Israel Worldcon Bid Being Explored

A Worldcon bid for Israel late in the next decade is under consideration, led by Gadi Evron.

During the Dublin Worldcon Staff Meeting earlier this month, fans encouraged Evron to begin an exploratory committee for a prospective Israeli Worldcon bid. The bid was symbolically launched when James Bacon gave Evron 20 Euros for a presupport, followed by Ben Yalow and others.

Evron tells me, “We launched an exploratory committee. I am still checking fandom’s pulse on the matter. That said, I am fully committed and we are discussing the late 20s with an eye for 2027.”

James Bacon and Gadi Evron. Photo by Colette H. Fozard

143 thoughts on “Israel Worldcon Bid Being Explored

  1. By no means would I want to compete with the holy land but I wonder how many would go to a worldcon in Bangkok? I’ve been considering the idea For decades

  2. This is like bidding for a Worldcon in Pretoria during the apartheid era.

  3. With all respect to Somtow and Steve, I feel obligated to agree with Hampus here.

  4. It’s not somewhere I’d go. Then again, neither is Washington DC at the start of Trump’s second term.

  5. Yeah, if folks are opposed to holding a Worldcon in the United States in 2021 the campaign for None of the Above would need to gain a lot more legs between now and August.

  6. Hampus is right. I know several people who will never come to the USA while Donald Trump is in office.

    Any worldcon to be held in Israel would have to be in Tel Aviv, the least Orthodox city in Israel. But current geopolitics renders the very idea, IMHO, moot.

    Speaking as one born Jewish, but by the time I started reading SF (try Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star”) any belief in the big guy in the sky was firmly snuffed out.

  7. If there are places folk don’t want to see WorldCons held, it seems like the best solution is to start competing bids in other places. (I for one would be cautiously interested in Bangkok–cautiously because I don’t have any sense of what the conference facilities are like there, or how large local fandom is. Convince me!)

  8. Judging what Israel will be like from press and public discourse is like refusing to visit the US because its full of Chicago-era gansters.
    Besides, if James Bacon thinks it’s a good idea, I have difficulty finding otherwise.
    At least in Israel they won’t ban muslim attendees for just being Muslim (as conferences and sporting events in other ME countries have banned attendees for just being Jewish).
    There’s never been a Worldcon in the Middle East and Israel is about the only place that could successfully host one.

  9. I would love one in Bangkok. We could compete to see if we could eat out the country since the food is so good. Israel would be interesting. I suggest Tel Aviv since it is the most secular of the large cities.

  10. Jeff Jones. All religions are legal in Israel…
    BTW, check out the Eurovision that Tel Aviv is hosting right now with tremendous success.

  11. @Ned: When did they change that? That had to be within the last 15 years. It used to be only Judaism, Islam, and Christianity were legal there–and they jailed anyone caught practicing Buddhism.

  12. Buddhism is not recognised as a religion in Israel, but I do not think it is illegal. It just isn’t protected. On the other hand, only religious marriages are allowed, so you can’t get married there legally. Not even with other buddhists.

  13. As much as I’d love to visit Israel, being a severe Byzantine/Ottoman history geek, I have to agree with Hampus.

    The current government of Israel will never get my support, and I won’t spend money in that nation until things change. But 2027 is a ways off, so hopefully, things will change.

    But right now? No.

  14. If Israel does a Worldcon bid, as long as the current government is in power there, I will for the first time ever join in any other Worldcon bid to deny Israel the pleasure.

  15. Somtow, I’m glad to see you’re still maintaining some of your ties with SF Fandom. (I was on a panel with you at, I think, CactusCon, the 1987 Phoenix NASFiC, on low-budget film-making.)

    Bangkok sounds interesting to me — but who would run it?

  16. Here’s a story on the Olamot (worlds) convention in Tel Aviv. (When I was in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago, I saw some cosplayers on the street. They might have been attendees, now that I think about it.) There’s also a nice game store called Freak which was hosting a YuGiOh tournament when I stopped by.

    Anyway, I hope Israel does host a bid. If nothing else, the rage-fueled meltdowns will rival the Puppy kerfuffle and the popcorn-eating will be epic.

