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

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


  • 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:

  • Musicians Massive Attack, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Matthew Herbert, Jonathan Ofir, Jocelyn Pook, Benjamin Zephaniah
  • Filmmakers, actors David Calder, Julie Christie, Steve Coogan, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Maxine Peake, Leila Sansour, Harriet Walter
  • Writers Carmen Callil, William Dalrymple, Inua Ellams, A.L. Kennedy, Sabrina Mahfouz, Ruth Padel, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Rose, Thomas Sleigh, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif 
  • 2019 Turner Prize winning artists Lawrence Abu Hamdam and Tai Shani

In an open letter published today (copied below) more than sixty musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers say that the ransacking of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), the Yabous Cultural Centre and the Shafaq Cultural Network in occupied East Jerusalem, and the arrest of their respective directors, ‘threaten to extinguish cultural life for thousands of artists, students and people in wider society’. (1)

The British Consulate in Jerusalem expressed its concern over the raids, via Twitter. (2) However, the artists say that expressions of concern are not enough. 

The letter says that the raids are linked to Israel’s ongoing annexation of Palestinian land. It calls on the British government to take action to halt Israel’s latest round of aggression towards Palestinians . The signatories say: ‘Palestinian civil society organisations are calling for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’, that relate to trade, arms sales and security co-operation. Britain should support them.’ 

Composer Jocelyn Pook, best known for scores for films such as Eyes Wide Shut, The Merchant of Venice and The Wife, said: ‘These raids strike a blow against music and a blow against education. No government which cared about culture would inflict them. No person who cares about culture should tolerate them.’

Pioneering musician Brian Eno argued: ‘These raids are part of a new series of assaults on Palestinian lives and livelihoods and seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture. It is essential that our government ends its silence, condemns Israeli actions and takes practical steps to stop the raids.’

Ahdaf Soueif, novelist and founder of the Palestinial Festival of Literature said: ‘Israel is using the familiar tactics of an authoritarian state – night-time raids, trumped-up charges, arbitrary arrests – to kill the cultural institutions that Palestinians have created. Western governments have the power to stop this intolerable use of force. They should use it.’

The British Council said on social media that the Council is  ‘a long standing partner’ of all three cultural centres, which support ‘music and culture for young people’, and preserve ‘Palestinian cultural identity & community in Jerusalem’. (3)

Composer Suhail Khoury, the director of the National Conservatory of Music, who was arrested during the raids, issued a statement urging friends of Palestinian cultural institutions in Jerusalem to ‘demand the Israeli authorities lift their foot off our necks so that we can sing in freedom’. (4)



The open letter in full:

On 22 July in occupied East Jerusalem Israeli police raided the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) and the Yabous Cultural Centre, two of the most important cultural centres in Palestine. The buildings were ransacked and their directors arrested. SHAFAQ, the network which links the major Palestinian arts institutions in East Jerusalem, also saw its director arrested, after his home was invaded by police.  

These attacks threaten to extinguish cultural life for thousands of artists, students and people in wider society. They are part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions of indigenous Palestinians by the Israeli government.  

This campaign is linked to Israel’s plans to annex large areas of Palestinian territory, which UN human rights experts have described as a ‘vision for a 21st century apartheid’. 

We note that the British Consulate General in Jerusalem has expressed its ‘concern’ about the raids. It must go further than this.  Israel’s policies must be brought to a halt.

We call on the British government to condemn the raids and to take action to stop Israel’s ongoing annexation. Palestinian civil society organisations are calling for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’, that relate to trade, arms sales and security co-operation. Britain should support them. 


Full list of 60+ signatories:

Lawrence Abu Hamdam, artist

Nicholas Blincoe, writer

Victoria Brittain, playwright, journalist

David Calder, actor

Carmen Callil, publisher

Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, producer, performance-maker

Julie Christie, actor

Steve Coogan, actor, comedian

Selma Dabbagh, writer

William Dalrymple, author

Andy De La Tour, actor

Tam Dean Burn, actor

Raymond Deane, composer, author

Robert Del Naja, Massive Attack

Laurence Dreyfus, musician

Thomas Eisner, violinist

Omar El Khairy, writer

Nancy Elan, violinist

Inua Ellams, poet, playwright

Brian Eno, musician

Kodwo Eshun, writer, filmmaker

Gareth Evans, writer, curator

Adam Foulds, writer

Peter Gabriel, musician

Judy Granville, musician

Trevor Griffiths, playwright

Rahila Gupta, playwright

Omar Robert Hamilton, writer

Rachel Holmes, writer

Tom Hammond, conductor

Matthew Herbert, musician

Gemma Jackson, production designer

Vanessa Jackson, artist

Brigid Keenan, writer

Peter Kennard, artist

A. L. Kennedy, writer

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Paul Laverty, screenwriter

Mike Leigh, screenwriter, director

Ken Loach, film director

Sabrina Mahfouz, playwright

Jamal Mahjoub, writer

Kika Markham, actor

Grant Marshall, Massive Attack

Pauline Melville, writer, actor

Roy Mowatt, violinist

Courttia Newland, writer

Jonathan Ofir, conductor, violinist

Nii A Parkes, writer

Ruth Padel, poet

Maxine Peake, actor

Joceyn Pook, composer

Phillip Pullman, author

Siobhan Redmond, actor

David Roger, production designer

Bruce Robbins, writer

Jacqueline Rose, writer

Leila Sansour, filmmaker

Tai Shani, artist

Thomas Sleigh, poet, writer

Gillian Slovo, writer

Ahdaf Soueif, writer

Sarah Streatfeild, violinist

Tom Suarez, violinist

Jacques Testard, publisher

Harriet Walter, actor

Hilary Westlake, performance director

Penny  Woolcock, screenwriter, director

Benjamin Zephaniah, writer, dub poet




2. British Consulate in Jerusalem expresses ‘concern’

3. The British Council said the council are ‘a long standing partner’ of all three cultural centres, which support ‘music and culture for young people’, and preserve ‘Palestinian cultural identity & community in Jerusalem’. 

