Artists for Palestine UK has written to the organisers of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe enclosing a letter of protest from the founder of Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, over the inclusion on the Fringe programme of an event billed as “probably the most significant pro-Israel advocacy event of the year in the United Kingdom”.
Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Fringe Society
Tim O’Shea, Chair, Edinburgh Fringe Society
Dear Shona McCarthy and Tim O’Shea,
We are delighted that the inspirational work of Abdelfattah Abusrour, with young performers of Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society from Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, is to be showcased at this year’s Fringe festival.
As an organisation committed to supporting the creativity of Palestinian artists facing extreme adversity as a result of Israeli state action, Artists for Palestine UK is proud to be associated with him and with the Amos Trust in promoting their Cafe Palestine events on Aug 22-26 and Beautiful Resistance on Aug 16.
However, you will be aware that a key component of Palestinian resistance to almost seven decades of unrelenting ethnic cleansing and discrimination is their campaign of cultural boycott against Israeli officially-sponsored cultural activities. The global solidarity effort that helped end apartheid in South Africa is the model and precedent for this campaign. The background is explained in a letter you will have received separately from our friends in the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
As noted in the Scottish PSC letter, PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) wrote to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in March calling on you “to reject funding from, and cooperation with, the Israeli government and its complicit institutions”.
We were therefore shocked to see that, after the printed Fringe programme had been published, a day of Israeli state propaganda disguised in flimsy cultural top dressing appeared online claiming the official Fringe stamp. The cynically titled “Shalom Festival” – billed for Aug 17 at the Central Hall – does not pretend to be anything other than an “Israel advocacy” project. Its appearance at a great carnival of culture such as the Fringe is a clear breach of the boycott guidelines proposed by PACBI, which represents virtually all significant Palestinian civil society bodies. It also cheapens and is totally unworthy of the Fringe.
In a personal letter pasted in below this email, Alrowwad founder Abdelfattah Abusrour gives a Palestinian artist’s explanation as to why the Shalom Festival Israeli state branding exercise does not belong on the Fringe.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet and talk to you in person about this.
For the Artists for Palestine UK collective
To the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
From Abdelfattah Abusrour
Founder and Director of Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society
Aida refugee camp – Bethlehem – Occupied Palestine
As a human being, as an artist, as a parent, and as a Palestinian, I work to make a positive and long lasting change for my children and the generations to come all over the world through theatre, arts, culture and education. I believe in the goodness of human beings and that arts can help in building peace within individuals to be builders of peace around them. This change cannot be accomplished without being truthful to yourself and to your values as a human being.
As human beings, nobody is born with genes of hatred or violence. We are not on this earth to destroy each other, or erase each other because of ethnicity, religion, colour, or whatever other differences we may have. Differences should enrich us as human beings and not separate us from each other.
When Palestinians called on the international community and the artists’ and academic communities to boycott Israel and Israeli groups and artists who support this system of apartheid, that continues to commit war crimes and practise ethnic cleansing, it wasn’t because of racism directed against Jews. So whether you love or don’t love what is called Israel, it is your duty as a human being to make it wake up and realize that it can’t continue its repression and ethnic cleansing and be rewarded for them, and have doors opened to participate in every event in the international community as equal. A drug addict needs to be deprived of drugs, not provided with much more drugs.
As we participate in our artistic and cultural tour in the UK and in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival, we hoped to be in venues that also defend human rights and values, understand their implications, and don’t argue that they need to be ‘balanced ‘. We can understand good intentions. But we do call upon the organizers to boycott any group that is supported by the Israeli apartheid regime or supporting that regime, and those who stand with the policies of a government which practises until today war crimes and ethnic cleansing and land theft from Palestinians . We call upon all artists to support the cultural boycott of the so-called Shalom Festival and defend the values and identity of the Fringe. We hope that we can all be part of a world of JUSTICE, EQUALITY, HUMANITY and DIGNITY FOR ALL.