  17. Personally, I’m happy to see WorldCon become more global, even if that means WorldCons held in places where I am unlikely to attend for whatever reasons (long flights, safety concerns, political concerns, visa issues, religious issues). Besides, back when eight out of ten WorldCons were held in the US, a lot of non-US fans also had problems attending.

    The Middle East and South East Asia are both world regions which have never hosted a WorldCon before. I know that Israel has an active SFF scene and fandom. I’m not sure about Thailand, but there are quite a few SFF authors and fans in South East Asia.

    There are valid political concerns about a WorldCon in Israel, just as there are valid political concerns about WorldCons in the US, China or the UK, all of which have active bids running. There will also be valid political concerns about a WorldCon in Thailand – offhand I can think of a few issues that might pop up. And the bid committees will have to answer questions, some of them uncomfortable, at the Fannish Inquisition.

    There will always be people who will refuse to or cannot travel to certain countries for whatever reason. But the more we spread WorldCon around, the more fans have the chance to attend, even if some fans have to sit out a year or two.

    As things stand right now, I am unlikely to attend a WorldCon in Israel or Bangkok. I am just as unlikely to attend a WorldCon in Washington DC, New Zealand or Chicago and yet I don’t deny those fans their fun.

    Finally, political situations can and do change and 2027 is a long way off.

  18. Curious question: Would the Israel bid accept memberships from Palestinian SF fans? Would they be able to help them get the necessary papers for travel to the con?

  19. Hyman Rosen on May 17, 2019 at 2:58 pm said:

    Anyway, I hope Israel does host a bid. If nothing else, the rage-fueled meltdowns will rival the Puppy kerfuffle and the popcorn-eating will be epic.

    I hope the people considering your bid notice your comment.

    As for the bid itself, I hope the people considering it will consider the genuine concerns of people around human rights and the policies of the current far-right government of Israel.

    //Jeff Jones on May 17, 2019 at 8:45 am said:
    I can’t endorse any bid where my religion is illegal.//

    Israel has many faults and many issues regarding the intersection of state and religion but that isn’t one of them. Disinformation helps nobody.

  20. Rob Thornton on May 17, 2019 at 5:15 pm said:

    Curious question: Would the Israel bid accept memberships from Palestinian SF fans? Would they be able to help them get the necessary papers for travel to the con?

    A broader question, would Israel allow people who oppose Israel’s settlement policy into Israel?

    I personally don’t believe in boycotting Israel or Israeli business in general but I won’t support the illegal settlements in the West Bank or businesses cooperating with it. That alone under Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law is cause for me to be denied a visa into Israel.

    How would the bid’s sponsors possibly guarantee that people who actually *support* Israel but who are critical of its policies towards the West Bank and Gaza could actually attend or would be safe from government harassment or arrest if allowed in? I can’t see how they can even begin to give such assurances while the current government is in power.

  21. Just to follow up on my last comment, there’s an issue here which I think means the exploratory committee should withdraw considering an Israeli bid for the time being.

    The nature of Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law includes anyone “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, [which] has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” Given that provision how is a discussion about the bid among fans meant to proceed?

    Yes, there are many governments and regimes in the world worse than Israel and currently, there are many supposed democratic nations (e.g. the UK, Australia and the USA) engaged in policies I find immoral around immigration and citizenship. However, the legislation above have a direct chilling effect on the discussion that any bid needs to have. Fans would have a reasonable concern that if they speak against the bid that it could be construed as calling for a boycott.

    With fans facing possible exclusion from the con for arguing against a particular bid, how can the discussion of the bid possibly be conducted in a fair and reasonable manner? I appreciate that the above legislation is not the fault of the exploratory committee but it is a basic issue that makes any Israel bid currently untenable.

  22. It’s difficult to talk about Israel because they do come in for a disproportionate amount and frequency of criticism compared to other governments with similarly horrible actions and policies, and it’s hard not to see anti-semitism as a contributor to that, nor is it hard to see how the widespread public criticism of Israel fuels anti-semitism. Anti-semitism which is on the rise and a clear and present danger. On the other hand, some of the things they’ve done and plan to do are absolutely worthy of criticism. How to thread that needle? I don’t know. But it worries me.

