Free trip to Israel proves Hollywood supports colonization, apartheid
More than 20 Academy Award attendees—25 directing and acting nominees and host Chris Rock—will receive a VIP goodie bag that includes a free 10-day trip to Israel sponsored by the Israeli Tourism Ministry.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has come under increased media scrutiny it nominated only white actors for the second year in a row, sparking a return of last year’s social media hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite”. Now people on social media are tweeting the hashtag “#OscarsSoZionist” because of the Israeli propaganda being issued in goodie bags.
While the Daily Beast initially reported that the trip is worth $55,000, Tourism Ministry spokesperson Lydia Weitzman told Times of Israelthat the price tag for the accommodations is between $15,000 and $18,000. According to Weitzman, the idea was originally proposed by the owners of ExploreIsrael.com, whom Times of Israel describes as “an ultra-Orthodox pair of tour operators from Brooklyn.”
Weitzman explained that the ministry “embraced” the proposal and similar packages as opportunities to repair the damage Israel’s policies towards Palestinians have done to its image abroad.
“The ministry invests serious money for top VIP treatment for celebrities because there is very favorable publicity that comes from that…in these days of social media and Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, it can reach millions and millions of followers. It’s a very powerful marketing tool,” Weitzman said.
Marketing Israel has become a more urgent priority in recent years, particularly as the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has picked up steam worldwide. The boycott part of the campaign tries to isolate Israel in cultural and economic spheres by discouraging, among other things, travel to Israel. According to Mondoweiss, BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti called on Oscar nominees to “take the moral path of rejecting this free propaganda gift.”
The gift package, which also includes a laser skin-tightening procedure and a vaporizer, was put together by the marketing firm Distinctive Assets, though it is not clear whether the firm was aware of the political controversy around government-subsidized travel to Israel. Distinctive Assets did not respond to PiA’s request for comment.
Despite the shift in opinion among Democrats, “liberal Hollywood” has maintained its support for Israel. Most notably, during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, a letter defending Israel’s actions was published under the banner of the “Creative Community for Peace.” It was signed by Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, 2016 Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein.