Palestinian artists & cultural organisations call on internationals to cancel engagements in Israel

Palestinian artists and cultural organisations in Gaza and beyond have written an appeal for solidarity from all those who work in the arts internationally. We are proud to publish their letter below.

We members of the Palestinian cultural and artistic community in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip, across historic Palestine and in exile make this heartfelt appeal to our fellow artists from around the world to cancel all scheduled performances, exhibitions and appearances in Israel, or sponsored by the Israeli government or complicit Israeli institutions, whether in-person or online, for as long as Israel’s regime of military occupation and apartheid persists. 

In the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law are proceeding with unprecedented impunity. Even in fighting the pandemic, Israel is revealing its appalling racism, a fact that should trouble people of conscience everywhere.

Israel has dumped Palestinian laborers suspected of having coronavirus at military checkpoints “with no regard for their health or safety,” as video footage shows. It has destroyed a makeshift Palestinian clinic that was planned to care for coronavirus victims in the occupied Jordan Valley. It has also denied COVID-19 testing to entire communities of Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, and irrefutably discriminated in making updated and accurate coronavirus information available in Arabic to the Palestinian community in a timely manner. 

The UN has long said that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020, after thirteen years of Israel’s brutal siege that has confined two million Palestinians, mostly refugees, to a narrow coastal strip. Israel has subjected Gaza to regular bombardments, killing thousands, among them our friends, colleagues and family members, in the last decade alone.

Here we are reaching the end of 2020 as the world faces a global pandemic that Palestinians too, including in Gaza, must somehow survive. UN human rights expert Michael Lynk recently highlighted that Gaza’s health care system had been collapsing even before the first cases of coronavirus were detected, a shameful reality for which Israel bears full responsibility as the occupying power. 

Over five thousand Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, and millions of Palestinians living in crowded refugee camps in and outside of Palestine are at severe risk of COVID-19 outbreak. Palestinian hospitals, especially in Gaza, are devastated by decades of Israeli occupation and siege. A serious lack of essential medical supplies and intensive care hospital beds combined with regular power outages means that the growing outbreak could have potentially devastating consequences for Palestinians in Gaza. 

Hospitals were already stretched to breaking point dealing with countless gunshot wounds from Israeli fire and resultant amputations. Israeli snipers have deliberately shot and maimed thousands of Palestinians in Gaza in the last two years during the peaceful Great March of Return and killed hundreds, including children, medics, journalists, and disabled people.

Israeli snipers have even competed over the number of knees each can claim to have shot to pieces, publicly boasting about their “hits.” UN investigators said these atrocities may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, committed against indigenous people protesting for the right to return to the homes and land from which they were ethnically cleansed. 

Two years ago, just a short drive from apartheid Tel Aviv, Israel destroyed an important cultural centre in Gaza, the Said al-Mishal, with targeted airstrikes. Violations and abuses against Palestinian musicians, poets, actors and other artists are commonplace, including in occupied East Jerusalem. As South African leaders have recognized, Israel has created an even worse apartheid system against Palestinians, with which there should be no business-as-usual. 

At this time of global distress, uncertainty and frightening impunity it is disturbing that some international artists are still scheduled to appear in-person in apartheid Tel Aviv or online at events sponsored by Israel or its complicit cultural institutions. As fellow artists, we urge them to cancel their engagements, to be on the right side of history, and to show meaningful solidarity with the oppressed.”

Signed,

Organizations 

Abna’ona Association for Development

Ajyal Association for Creativity and Development

Al Bayader Theater Group

Al Fordaws Association for Development

Al Harah Theater

Al Karama Complex for Culture and Arts

Al Manal Association for Women Rural Development

Al Rowad Society for Youth Development

Al Sununu Society for Culture and Arts

Al Taghreed Association for Culture, Development

Al-Awda Center for Childhood and Youth

Al-Kamandjati Association

Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society

Amwaj Association for Social Development and Improvement

Asalah Commission for Palestinian Popular Heritage

Ashtar Theater

Association for Culture, Art and Popular Heritage

Baladi Center For Culture and Arts

Bethlehem Academy for Music

Bureij Cultural Forum

Civitas Institute

Cultural Al Maghazi Center

Cultural and Social Deir Al Balah Center

Cultural Forum for Youth

Cultural Unity Association

Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA)

Culture Association For Protection Heritage

Culture, Arts and Heritage Association

Dar Elshabab for Culture & Development

El Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe

Freedom Theater

Gaza Center for Culture and Arts

General Union of Cultural Centres (GUCC)

Jerusalemite Youth Cultural Forum

Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center

Milad Centre for Youth Abilities Development

Nawa for Culture and Arts Association

Palestinian Al Najada Association

Palestinian Circus School

Popular Art Centre

Sareyyet Ramallah

Siwar Association for Culture and Arts

Tawasul for Youth and Culture

The Cultural Forum Centre

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music

The Palestinian Association for Heritage’s Development and Protection

Theatre Day Productions

Theatre for All

Yes Theatre

Youth and Environment Association

Individuals 

Ismail Abu Ali, nai player

Khalil Abu Ghazal, singer

Abdulaziz Abu Sharkh, qanun player

Abdulfattah Abu Srour, director

Shahd Abusalama, dancer

Yousri Al-Ghoul, writer, artist

Nai Barghouti, singer

Haidar Eid, musician

Hanin Ejla, singer

Samir Eskanda, musician

Ibrahim Ghunaim, rapper

Mohammed Jerjes, singer

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Alaa Khatib, painter

Ahmed Masoud, author, playwright

Malak Matar, painter

Mahmoud Modallal, singer, musician

ِِِArab M. Moghanni, Snonou Institution for Culture

Mona Mosaddar, poet

Emad Mudallal, singer

Abdulkarim Mudallal, singer

May Odeh, Director, producer

Mohammed Qraeqea, painter

Malek Qraeqea, painter

Fahmy Saqqa, keyboard player, composer

Ghada Shuman, singer

Ahmed Tafeish, singer

Le Trio Joubran, band

Leading artists condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian cultural centres & call for sanctions

Photo: Edward Said National Conservatory of Music by Ahdaf Soueif for PalFest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

  • Massive Attack, Steve Coogan, Peter Gabriel, Maxine Peake, Philip Pullman and Benjamin Zephaniah are among 60+ cultural figures to put their names to an open letter condemning attacks on key Palestinian cultural centres.
  • The letter says the attacks are ‘part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions’ by the Israeli government. 
  • Brian Eno: ‘These raids … seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture ’
  • The artists call for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’ against Israel.

Signatories to the letter include:

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Calling for boycott, divestment, sanctions is a human right, rules European Court

Governments and political parties across Europe have sought to criminalise the non-violent movement for BDS. Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights stopped that insidious tendency in its tracks. 

In September 2009, nine months after Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ attack on Gaza, 11 campaigners in Northern France were charged with ‘incitement to discrimination’ for handing out Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) leaflets at a hypermarket. They were given suspended fines of €1,000 and required to pay €7,000 in damages. In 2015, the French Court of Cassation upheld their conviction. 

Yesterday, 11th June, the ECHR overturned the French judgment, ruling that the convictions for campaigning for a boycott of Israeli products violated the campaigners’ right to freedom of expression. Their call to boycott Israeli products, said the court, did not amount to discrimination: it was protected by the right to free speech. 

The ECHR’s ruling, says Marco Perolini of Amnesty International, ‘should send a clear message to all European states that they must stop the prosecution of peaceful activists’ and stop trying to ‘target activists campaigning against human rights violations perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians’. 

Artists for Palestine UK welcomes this judgement. As Israel prepares to dispossess Palestinians of an even greater part of their land, we know that it is more important than ever that artists’ voices are heard. We will continue to campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel, exercising our right of free speech against those who try to bully and silence all opposition. 

Speak out to stop annexation now

Mercury award-winning band Wolf Alice, Peter Gabriel, authors Philip Pullman, Irvine Welsh, Colm Tóibín, and Selma Dabbagh, actors Harriet Walter and Julie Christie are among cultural figures joining many MPs, trade unions and human rights organisations to call on the UK government and political parties to: “support the call of Palestinian civil society organisations for effective measures by all States to stop Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied West Bank”.

Artists for Palestine UK is proud to partner on the launch of this vital call to action, the text of which is reproduced below. The campaign launches with this letter in the Guardian.

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Leading artists urge end to Israel’s siege of Gaza amid coronavirus crisis

Philip Pullman, Alia Shawkat, Peter Gabriel and 200* others back Amnesty International’s call for a military embargo on Israel “until it fully complies with its obligations under international law”

Photo: AFP

  • UPDATE: 500+ artists have now signed!