    I’d still find it very hard to support a bid at this time. I’d find it very distressing if the bid succeeded and then there were Palestinian fans who wished to attend but couldn’t. It seems to me that’s different from people who may not want or can’t travel to another country for a particular Worldcon — they’re in their own country and still might not be able to attend, for reasons outside of timing or funds. I don’t know if there is any way to guarantee access to Palestinians? I wouldn’t think Worldcon has a big enough pull to ensure that, but maybe I’m wrong.

  23. That’s why – if Israel actually launches a bid – the bid committee will have to answer uncomfortable questions and address valid concerns.

  24. For many years there were people in the United States who could not marry the person they loved if they were of the same sex. However, nearly everyone understood that science fiction fans did not exercise control over that policy. Although it’s true that at least one same-sex couple took advantage when the Worldcon was in Montreal to have a wedding, not a lot of people decided against attending a US Worldcon because they couldn’t combine the occasion with a wedding ceremony here. Fans in Israel don’t set that country’s rules for marriage, either.

    As for the other issue being raised — I lived through the grape boycott days in California, so have seen in action the differences between discussion, opposition, and organized economic action. If someone advocates the latter (like Harlan Ellison did about the ERA in Arizona) then it might affect their ability to enter the country. Of course, when it’s almost the first thing someone has to say about an exploratory committee, it comes off as a scare tactic, puffing up what is merely a colorable argument.

  25. It would be a problem if the Israel Worldcon bid cannot or does not reach out to Palestinian fans. But looking at it the other way, it would be a good thing if the bid can reach out to Palestinian fans and succeeds at including them. It should also include fans and writers from Egypt and Iraq other neighboring countries.

    I know it’s the Middle East — there are so many ways it could fail. But we’re science fiction fans — we can imagine the impossible and maybe it will even happen.

  26. @Camestros Felapton: Then why were people jailed in the past? Why have Buddhists there been afraid to have meetings where they can practice together?

    Note that I have concerns about a number of other countries. But this conversation is about Israel.

  27. Mike Glyer on May 17, 2019 at 7:45 pm said:

    As for the other issue being raised — I lived through the grape boycott days in California, so have seen in action the differences between discussion, opposition, and organized economic action. If someone advocates the latter (like Harlan Ellison did about the ERA in Arizona) then it might affect their ability to enter the country. Of course, when it’s almost the first thing someone has to say about an exploratory committee, it comes off as a scare tactic, puffing up what is merely a colorable argument.

    Well it is certainly a colourable argument but not just merely. Israel, like any nation, already had the capacity to deny specific individuals visas for entry. The purpose of Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law wasn’t to simply prevent very high profile critics from entering the country (e.g. Noam Chomsky in 2008). Israel is within its rights to do so.

    The amendment is intended to discourage targetted boycott campaigns and to place an obligation on those granting visas to not let in anybody vocal in such campaigns. Such campaigns already exist and arguing against a Worldcon bid would amount to “a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott”

    It’s significant enough to be included in the UK’s government travel advice to Israel:
    “The Israeli Parliament passed a law on 6 March 2017, which gives authority to deny entry to foreign nationals who have publicly called for a boycott of Israel and/or settlements, or who belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott. ” likewise the Australian government travel advice.
    It’s such a sweeping law that even the staunchly anti-BDS AJC expressed concerns about it https://www.ajc.org/news/ajc-questions-ban-on-bds-proponents-entering-israel

  28. Jeff Jones on May 17, 2019 at 9:19 pm said:

    @Camestros Felapton: Then why were people jailed in the past?

    I’m sure you could ask a vaguer more substance-free question than that but it would be hard.

  29. Jeff Jones (no relation, as far as I know), I’m finding no evidence of that having happened as you say, and plenty of evidence that there are many Buddhist centers in Israel. Perhaps you are misinformed.

  30. @Camestros Felapton: Can you stop the scurrilous accusations?

    @Lenore Jones / jonesnori: Perhaps I was misinformed or my information is no longer current, but it comes from a Buddhist who has lived there and maintains connections. What kind of Buddhist centers?

  31. Tom Becker:

    “But looking at it the other way, it would be a good thing if the bid can reach out to Palestinian fans and succeeds at including them.”

    No, as there is a grassroots campaign among the palestinians for a cultural boycott of Israel. You want to reach out to Palestinian fans? Show your support for them by not endorsing this bid.

