Israel’s Oscar swag bag: Give to Palestinian refugees say film and music stars

February 18, 2016 Film/TV , MUSIC/FILM/TV , OPINION/NEWS


Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) on Wednesday called on actors and directors on this year’s Oscars shortlist to: ‘Give your Israeli swag bag to a Palestinian refugee!’


Mike Leigh, film director and five-times Oscar nominee said: “A five-star trip to the land of their parents and grandparents is just what exhausted Palestinians from the refugee camps could do with. I think the world would be happy to see Israeli government money used for once to make reparations to Palestinians — and I hope the stars will agree.”

Ken Loach, BAFTA nominee and Palme d’Or winner said: “Just think what $55,000 could do for Palestinians whose homes have been destroyed and their lands stolen. Let’s hope that film people can see through this crude propaganda.”

Brian Eno, musician and composer suggested an alternative swag bag offering: “Visit Palestine! Enjoy a tear-gas filled weekend in an East Jerusalem ghetto!”


Already mired in controversy over the lack of non-white nominees for this year’s ceremony, the Oscars goody-bag is now being used to whitewash Israeli apartheid.

The so-called ‘swag bag’ for top actor and director nominees, put together by Los Angeles firm Distinctive Assets, includes a five-star Israeli government funded luxury trip to Israel worth $55,000 for every nominee in the main acting and directing categories. The swag bag also includes a ‘Vampire’ breast lift, a 15-day walking tour of Japan, a year’s free rental of an Audi, a lifetime supply of Lizora skin creams, and a sex toy (female nominees only).

The US Campaign to end the Israeli Occupation launched a petition calling on the Oscar nominees and host, “As people of conscience committed to justice and equality for all, we urge you to reject the propaganda trips that the Israeli government is offering as part of the Academy’s gift bag.”

In a move welcomed by Palestinians, the whole tawdry package has been called into question by the Academy, which awards the coveted Oscar statuettes, filing a suit against Distinctive Assets.

“Last year, the Academy attempted to address Distinctive Assets’ false and infringing representation without litigation. We had no choice but to file a lawsuit,” an Academy spokesperson was reported as saying in Variety magazine.

Variety said, “one of this year’s items, a luxury trip to Israel funded by that company’s government, has come under fire from Artists for Palestine UK, with the organization imploring attendees to ‘give your bag to a Palestinian refugee!'”



An APUK press release explained:

Any Oscar nominee taking up the offer will find themselves working as an unpaid stooge in an extended 10-day photo opportunity on behalf of a government that breaks international law, violates human rights and has been credibly accused of war crimes.

Oscar nominees Mark Rylance and Asif Kapadia have already promised not to visit Israel professionally. They are among more than 1000 UK artists and performers who have signed the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, launched in February 2015.

Rather than whitewash Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians, APUK is appealing to the stars and directors on the Academy Awards shortlist to donate Israel’s holiday vouchers to Palestinian refugees, who are denied the right to return to their country.

More than 750,000 Palestinians were systematically ethnically cleansed and made refugees during the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Israel has denied their UN-stipulated right to return to their homes of origin for nearly seven decades.

Musician, composer and pledge signatory Brian Eno proposed an alternative holiday scenario, invoking the realities of life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation:


Visit Palestine!


Enjoy a tear-gas filled weekend in an East Jerusalem ghetto!

Watch a baby being born in the back of a taxi as checkpoint guards look on!

Queue for hours in the baking sun! Be pushed around by angry soldiers!

Lots of fun activities for the kiddies too, including a fabulous no-expense-spared ALL-NIGHT SHIN BET INTERROGATION SESSION!

And take home the wonderful ‘Occupied Territories Swagbag’ containing a handy first aid kit for settler-inflicted beatings; a lovingly crafted section of an uprooted olive tree; and a genuine souvenir rubber bullet.

We’ll make it a Holiday you’ll never forget!!!


Brian Eno


The Israeli component in the planned 2016 swagbag is a propaganda effort that the Israeli government has not attempted to disguise.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin was quite clear about their intention: “These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting here in Israel.”

The Palestinian Performing Arts Network (PPAN), organisations and individuals that represent the majority of the Palestinian cultural sector, called on Oscar nominees to reject the trip sponsored by the Israeli government.

PPAN’s members include The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Ramallah and Gaza and The Freedom Theatre, Jenin refugee camp.

The Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) also called on Oscar nominees to reject the Israeli propaganda trip.



The full list of signatories to the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine is here:






Artists for Palestine UK is a growing network of artists, cultural workers and activists who want to make a stand in support of justice and equality for the Palestinians. APUK believes that Israel’s campaign to exploit culture as a diplomatic weapon, the ‘Brand Israel’ strategy, requires an urgent riposte from artists of conscience.  We set out the arguments for an appropriate ethical and political response in our booklet, The Case for a Cultural Boycott of Israel.


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