In the week following the publication of our letter announcing the launch of the artists’ pledge, the Guardian published several responses – on the letters page, and in Comment is Free (CiF). Of nine published letters, three were supportive. Our riposte (below) went unpublished. Novelist Kamila Shamsie’s piece on why she signed the pledge was easy to miss: it appeared only in the print edition, under ‘The week in Books’.
Unusually, an Israeli politician was given a slot in both sections of the newspaper. On the same day, a CiF piece appeared entitled ‘Those calling for a boycott of Israel are ignoring some painful truths‘, as well as a letter under the sensationalist and inflammatory headline, ‘Why no petition to protect Jewish people?‘. The author, chairperson of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, was even permitted to repeat his hasbara, so that Guardian readers are subjected twice to his derisory hyperbole suggesting an inevitable genocide of Israeli Jews would be on the consciences of the pledge signatories:
As artists – who by definition are people with imagination – are they willing to take a moment and consider what would happen if, following a call in the Guardian, the IDF puts down its weapons and stops protecting the people of Israel for 24 hours? If you don’t share the imagination of an artist let me tell you: radical Islamists would kill us all. Women and children first.
This is our response to the first round of letters published on 16 February:
The Artists’ Pledge for Palestine (Letters 14th February) is certainly attracting support. It has now been signed by more than 900 artists working in Britain. It has also elicited a furious barrage of opposition from some of your correspondents (Letters 16th February). They accuse us of tearing down bridges, comforting murderous fundamentalists, turning a blind eye to Saudi cruelty – and misrepresenting Israel as an intolerant society. Amid these volleys of criticism, two words are quite literally missing. One is ‘Palestinians’, the other is ‘occupation’. Until these words, and all their implications, become part of the everyday thought processes of Israel’s defenders, the reasons for the world’s rising opposition to Israeli policies will continue to elude them.
Farhana Sheikh, Hilary Westlake – from Artists for Palestine UK