    Jeff Jones:

    There is at least one Buddhist Center in Tel Aviv.

  32. @Hampus Eckerman: I can’t argue with that. But the Israel Worldcon bid should make every effort to be inclusive anyway. Maybe it can be seen as separate from the policies of the Israeli regime. Maybe it can’t, in which case it likely fails.

  33. @Jeff Jones, well, just for instance, there are five centers from the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. I also easily found a story about a Zen monastery in Tel Aviv. I’m not terribly knowledgeable about Buddhism, so I’m sure you would find more, and more detail, if you looked.

  34. I think Camestros has made the most important point. That anyone internationally that has spoken out against supporting the Israeli war crimes that the settlements are might be barred from the convention.

    This means that people working for Human Rights Watch will be banned from the convention. It means that James Bacon supports a convention where a large part of his own parliament could be refused entry according to israeli law. And the same for all people in Amnesty and the Red Cross that have spoken out against the settlements. But of course, all the settlers themselves would be welcome.

    Visiting Israel is one thing. Organising events in Israel from which humanitarian workers and human rights defenders are banned, while war criminals are welcome, is something totally different.

    I think the only way I could accept this would be a clear signal from Worldcon that they care about international law. Say by placing the Hugo ceremony and the Masquerade in Ramallah and make clear that they recognise a Palestinian state inside the UN recognized borders in all information about the convention, while also making clear that the settlements are illegal.

    Which I guess would make the convention impossible from the start.

  35. I live in Southeast Asia and I can tell you that all the major cities have the capacity to hold a World Con. Singapore has it all. Bangkok. Kuala Lumpur. Want something more exciting? Have it in Bali! Great weather, food, people and the SFF fandom will be ready. It is WorldCon not West/NorthCon.

  36. Steve Davidson: Besides, if James Bacon thinks it’s a good idea, I have difficulty finding otherwise.

    If you wish to let other fans do your critical thinking for you, that is certainly your prerogative.

    I prefer to learn all I can, do a lot of thinking about what I learn, and come to my own decisions — and I hope that other fans will do the same.

  37. Regarding questions about entry into the country, aren’t they hosting Eurovision right now? Are there any reports of Eurovision contestants or attending music fans having issues? That seems like it would be a pretty good indicator of the viability of having a Worldcon there.

  38. The story notes that Eurovision also demanded that Israel not shut them down on the Sabbath; I don’t know enough about Sabbath restrictions in Israel to be sure, but I would like to hear from anyone who can say authoritatively that a Friday night event (perhaps not critical) and Saturday daytime rehearsals for Hugos or Masquerade would not be affected. I’m not assuming anything, having been part of a bid that was screwed by false rumors about local restrictions, but this story suggests Sabbath-keeping would be an issue.

    That’s on top of whether I’d support a Worldcon in Israel at all, which under current circumstances I would not.

  39. @Lenore Jones / jonesnori and @Hampus Eckerman: I’ll have to check that out when I’m not exhausted, although my branch is neither of those.

  40. For a potential 2027 WorldCon, site selection voting would take place in 2025.

    Israel just had a general election. I don’t know how long their terms are, but four or five years is standard, so there will be another general election before site selection voting in 2025 and there is a chance that the current government will be out of power by then (they were almost ousted this time around), especially since Netanjahu isn’t getting any younger.

  41. There’s never been a Worldcon in the Middle East and Israel is about the only place that could successfully host one.

    I wouldn’t say that. Qatar is hosting a World Cup, 15 million tourists a year visit Dubai and many international events have been held in Turkey.

    I’d be interested in learning which Middle East countries have the strongest SF/F fandom and con-going scene.

  42. I’m staying out of this one from now on, other than to say that I am terribly disappointed and upset by some of the rank BS I’ve just read here and suggest that at least some of you go and do your homework before writing anything more.

  43. I guess, that as I doubt that I will have the opportunity to do a Worldcon IRL anytime soon, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But if opportunity and resources were to make it possible, I’d have no issue with visiting Israel for a Worldcon. At least, Israel’s legitimate efforts to defend against the terrorist elements present in neighboring countries wouldn’t cause any issue.

    Regards,
    Dann
    Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway – John Wayne

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