Like the staircases at Hogwarts, Israel's cultural bridges can lead interminably to nowhere

Like the staircases at Hogwarts, Israel’s cultural bridges can lead interminably to nowhere

The appearance last week of some famous UK cultural names on a statement defending Israel against boycott has sparked a wave of incredulity and outrage from fellow artists.

Artists, actors, writers, editors, musicians and filmmakers are among those queuing up to defend the boycott tactic after JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel and historian Simon Schama joined well-known pro-Israel lobbyists in attacking it. Rowling and co urged cultural ‘coexistence’ and ‘dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians’ and called the Palestinian boycott campaign “divisive and discriminatory”.

“It is Israeli policies towards Palestinians which are divisive and discriminatory,” said actress Miriam Margolyes, one of more than 1000 UK artists who have signed a commitment not to cooperate with Israeli state-funded cultural institutions as long as Palestinian rights are denied.
“Artists used the tactic of boycott against apartheid in South Africa and we are doing it again in support of Palestine– because no one else is holding Israel to account,” she said.

Composer Brian Eno, one of a number whose letters were published in the Guardian on October 27, said he appreciated the desire for dialogue, “but what kind of dialogue is realistically possible between a largely unarmed and imprisoned people whose land is disappearing before its eyes, and the heavily weaponised State that’s in the process of taking it.” 

Writer Ahdaf Soueif said, “Today there’s no question: an artist or intellectual who collaborates with activities funded or approved by the Israeli state is complicit in Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.”

Singer/songwriter Leon Rosselson called the Rowling/Schama declaration “an act of betrayal, the moral equivalent of crossing a picket line or buying goods from apartheid South Africa. I am shocked by their political illiteracy and their arrogance.”

Filmmaker and writer Omar Robert Hamilton said, “They are not actually talking about dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. They are talking about dialogue between themselves and Israel. The Palestinians are irrelevant.”

Writer Sarah Irving exposed the Israeli links of many of those involved and referred to the disappointment of a heartbroken JK Rowling fan who had grown up reading the Harry Potter books, with their message of anti-racism and the struggle for justice, as the story of her own Palestinian people.

Artists for Palestine UK, the artists’ and activists’ collective which last February launched the Artists Pledge for Palestine, said endorsements were pouring in for the following statement in defence of the boycott pledge.


The letter from 150 signatories (Guardian, 22 October 2015) calling for cultural ‘coexistence’ and ‘dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians’ would be more credible if a significant number of them had some record of engagement and empathy with the experience of Palestinians over the last half century and more. 

Instead, we find the list thickly populated with the names of those who have consistently devoted their time and energy to protecting Israel from criticism and accountability. In some cases, such as that of Eric Pickles – former cabinet minister and chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel – they have shown their understanding of dialogue by intervening to suppress an academic conference on Israel earlier this year.

Not every signatory shares the views of Pickles.  We ask those who genuinely desire a just peace to reconsider their decision, and to follow the example of more than a thousand of their peers who have signed the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine.  There are better ways of defending the rights of Palestinians than keeping company with people for whom ‘co-existence’ is empty rhetoric, used to divert attention from the discomfiting realities of occupation.

196  endorsements received:
(And to read individual statements by artists, read here)

Martin Adams
Tom Adams
Peter Ahrends
Clem Alford
Jay Aston
Conrad Atkinson
Roy Bailey
Lynne Reid Banks
James Barrett
Roy Battersby
Stephen Bean
Cezary Bednarski
Emilia Benjamin
Leah Borromeo
Haim Bresheeth
Victoria Brittain
Scott Bronstein
Mark Brown
Pat Bryden
Niall Buggy
Michael Burns
Pat Byrne
Des Byrne
David Calder
Colin Callan
Carmen Callil
Dave Campbell
Sophie Carapetian
Anna Carteret
Nick Collins
Paula Cox
Greg Cullen
Tariq Dajani
Colin Darke
Teresa de Miguel
Tam Dean Burn
Veronica Diesen
Jan Dobrowolski
Alison Down
Carol Drinkwater
Geoff Dyer
Okin Earl
Houda Echouafni
Steve Ehrlicher
Sally El Hosaini
Nancy Elan
Brian Eno
Julian Evans
Julian Evans
Gavin Everall
Allan Ewart
John Fay
Yasmin Fedda
Deborah Fink
Naomi Foyle
Midnight Frame
Larion Fraser
Philip Geany
Alan Gibbons
Bob Giles
Nick Gill
Mel Gooding
Daniel Gorman
Tony Graham
John Graham Davies
Michael Graubart
Ellen Graubart
Isabel Griffin
Julius Guzy
Saleem Haddad
Hans Haenlein
Matthew Hamilton
Jeremy Hardy
Douglas Hart
Abe Hayeem
Danny Hayward
George Hencken
Wieland Hoban
John Hodge
Doug Holton
Lizzie Homersham
Gordon Hon
Lucille Howe
Rose Issa
Joan Johnston
Clifford Jones
Reem Kelani
Anthea Kennedy
Hannah Khalil
Judith Knight
Judith Knight
Mark Knoop
Hari Kunzru
Elizabeth Laird
Diane Langford
Paul Laverty
Tom Leonard
Robin Licker
Pippa Little
Ken Loach
Alistair Logan
Amber Lone
Gerry Loose
Adam Lowe
Ben Lunn
Alexis Lykiard
David Mabb
David Mabb
Sabrina Mahfouz
John Maizels
Guy Mannes-Abbott
Miriam Margolyes
Kika Markham
Angela Martin
Tim Martin
Andrea Mason
Sophie Mayer
Sarah McDade
Beth McDonough
David McDowall
Pauline Melville
China Mieville
Russell Mills
Robert Moon
Aron Morel
Richard Morris
Diane Muldowney
Hubert Murray
John Murray
Haldun Musazlioglu
Pablo Navarrete
Daniel Neofetou
Esther Neslen
Courrtia Newland
Marilyn Nicholson
Christopher Norris
Shivaun O’Casey
Sinead O’Donnell Dunn
Treasa O’Brien
Rebecca O’Brien
 Sean Orr
Martin O’Shea
Jeremy Page
Georgina Paget
Claire Palmer
Maxine Peake
Maxine Peake
Eve Pearce
Miranda Pennell
Jaime Peschiera
Ben Ponton
Jimmy Powdrell Campbell
William Raban
Maha Rahwanji
Petra Regent
Lynne Reid Banks
Guy Richardson
Keith Ridgway
Bill Risebero
Eliza Robertson
Alison Rose
Leon Rosselson
Jane Rossiter-Smith
Kareem Samara
Joel Samuels
Leila Sansour
Soraya Sayed
Alexei Sayle
Kamila Shamsie
Farhana Sheikh
Andy Simons
Eyal Sivan
Gillian Slovo
Leslie Smith
John Smith
Michael Start
Sarah Streatfeild
Stefan Tarnowski
Christopher Teague
Patrick Thomas
Mark Thomas
Carolyn Thompson
Shelby Tucker
Gabriel Varghese
Francesca Viceconte
Marina Vishmidt
Mirza Waheed
Naomi Wallace
David Ward
Hilary Westlake
Ruth Wharton
Penny Woolcock
Susan Wooldridge
Robert Wyatt
Reynaldo Young
Sameena Zehra



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