Oscar nominees urged to skip Israel swag bag trip

Wed Feb 24, 2016 1:26pm EST
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated celebrities were urged on Wednesday to skip a $55,000 trip to Israel offered as part of an awards gift bag.

Two U.S.-based groups campaigning for an end to Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territories made the plea in a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times that appeared five days before the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday.

"#SkipTheTrip. Don't endorse Israeli apartheid," said the ad, sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Jewish Voice for Peace.

The ad said the trip, which is partially paid for by the Israeli government, was part of a larger "'Brand Israel' strategy to distract from almost 50 years of illegal occupation of Palestinian land."

"As was the case many years ago in South Africa, celebrities are being asked to refrain from whitewashing apartheid policies," Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The trip is one of the most expensive items in a swag bag handed out to the five Oscar-nominated directors and 20 lead and supporting actor and actress nominees, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Matt Damon and Kate Winslet.

The gift bag is not affiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Oscars.

The Academy last week filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles-based Distinctive Assets accusing the gifting group of promoting the bag as official Oscars swag.

The Israeli government earlier this month confirmed it was funding $15,000 to $18,000 of each 10-day trip as a means of offsetting news coverage of the country's troubles.   Continued...

 
An Oscar statue is seen during a reception for Oscar-nominated short films ahead of the upcoming 88th Academy Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok