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How the BDS movement convinced ‘Transparent’ creator Jill Soloway to shoot in L.A. instead of Israel

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OK, so Jill Soloway’s new book, She Wants It, which I blurbed, opens the doors to the backstory of how a BDS campaign influenced Transparent, ie US corporate television, for the first time. And while Jill and I have completely different lenses and focuses and details, we agree on the key facts: Transparent was profoundly affected by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement due to Jill’s willingness to talk, listen, and rethink.

So since they address these events in their book, here are the bare bones facts as I understand them: At some point Jill decided that Season Four would be shot in Israel. Despite objections from some people inside the Transparent apparatus, they planned on bringing the actors and crew to Israel to film, and I believe that Amazon higher ups had approved this plan, that in fact the location scouting had begun.

The cover of Jill Solloway’s memory She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy.

The problem was that there is a Boycott of Israel, called in 2005 by the Palestine Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a nonviolent strategy to face down Israeli violence with international boycotts of everything having to do with the Israeli State. What made the specter of Transparent violating the boycott such a crisis, was that it had the extra special problem of Pinkwashing – legitimzing the Israeli status quo through queer images. The nightmare of all of the Pinkwashing that would accompany Transparent in Israel was really scary. It would have been used to display Israel falsely as a seat of tolerance, while Palestinians are murdered daily, and apartheid laws escalate with regularity. It would have associated trans people with apartheid, and set us all back.

I received an email alerting me to this situation, and I immediately went to Jewish Voice for Peace, where I sit on the Advisory Board. I wrote to Jill and asked them for a conversation, spoke to people inside Transparent who did not want the show to film in Israel, and had been bringing in information internally. For the next 3 months a campaign of conversation was organized.

Now, as someone who does this kind of thing regularly, usually the people we are trying to talk to are very, very hostile. They usually claim that they are being assaulted or abused by us wanting to talk about Israeli apartheid- you know, the perpetrator acting like a victim. Usually they refuse to talk at all, or maybe have a perfunctory conversation in which they are actually not listening.

Not Jill. They not only agreed to talk, they reached out to other BDS supporters for conversations. IN fact, Jill had conversations with a range of Jewish Voice for Peace activists, as well as Palestinians in America, and they even had contact with Omar Barghouti, of PACBI in Palestine.

And not only were they open to these conversations, they actually listened and started to internalize the issues. But, I think the real turning point was when Jill received a private letter from 23 trans activists, sent by Dean Spade, supporting Palestinian human rights and asking her to not film in Israel.

As a result – despite all their original plans- Jill was not rigidly fixed, and dramatically changed the conditions for Transparent Season Four. Instead of filming in Israel, they shot the whole season in LA, finding LA landscapes that looked like Israel/Palestine. Not a single actor was sent to Israel. As far as I understand, they built a fake Wailing Wall on a lot at Paramount. Unfortunately, from my point of view, they did film location and cut-away shots in Israel, without any actors. I had suggested using archival footage instead, and I wish they had been fully consistent in honoring the Palestinian call. However, shooting all the live scenes in LA was a significant action, and a real recognition.

When I watched Season Four, I saw a lot of representation that I had never seen before on corporate television. They showed story and character that included Queer Palestinians, they showed Black/Palestinian solidarity, they showed the insanity of checkpoints.

When I ran into Jill almost a year later, I said “Thank you for changing your mind.” And my impression is that the 30-35 people who I know of directly, who were involved in this campaign, felt that it was a positive outcome.

If more people with real power were willing to listen and talk and go through a process towards change, we would be getting a lot farther, a lot faster. And as my own experience of this movement showed me, Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists are always available to talk.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Sarah Schulman’s Facebook page on October 18, 2018. A preview of parts of the relevant sections of She Wants It can be viewed here and the book can be purchased here

Sarah Schulman

Sarah Schulman is the author of 17 books, most recently THE GENTRIFICATION OF THE MIND : Witness to a Lost Imagination (U of Cal Press), TIES THAT BIND: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences (The New Press) and the novel, THE MERE FUTURE (Arsenal Pulp Press.) She is co-founder, with Jim Hubbard of his film UNITED IN ANGER: A History of ACT UP, and the ACT UP Oral History Project ( Sarah is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island.

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9 Responses

  1. echinococcus on October 21, 2018, 4:24 am

    Thanks to Prof. Schulman for this extremely significant story. It means not only that some boycott successes are being registered but also that there is a sub-section of the show’s particular TV viewership (if that’s the proper word) that has enough of an outspoken anti-Azrael fraction to be perceived as a threat by the corporate TV world.
    Otherwise MS Soloway would not have listened in the first place, or even if she had, whe’d been licked out pronto and her show replaced by something else –no discussion.

  2. smithgp on October 21, 2018, 11:04 am

    Profound thanks to Sarah Schulman for coordinating this victory in the anti-hasbara struggle. Yet another entry in her resumé of justice.

