It’s Mission Bollywood for Palestine group

BDS, a rights group wants to reach out to one of the largest film industries in the world

Published - March 25, 2018 10:50 pm IST - Mumbai

 Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Hindi film industry celebrities. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@netanyahu

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Hindi film industry celebrities. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@netanyahu

Bollywood has a new role thrust on it, that of being a playground for global geopolitics.

Just a couple of months back, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s selfie with the Hindi film stars at the Shalom Bollywood event in Mumbai went viral.

Now it is the turn of BDS (Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions), a Palestine-led movement for freedom, justice and equality, to reach out to one of the largest film industries in the world.

Quiet engagement

However, unlike the Israeli charm offensive that promised Bollywood sops for shooting in Israel, the BDS’s counter-offensive was relatively low-key, with three members of the Palestinian National Committee for BDS — General Coordinator Mahmoud Nawaja’a, International Secretariat Member Maren Mantovani and South Asia Coordinator Apoorva Gautam — arriving in Mumbai last week to quietly engage select members of the film fraternity and sensitise them about the Palestinian cause.

Bollywood was part of a larger agenda of BDS — of meeting individuals and civil society groups across various Indian cities and speaking at public events, as part of the Israeli Apartheid Week.

Now in its 14th edition (and the first in India), this annual global series of events usually takes place in February and March in some 200 cities across the globe, exposing Israeli apartheid, colonialism and occupation and promoting the BDS movement as a non-violent and concrete way for people of conscience to take action for peace, justice and human rights.

According to the group, Israel wants to use Hindi films as a tool and a cover for the human rights abuse.

“This in-your-face attempt to use Indian art to promote the political agenda of the Israeli occupation is an insult to the integrity and self-respect of every Indian artist,” says a BDS statement to the industry.

“At this stage, buying into Israeli propaganda is deeply hurtful. Using culture to whitewash its crimes is Israel’s old strategy which furthers its violations against Palestinians.

“Bollywood becoming a tool for the same is completely going against India’s long standing support for Palestine. And it is very important that Bollywood refuses to be this tool for Israeli propaganda,” said Ms. Mantovani.

After decades of non-alignment and pro-Arab policy, India formally established relations with Israel in 1992 and the ties between the two have peaked after Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014.

Mr. Nawaja, speaking at a conference in Kolkata on Saturday, urged Bollywood actors to “stop being complicit” with Mr. Netanyahu.

Fan base

He said that Bollywood movies have a large audience among Palestinians and the Arab countries. “A large number of people in Palestine and Arab countries have grown up watching movies of Amitabh Bachchan. ” said Mr. Nawaja.

Pointing out that there are 15 satellite channels in the Arab countries dedicated to Bollywood movies, Mr. Nawaja said that due to the widely publicised selfie people in Palestine and Arab countries may consider boycotting Bollywood movies.

( With Soumya Das)

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