Philip Pullman, Naomi Klein, Peter Gabriel, Alia Shawkat, Vic Mensa and Viggo Mortensen Jr. are among more than two hundred musicians, actors, filmmakers, authors and others calling for an end to Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip amid the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter published on Wednesday, they write, “Gaza’s almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world’s largest open-air prison.” 

The first cases of coronavirus in blockaded Gaza were reported in March. Palestinian, Israeli and international humanitarian and human rights organisations have called for the lifting of Israel’s siege so that Gaza can address its severe shortages of medical equipment.

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Threats to anti-racism charity lead to Ken Loach stepping down as competition judge

  • Show Racism the Red Card commends Loach’s ‘commitment to fighting racism’
  • Charity’s funding put at risk by unfounded allegations

Show Racism the Red Card and Ken Loach – a statement from Ken Loach’s supporters – first published at the website of Sixteen Films

Film director Ken Loach has withdrawn as a judge in the 2020 School Competition run by respected anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC).

The charity announced on February 4 that Ken Loach and author and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen were to judge this year’s competition, which involves thousands of schoolchildren in hundreds of schools producing poetry, drama, films and other forms of creative work on combating racism. Loach, Rosen and SRtRC were then subjected to an aggressive and abusive campaign both on-line and in print media, making baseless accusations of antisemitism against Ken Loach in particular.

In response to these allegations actor and comedian Steve Coogan said: “His entire career has been to shine a light on the plight of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. His films have given a voice to the voiceless.….Ken Loach’s legacy will remain long after his critics have gone.”

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Anti-racism charity confirms Ken Loach as judge for its School Competition

For immediate release

  • Show Racism the Red Card has resisted pressure to ditch campaigning film-maker Ken Loach as a judge for its annual School Competition.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Mark Rylance, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Dame Marina Warner, Baroness Blackstone, Steve Coogan and many other leading figures have backed Loach.
  • Eric Cantona: Everybody knows Ken Loach is a warrior against injustice. Show Racism the Red Card is right to work with him.
  • Fellow filmmaker Mike Leigh: ‘The charity has unquestionably made the right moral decision.’ 
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Artswatch Palestine: September – December 2019

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

Cádiz – and London

On December 20th the press office of the City of Cádiz announced that the Cádiz Court (Juzgado de Instrucción número 1 de Cádiz) had dismissed a case brought by the pro-Israeli organisation, ACOM against the Council’s decision to cancel a festival of Israeli films, organized in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Madrid and set to take place in a municipal building.

The court’s decision overturns an earlier ruling. In making it, Judge Maria del Carmen Fornell found that ‘the suppression of the Israeli film cycle does not rest on antisemitic motives or exclusion on the grounds of nationality, nor does it demonstrate contempt for elementary norms of coexistence or dignity of the person.’

Responding to the decision, the Mayor of Cádiz, José María González, said that the cancellation of the film festival was ‘not an act of hate, but an act of love and respect for Human Rights, framed in defence of the freedom of the Palestinian people, in the rejection of the illegal Israeli occupation and apartheid.’

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Aurora: Don’t be a sword, cancel Tel Aviv

Aurora says she is a lily, not a sword. As Palestinian and Israeli musicians, we urge her to be true to her word, by refusing to let her music and image be exploited as a weapon of propaganda by the far-right Israeli apartheid regime. Israel explicitly uses all international artists to cover up oppression, particularly those who consciously dismiss moral appeals for them to refuse shows at complicit Israeli cultural institutions.

Barby Club in Tel Aviv, where Aurora is booked to perform two shows in November, is one such cultural institution. Barby brazenly wears its complicity like a badge of honour, most clearly when it handed out free t-shirts to Israeli occupation  forces engaged in the 2014 massacres in Gaza that left more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, dead.

These t-shirts were emblazoned with the phrase “fuck you, we’re from Israel” alongside the club’s own logo, who proudly posted images online. This incident alone should be enough to stir the conscience of any progressive artist, especially Aurora’s, whose own sense of morality is surely troubled by such a glaring example of a hyper-militarised society meshing seamlessly with culture, as it does in apartheid Tel Aviv today.

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Aldeburgh DocFest disinvites author, invites Israel lobby CEO to discuss ‘GAZA’

On Sunday, Aldeburgh Documentary Festival will host a discussion that follows a screening of the acclaimed documentary ‘GAZA’, a film about Palestinian lives in the besieged enclave. Extraordinarily, the panel is advertised to include the CEO of the UK’s biggest pro-Israel public relations group, BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research). 

