Bollywood celebrities are being called out by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to cancel their attendance and performance at a festival taking place in Israel.
The Indo Fest TLV festival hosted by India-based event organisers Universal Events in association with Research Media Group, will start tomorrow in Tel Aviv and end on Thursday.
Some of the biggest names in Bollywood are set to perform including Anil Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, and Ameesha Patel.
The idea behind the show, says Universal Event’s Director Moses Kurma, is to foster relationships between the two communities, adding: “It will be the first of many.”
These events are part of the “Brand Israel” project, a campaign to “re-brand” the country’s image to appear “relevant and modern” instead of militaristic and religious.
BDS, which seeks to financially pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories and allowing full equality for its Arab-Palestinian citizens, states the campaign works hard to exploit the Indian film industry to whitewash, or art-wash its violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
Last year, senior figures from India’s film industry, including Amitabh Bachchan and former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai faced major backlash after attending and participating in an Oscar-style selfie during an outreach event titled “Shalom Bollywood”, which took place during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s six-day state visit to India.
At the end of the event Netanyahu said: “We want Bollywood in Israel. We are putting our money where our mouth is.”
Israel and India have observed a warming in relations under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, having reached an arms deal worth $630 million last year.
He became the country’s first Indian prime minister to visit Israel and was hailed a “revolutionary leader” by Netanyahu.
India was the largest purchaser of Israeli arms in 2017 with $715 million spent on Israeli air defence, radar systems, and ammunition, including air-to-ground missiles – most tested during Israel’s military offensives against Palestinians and targets in Syria.
Apoorva Gautam, who heads the pro-Palestine BDS movement in South Asia, said Israel’s appeal to Bollywood is a symptom of a bigger “ideological shift” in the country since the election of Modi in 2014.
Progressive figures in media and film industries have previously condemned Bollywood for its embrace of the right-wing prime minister and his government, reminding them of his government’s abuses.