The Times of Israel offers some more details on the oscar swag bag. Twenty-six nominees will be receiving them and the trips were the idea of “an ultra-Orthodox pair of tour operators from Brooklyn” with help from the Israeli Tourism Ministry:
Twenty-six Oscar notables — the five nominees for best director, as well and the four nominees each for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor and best supporting actress, plus Chris Rock, this year’s master of ceremonies at the Academy Awards — will receive a free VIP trip for two to Israel, courtesy of the Tourism Ministry and ExploreIsrael.com, owned by an ultra-Orthodox pair of tour operators from Brooklyn.
“It was their idea,” said a ministry spokesperson of the Oscar giveaway.
The ministry “embraced” the idea, she said, and it is the ministry that will pay for all of the land arrangements for the VIP travelers, including hotels, transportation, guides and activities.
It was not immediately clear who is paying for the flights to Israel.
It doesn’t come as a surprise, but an official with Tourism Ministry says the reason for the free trip is public relations: “Part of Israel’s challenges is to show the country as a normative, exciting, beautiful tourism destination,” she said. “We’re not what they see on CNN every day.”
The Academy Awards are coming on February 28 and although most stories in the lead up to the show have focused on the incredible whiteness of this (and last) year’s acting nominees, there is another issue that has made its way into the press — the swag bag. What’s a swag bag you ask? It is the collection of goodies that all award nominees will receive, whether they win the golden statue or not. What makes this newsworthy you ask? Well, for starters, the contents of each bag is valued at over $230,000. And this year it includes a free trip to Israel.
Here is some of what comes in this year’s bag:
• A 10-day, first-class trip to Israel ($55,000)
• A 15-day walking tour of Japan ($45,000)
• Ultherapy—a laser skin-tightening procedure courtesy of 740 Park MD ($5,530)
• A Lifetime supply of skin creams from Lizora ($31,200)
• A Fit Club TV “Ultimate Fitness Package” in a private villa ($6,250)
• A Haze Dual V3 Vaporizer valued at $249.99
And last, but not least, a“Vampire Breast Lift” valued at $1,900.
The Daily Beast says the whole thing is out of touch with the times, “In this year of #OscarsSoWhite and #FeelTheBern, there is something even more unsavory than usual about this shameless attempt to shower excessive wealth on the excessively wealthy.”
But others are celebrating it, including Israel’s supporters who see it as a slap in the face to the BDS movement. Aaron Klein, Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief, writes, “Despite attempts by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to target Israel, especially in the entertainment world, the Academy Awards seems to be taking a stand in solidarity with the Jewish state.”
It’s unclear if that was the intention, but it’s possible. The bags were put together by Distinctive Assets, a “a niche marketing company offering celebrity placement, product introduction and branding opportunities within the entertainment industry.” There is nothing on its site that would indicate support for Israel, but that doesn’t mean the gift isn’t intended to counter the BDS movement. For the last several years there has been a concerted effort in the entertainment industry to push back against the growing strength of the BDS movement. Most notable is the organization the Creative Community for Peace, which has ties to StandWithUs, a right-wing pro-settler organization that works closely with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and works to fight the cultural boycott of Israel. Were they behind the trip getting included as Oscar swag? We don’t know, but it does clear that some Hollywood star power is headed to Israel soon.
Thanks to Katie Miranda