Clearly something has gone very awry with programming principles at Aldeburgh DocFest.  

Below, journalist and author Sarah Helm who has been reporting from Gaza during the ‘Great March of Return’ protests, describes how she was invited, and then disinvited, from the GAZA panel at Aldeburgh DocFest. Her statement gives an indication of the confused and troubling logic at work behind the scenes. 

It can never be appropriate or ethical for an independent cultural organisation to provide a platform for a PR company for Israel that is overtly complicit with the oppression of Palestinian people.  Filmmakers and audiences deserve better.

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Open letter: the demand that artists disavow BDS is not a legitimate request

A museum in Aachen, Germany, has defied the city’s Mayor, who had said that respected artist Walid Raad should not be awarded the €10, 000 Aachen Art Prize, because, following the city’s inquiry, the artist had apparently “not distanced himself” from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The Association of Friends of the Ludwig Forum for International Art must now find an alternative venue for the award ceremony due the Mayor’s intervention and effective ban.

Today, a group of artists, academics, Jewish and Palestinian human rights defenders have addressed an open letter to Marcel Philipp, Mayor of Aachen. Artists for Palestine UK is happy to reproduce the letter below, in English.

*To add your name contact: palestinianpanthers@riseup.net
*Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen

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Palestinian and Israeli Artists Urge Aurora: Don’t Play Israel!

Norwegian pop star Aurora is booked to play Tel Aviv on November 14th and 15th. Palestinian artists, and Israeli artists, have each launched appeals to the singer. 

Artists for Palestine UK is pleased to host both letters below.

Palestinian artists to Aurora

Dear Aurora 

It is with great regret we have become aware of your planned performance in Tel Aviv in November. You have quickly become one of the great new names in the international popular music scene, including among Palestinians and other Arabs. Regardless of your intentions, your decision to perform in Tel Aviv will be seen as endorsing Israel’s whitewash of its occupation and denial of human rights to Palestinians. 

Israel is intensifying its decades-old regime of oppression against Palestinians, especially its theft of Palestinian land and resources to build more illegal settlements and apartheid walls. UN investigators have concluded that Israeli occupation forces’ intentional targeting of journalists, medics, children and disabled people with sniper fire in Gaza “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Moreover, Israel’s 12-year-old siege of Gaza has reduced it into an “unliveable” territory, according to the UN. Israel’s military occupation counts per-capita calories allowed into Gaza to keep the two million Palestinians there on the verge of starvation.

Given this reality, many celebrities, including Lana del Rey, Lorde and Natalie Portman, have cancelled scheduled events or performances  in Israel. As during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, such expressions of solidarity by artists sends the right message that they will not lend their names to covering up Israel’s oppression and that they stand with the oppressed Palestinians, including artists, who are not allowed to travel freely to share our art and culture.   Continue reading

Artswatch Palestine: April – August 2019

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

Our findings suggest that sniper bullets manufactured by Sierra were used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against civilian protesters in Gaza in 2018″
Forensic Architecture, May 2019.
photo: Natchez Shooters Supplies

Art and Power

The submission of the research group Forensic Architecture to the 2019 Biennial at the Whitney Museum in New York included an extensive investigation into the use of tear gas and bullets manufactured by companies led by Warren Kanders, a Whitney vice chair.

The companies’ products had been used against migrants at the US-Mexico border wall and in other states including Bahrain, Turkey and Kuwait.

Subsequently, Forensic Architecture discovered new evidence that directly linked the weapons manufacturer to Israel’s violence on the Gaza ‘border’.  The evidence, reported HyperAllergic on 20th July, took the form of an ‘unexploded open-tip bullet in the sand surrounding the Al-Bureji protest camp near the border’The bullet was intact and matched the analysis that Forensic Architecture had conducted on ammunition manufactured by one of Kanders’ companies, Sierra Bullets.

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Open letter to UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019

 

Dear UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin festival 2019,

Artists for Palestine UK has joined the call from Palestinians, and also from Israeli artists and Israeli human rights defenders, and from LGBTQI+ campaigners in Berlin, for participating artists to withdraw from Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019, in protest at the festival’s continued partnership with the Israeli embassy.

As you may know, the far-right Israeli government cynically exploits the arts to improve its image abroad and to distract from state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against millions of Palestinians on the basis of their identity. For this reason, Palestinians asked Pop-Kultur Berlin to end its partnership with the Israeli state.

