival this summer, though I can’t say yet in what form,” said Kate Jessica Raphael, an organizer with Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), a group that says it serves as “an openly queer voice in the movement for justice in Palestine.”

Kate Jessica Raphael

For nine years, QUIT has called on Frameline officials to decline funding from the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, based in San Francisco.

“There is a call-out from Palestinian civilian society, including every LGBT organization, to respect the cultural and economic boycott of all Israeli institutions until Israel complies with its obligations under international law,” Raphael said. “We would like to see our queer institutions heed that request.”

Festival organizers declined to comment, referring a reporter to a March 24 statement on the Frameline website:

“Frameline has reflected and listened to the concerns and differing viewpoints in the community in relation to consulate support, especially from the Consulate of Israel. … As the global leader in LGBTQ media arts, we stand by our original decision to continue to support all filmmakers, regardless of their country of origin, and will continue to partner with consulates, as needed, to fund film exhibition and filmmaker travel.”

The statement added that Frameline has a long history of working with cultural organizations and consulates, including the French and Swiss consulates and the Goethe-Institut, which is headquartered in Munich with an office in San Francisco.

“Frameline doesn’t need the money,” Raphael said. “They can bring in filmmakers without the involvement of foreign governments, and that’s what we are asking them to do. How can you say you want to support LGBT people around the world if you won’t pay attention to what they say? This is what Palestinian queers have asked us to do. It’s a human rights issue.”

The Frameline statement said the group wanted to avoid “becoming a proxy in a divisive political issue with many viewpoints but little consensus within the greater LGBTQ community.”

Some members of that community took part in a protest April 21 at the Roxie theater in San Francisco, where Frameline held a free screening of “Alex & Ali,” which won the Frameline Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary last year. The screening was co-sponsored by the San Francisco LGBT Center and the LGBT refugee resettlement program of Jewish Family & Community Services of the East Bay.

“We had a small protest outside to let people know about Frameline’s announcement that they would continue to partner with an apartheid government,” Raphael said. “We made it clear that we were not protesting the filmmaker or the specific film, which I’m sure is excellent.” She added that QUIT has not tried to dictate which films are shown or which speakers take part in the film festival.

The Israeli Consulate released a statement saying: “Over the past decade, Israeli cinema has made significant advancements in the quality and diversity of films, making a mark on the San Francisco film scene, screening at international film festivals and receiving accolades.’’

Frameline’s lineup for the June 16-26 festival won’t be released until May 23, so it remains unclear whether any Israeli films will be shown or Israeli filmmakers will be present. A spokeswoman at Frameline declined to comment on the schedule.

Patricia Corrigan

Patricia Corrigan is a longtime newspaper reporter, book author and freelance writer based in San Francisco.