  3. Mayhem on October 21, 2018, 8:49 pm

    Sarah Schulman has a track record of Jewish self-hatred a mile long.
    Thanks to ‘Canary Mission’ that documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses. Canary Mission investigates hatred across the entire political spectrum, including the far right, far left and anti-Israel activists.

    • Misterioso on October 22, 2018, 10:50 am


      We get it. You can’t bear the ugly truth.

      For your edification:


      Oct. 19/18
      “Israel rights group chief slams occupation at UN”

      “Chief of B’Tselem slammed Israel’s violations against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip”

      “The executive director of Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem Hagai El-Ad yesterday slammed the Israeli occupation’s crimes and violations against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip during his address at the United Nations Security Council.

      “’It is very difficult, if not impossible, to fully convey the indignity, the outrage and the pain of a people denied the benefit of human rights for more than 50 years. Here, in these chambers, it is hard to articulate the flesh and blood meaning of the exposed lives Palestinians endure under occupation,’ El- Ad began his address.

      “El-Ad said that over the past two years; the last time he spoke before the council ‘as many as 317 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces while 294 Palestinian homes have been demolished.’

      “‘Israel has continued making arrests on a daily basis, including of minors; Israeli settlers have vandalized and uprooted thousands of olive trees and grapevines; Israeli security forces have continued to regularly enter Palestinians houses, sometimes coming in the dead of night to wake children, register their names and take their pictures; Palestinians have lost countless hours waiting at checkpoints, with no explanation,’ he added.

      “’All this is often referred to as ‘the status quo’. Yet there is nothing static about this reality,’ he said.

      “El-Ad described in his address the Gaza Strip as an ‘open-air prison’ where two million Palestinians live. ‘Its inmates have been staging protests for the past six months, after suffering for more than a decade under an Israeli-imposed blockade that has led to economic collapse, soaring unemployment rates, polluted drinking water and dwindling power supplies, and ultimately, to deep despair. Since March 30, more than 5,000 Palestinians have been injured by live Israeli gunfire and more than 170 killed – including at least 31 minors. The youngest were just little boys. Majdi Al-Satari, Yasser Abu Al-Naja and Naser Musbeh were just 11 years old when they were killed.’”


      Israel’s U.N. Ambassador, Danny Danon’s response to Hagai El-Ad is desperate, pathetic and laughable. In short, nothing more than evasive Hasbara bullcrap:

      “In response to El-Ad’s address, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, accused El-Ad of being ‘a wretched collaborator.’ ‘Mr. El-Ad, you are a citizen of the State of Israel who is serving our enemies. They are using you against us. IDF soldiers guard you, and you came here to defame them. Shame on you,’ Danon said.'”

      “’Mr. El-Ad, you are a citizen of the State of Israel who is serving our enemies. They are using you against us. IDF soldiers guard you, and you came here to defame them. Shame on you,’ Danon said.”

      Major kudos to Hagai El-Ad for speaking the fully documented TRUTH!!!

      • Marnie on October 22, 2018, 1:11 pm

        Hagai is a hero. Danon only wishes he were.

    • Marnie on October 22, 2018, 1:08 pm

      So were you always a McCarthyite Mayhem? Amazing how some of you folks can turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia – because they’re so tough and strong and love to spill blood, like the zionist state and the u.s., but whine like a bitch about righteous jews who turn their backs on the pack mentality of zionism and actually are true to the faith, which is not zionism. Self-hatred, thy name is Mayhem.

      Canary Mission – Yep, it’s for the birds!

    • US Citizen on October 22, 2018, 2:11 pm

      @mayhem – Every person who operates the Canary Mission website and those in their organization should be sued for defamation of character and their names made public on a website dedicated to those who try to smear and defame people who stand up for Human Rights and the Palestinians. if you’re a racist the world should know it.

      The Anti – Canary Mission website documents people and groups that promote hatred of the Palestinians and Islamaphobia on North American college campuses. The Anti – Canary Mission investigates hatred across the entire political spectrum, including the far right, far left and anti-Palestinian and jewish activists.

      Every individual and organization has been carefully researched and sourced. If you appreciate the work of The Anti – Canary Mission, please help us continue to expose hatred by alerting us to any racist zionist activity and/or the suppression of free speech in support of Human Rights of the Palestinians on your college campus, or by donating.

      Canary cowards hiding behind anonymity. They don`t have the courage to identify themelves for fear of being challenged to explain and justify their smears. Plus they would be sued for straightforward defamation of character. Typical sewer bred Ziorats.

      How about telling prospective employers that “it is your duty to ensure that today’s Judeo-Nazis are not tomorrow’s employees.”

    • RoHa on October 22, 2018, 7:08 pm

      “Israel does nothing wrong. People only criticize Israel because they hate Jews.”

      “But these critics are Jews.”

      “Well, er, they must hate themselves. Yeah, that’s it. They are self-hating Jews.”

      “Do you have any evidence that they hate themselves?”

      “Sure. They criticize Israel. And Israel does nothing wrong.”

      • Marnie on October 22, 2018, 11:57 pm

        That’s the long and short of it for sure.

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