Art matters. The arts should not be used to whitewash a regime whose apartheid character has become explicit and undeniable.

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Israeli artists: Boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival

We are proud to publish the following open letter from Israeli artists in support of the Palestinian call to boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival.

[Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen]

‘As Israeli artists, musicians, and filmmakers, we support the Palestinian call to boycott Pop-Kultur Berlin festival 2019, given its complicity with Israel’s racist regime. 

So long as Pop Kultur continues to have the Israeli embassy as a partner, all appearances at the festival will be exploited by the Israeli government as part of its efforts to whitewash its occupation and rebrand itself through culture.

We recognise that there is an urgent moral need to end the Israeli government’s decades-long oppression of millions of Palestinians, and that boycotts rooted in international law and universal principles of human rights are a legitimate, nonviolent, time-honoured tactic. 

We are dismayed that the festival director last year wrongly condemned BDS as “antisemitic” in defending their partnership with the Israeli embassy. Even Avi Primor, himself a former Israeli ambassador to Germany, agrees that “the leitmotiv of the BDS movement is justice for the Palestinians”.  Continue reading

Boots Riley, Naomi Klein among 100+ figures demanding free speech on BDS movement for Palestinian rights

Over one hundred high-profile artists and public figures are expressing dismay at political repression against  the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, slamming “attempts in Germany to impose political conditions” on artists such as Talib Kweli (pictured).  In an open letter published in the Guardian (and copied below), a broad range of artists from all fields and genres signed but also figures  from the field of human rights including: Index on Censorship, Patrisse Cullors co-founder of Black Lives Matter, human rights lawyer and former judge Sir Stephen Sedley, and philosopher Judith Butler.

“We are shocked that Open Source Festival, Düsseldorf has disinvited black American rapper Talib Kweli, leading to the cancellation of his Germany tour, after he refused to denounce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Attempts in Germany to impose political conditions on artists who support Palestinian rights, particularly targeting black, POC and queer artists, comprise a shameful trend of censorship, anti-Palestinian repression, and attacks on freedom of conscience.

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‘UK government must end isolation of artists from Gaza’: hundreds of academics and artists speak out

The letter  below criticises the UK government’s shameful ‘hostile environment’ policy, as it impacts  on artists, and in particular artists from Gaza. Israel’s policies have brought Gaza to the brink of economic, social and ecological collapse. To refuse visas to individuals who use all their efforts to be productive and creative in the face of dire circumstances, largely brought about by Israeli policy, makes the UK an accomplice in a strategy of collective punishment.
*UK-based academics and artists can sign the letter here.*

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Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Pratibha Parmar, Ken Loach and others say UK cinemas should boycott Israeli film festival Seret

In our letter published in the Guardian yesterday and copied below, 20 British filmmakers and writers including Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Ken Loach and Prahitbha Parmar criticise the hosting of an Israeli government sponsored film festival in the UK. 

The letter cites the findings of the recent UN report on Israel’s violence against Palestinians in Gaza.  It compares celebrity and business protests against Brunei over its new anti-LGBT law, with those against Israel over its violence against the Palestinians.

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Artswatch Palestine: December – March 2019

*Photo: The play ‘Palestine: Year Zero’ cancelled a few days before premiere.

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

A word in the mayor’s ear 

Last year, the ‘Cultural Loyalty’ Bill, which would have withdrawn funding from cultural productions deemed to be anti-Israel, failed to win the approval of the Knesset.

The Bill may have died, but its principles live on. 

Ha’aretz (9thDecember 2018) reports that Avigdor Yitzakhi, head of Israel’s state-run lottery, has successfully pressured the mayor of Kabul, a Palestinian-majority town in the north of Israel, to cancel a play whose plot involves the demolition of Palestinian homes.  Performances of ‘Palestine: Year Zero’ were cancelled a few days before its first performance.

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Brian Eno: Israel must not be allowed to use Eurovision as a propaganda tool

Brian Eno’s op-ed is published in today’s Guardian, and copied below.

“Those of us who make art and culture for a living thrive on free and open communication. So what should we do when we see culture becoming part of a political agenda? “Music unites,” says UK Eurovision entrant Michael Rice. What happens when a powerful state uses art as propaganda, to distract from its immoral and illegal behaviour? Everybody involved in the Eurovision song contest this year should understand that this is what is happening.

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