25 of Hollywood’s finest actors and directors are being courted by Israel with a $55,000 gift pack to help promote the country as a tourism hub. But Israel’s campaign is being dealt a blow by a pro-Palestinian campaign group.
There’s another controversy brewing ahead of the 88th Academy awards which comes off this weekend.
At the centre of it – the Israeli government, some Oscar nominees and a pro-Palestinian campaign group.
The Israeli Tourism ministry and a private firm came up with an idea to promote Israel as a preferred tourist hub using celebrities.
So here’s what they did.
They’re making available a $55,000 tour package for the five Oscar-nominated directors and the 20 lead and supporting actor and actress nominees, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Sylvester Stallone, Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence as well as the Oscars host, Chris Rock.
But two US-based groups are kicking against the offer.
The groups campaigning for the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories have bought a full page advert in the Los Angeles Times urging the celebrities to skip the trip.
“There is a serious objection to accepting such a trip and in fact they are playing a very significant role for the Israeli government. They are really trying to sell a fairy tale to the people,” said Yousef Munayyer, a member of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
The groups have also started a social media campaign #SkipTheTrip which featured prominently in their press ad.
“#SkipTheTrip. Don’t endorse Israeli apartheid,” said the ad, sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Jewish Voice for Peace.
Munayyer further argues that accepting the tour package will give the Israeli authorities bragging rights “to prove if you will see movie stars here and famous athlete there. You will see the big names from all around the world coming to Israel. Because we are part of the international community.”
But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may be absolved from this new controversy as it is not responsible for the swag bags.
In fact, the Academy last week filed a law suit against Los Angeles-based Distinctive Assets, accusing the group of promoting the bag as official Oscars swag.
But the #SkipTheTrip campaigners insist Hollywood needs to understand the importance of their actions.
“This is coming at a moment when there is a real question about the role of the motion picture industry when it comes to social responsibility. We think it’s important at this time that they think about the issue of Palestine as well and not take the bait and not take the trip to act as apartheid lackeys in this casting call by the Israeli government” Munayyer said.
The Israeli government earlier this month confirmed it was funding up to $18,000 each of the 10-day trip.
It is not immediately clear if any of the nominated directors or actors or actresses will take up the offer.