Last year, when Sushant Singh Rajput and Jacqueline Fernandez went to Israel for their upcoming flick ‘Drive’, their shoots were partly funded by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the foreign and tourism ministries. Now, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara are visiting India on 14th January for a four-day tour, a part of their busy schedule is an event ‘Shalom Bollywood’ or “Salute Bollywood” to be held on 18th January where he would meet the film industry’s leading personalities. Netanyahu will speak at a mega-cultural gathering which is expected to be attended by top Bollywood actors, directors and producers. There, he is expected to pitch Israel as an ideal destination for film shoots.
This isn’t just an event for Netanyahu to interact with Bollywood but it is also an effort to counter the “cultural boycott” Israel is facing in the global entertainment business. Israel’s global isolation traces its roots to the BDS movement or Boycott Divestment and Sanctions — a Palestinian-led global movement to mount international economic pressure on Israel. BDS hopes to isolate Israel via boycotts, divestments from Israeli companies, and sanctions. The movement also demands the official exclusion of Israel from international organizations — from the UN to the world football body FIFA; and calls for a boycott aimed to stop people buying products from Israel. In 2005, a total of 170 Palestinian civil society groups joined the BDS movement. But BDS is not only based in the Palestinian territory but has its offshoots elsewhere too.
Israel has now stepped up its efforts against the BDS and what better than the Bollywood! The tourist spur from the Indian sub-continent in Switzerland due to Yash Chopra flicks and in Spain due to Hrithik Roshan starrer ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ is not a hidden fact. Israel is looking up to Bollywood to fight the global BDS movement. Deputy Diplomacy Minister of Israel, Michael Oren also visited Mumbai last year to invite Bollywood film-makers to shoot in Israel. After his visit, he took to Twitter to write, “In Mumbai inviting Bollywood to Israel. Meeting producers from India’s massive film industry. The goal: create Israeli jobs and fight BDS.”
Notably, Israel’s concerted efforts to woo Hollywood have failed in the past. Last year, many high- profile Oscar nominees including actors Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Sylvester Stallone and Kate Winslet were awarded free Israel tour packages, worth thousands of dollars but it saw only a few takers.