Of the 25 leading candidates to win an Academy Award last year, none chose to exercise the offer by the Ministry of Tourism to enjoy a free upscale vacation in Israel.
According to the company that gives the special gift bags to Oscar nominees, the only Hollywood star to make any use of the Israeli gift card was Jennifer Lawrence, who gave it to her parents.
Some, like British actor Mark Rylance, star of the movie “Bridge of Spies,” openly rejected the Israeli offer.
With the 2017 Oscars just around the corner, pro-Palestinian groups told AFP that the failure of the Israeli gift card last year was due to their pressure on Hollywood stars to boycott the Jewish state. The Oscar gift bags contain about $200,000 worth of gifts. Valued at $55,000, the Israeli officer of first class airfare, 5-star accommodations and culinary experiences for two is one of the more expensive offerings.
Pro-Palestinian activists have accused Israel of using the expensive gifts to trick Hollywood stars into photo-ops that would benefit the Jewish state. They have urged the celebrities to shun Israel, just as they refused to visit apartheid South Africa in the 1980s.
Among the groups pressuring celebrities to NOT visit Israel are liberal Jewish organizations like “Jews for Peace,” which warned Hollywood stars that by visiting Israel they would be identifying with the “occupation of Palestine.”
That seems to have been enough to scare off every single one of last year’s top Oscar nominees. We’ll wait and see if the pressure works again this year.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism said that while the 25 Oscar nominees didn’t visit, a great many other Hollywood stars did come to Israel over the past year, and returned home as newly-minted goodwill ambassadors for the Jewish state.
PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen with movie star Keanu Reeves at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (not seen), featuring Hollywood movie stars and other film industry personalities. March 06, 2014. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO/FLASH90