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Oscar winners spurn Israel's all-expenses paid luxury tour offer

Wednesday February 22, 2017 1:04 PM, & Agencies

Osacar 2016

Occupied Jerusalem:
A year ago, Israel offered Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and other Hollywood stars all-expenses paid luxury trips, but it seems they have chosen to miss their cues.

Campaigners are claiming victory as it appears none of the 26 Oscars stars offered a free personalised tour valued at up to $55,000 has visited, according to AFP.

The offer, part of gift bags given out by a marketing firm around the time of the 2016 Oscars each worth an estimated $200,000 and including other items such as ultra-expensive toilet paper, sparked a backlash.

Campaign groups accused Israel of trying to use the celebrities to gain positive coverage and downplay alleged abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.

A few days ahead of the 2017 ceremony on February 26, it appears none of the nominees has visited themselves.

"This is a success," said Yousef Munayyer of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which ran the campaign against the visits along with American organisation Jewish Voice for Peace.

"I am very glad there's no evidence that people went. I think it is clear the objective of using the actors to whitewash Israel has failed."

Given several days notice, Israel's tourism ministry declined to comment or confirm which celebrities had taken up the offer.

Israeli officials said they were seeking to show the real Israel at a time of conflict.

"Every celebrity that is coming to visit us can put online a selfie somewhere and the value is huge," tourism ministry director general Amir Halevi told AFP at the time.

But US-based campaigners placed adverts in the Los Angeles Times and urged the actors to #skipthetrip on social media.

Campaigners then monitored traditional and social media to see if any of the celebrities made public trips.

"So far we have not seen any," Munayyer said.

Boycotting Israel by celebrities is a growing phenomenon worldwide. In 2013, British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking decided to withdraw from an Israeli conference in Jerusalem as part of an academic boycott to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Performer Stevie Wonder decided not to perform as a gala benefit for Friends of the Israel Defence Forces' in Los Angeles last December.

In 2010, Hollywood actress Meg Ryan cancelled plans to attend the Jerusalem film festival after an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla left nine dead earlier that year.

British-based director Ken Loach pulled his film Looking for Eric out of the Melbourne International Film festival in 2009 after organized refused to reject Israeli government sponsorship.


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