4. Full statement by composer Suhail Khoury, director of the National Conservatory of Music, 29th July 2020

5.Joint statement by the boards of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and the Yabous Cultural Centre, 28thJuly 2020

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music



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.

Starting in July, the new Israeli Government has said that it intends to illegally annex large swathes of Palestinian land in the West Bank, which was militarily occupied in 1967. This would be the culmination of years of appropriation of land – through the forced displacement of Palestinians and the illegal settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. By annexing the West Bank, Israel would take over occupied Palestinian territory and make it an integral part of the Israeli state. 

Palestinian civil society has made a global call for ‘effective measures’ to be taken to stop this annexation happening. If the measures are to be effective, the UK should now, at the very least, be adhering to an ethical policy on all the UK’s trade with Israel , in particular by applying international law on settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians. 

In the midst of the Covid pandemic a number of organisations are cooperating to try to respond to the call from Palestine by making annexation a live issue on the current political agenda. Israel’s timetable is to annex land quickly with Trump’s support – this means we cannot wait.

If you agree with this and want to support the Palestinian call for action, please indicate your agreement with the following statement:


I am speaking out now in order to stop the threatened annexation of Palestinian land by Israel in July and I call on the UK Government and all UK 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.



Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Amos Trust

Artists for Palestine UK

British Palestinian Policy Council,

Jews for Justice for Palestinians

Labour and Palestine

Liberal  Democrats Friends of Palestine

Labour Friends of Palestine and Middle East

SNP Friends of Palestine

Palestinian Return Centre

War on Want


Apsana Begum MP

Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Baroness Christine Blower

Alan Brown MP

Baroness Pauline Bryan

Richard Burgon MP

Ian Byrne MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Bob Doris MSP

James Dornan MSP

Lord Hugh Dykes

John Finnie MSP

Lord Peter Hain

Neale Hanvey MP

Lord John Hendy

Rachel Hopkins MP

Stephen Kinnock MP

Ian Lavery MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Kenny MacAskill MP

John McDonnell MP

Ivan McKee MSP

Grahame Morris MP

Brendan O’Hara MP

Kate Osborne MP

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Tommy Sheppard MP

Andy Slaughter MP

Zarah Sultana MP

Jon Trickett MP

Claudia Webbe MP

Sandra White MSP

Mick Whitley MP

Leanne Wood MS

Trade Unions :

Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary NEU

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary TSSA


Jo Grady, General Secretary UCU

Len McCluskey, General Secretary Unite the Union

John Phillips, Acting General Secretary GMB

Barbara Plant, President GMB


Mark Serwotka, General Secretary PCS

Sarah Woolley, General Secretary, BFAWU

Mick Whelan, General Secretary ASLEF

Individuals :

Dr Hafiz Alkarmi  (Chair- Palestinian Forum in Britain)

Omar Al-Qattan

Salman Abu Sitta

John Austin

Zaher Barawi Chair Europal Forum)

Sarah Beddington

Tamara Ben Halim

Geoffrey Bindman

Victoria Brittain

Julie Christie

Chipo Chung

Caryl Churchill

Selma Dabbagh

William Dalrymple

Izzat Darwazeh

Brian Eno

Shepard Fairey

David Farr

Peter Gabriel

Arthur Goodman

Professor Kamel  Hawwash ( Chair PSC),

Canon Garth Hewitt

Nadia Hijab

Kate Hudson (Gen Secretary CND)

Betty Hunter

Ben Jamal (Director PSC)

Ghada Karmi


Sara Husseini

Hugh Lanning

Mike Leigh

Ken Loach

Dr. Dina Matar ( Chair, Centre for Palestine Studies, SOAS)

Kika Marlham

Yann Martel

Jenny Morgan

Professor Karma Nabulsi

Maxine Peake

John Pilger

Philip Pullman

Hilary Rose

Steven Rose

Atallah Said, OBE ( Chair, British Arab Association; Honorary Chair, British Palestinian Policy Council)

Zac Sammour,

Aimee Shalan

Alexei  Sayle

Clare Short

David Thompson

Colm Tóibín

Harriet Walter

Irvine Welsh

Wolf Alice

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.

Authors Irvine Welsh and Jeanette Winterson, actors Julie Christie and Steve Coogan, and sculptor Antony Gormley are also signatories to the letter, which states: 

“International pressure is urgently needed to make life in Gaza liveable and dignified. Israel’s siege must be ended. And most urgently, a potentially devastating outbreak must be prevented.”

Marking two years since Israel killed sixty Palestinian protestors in Gaza, the signatories — including Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, visual artists Mark Wallinger, Kevin Beasley, Shepard Fairey, and 2019 Turner Prize co-winners Tai Shani and Lawrence Abu Hamdan — continue: 

“What happens in Gaza is a test for the conscience of humanity. We back Amnesty International’s call on all world governments to impose a military embargo on Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law.”

Film producer and director James Schamus, actors Stephen Rea, Peter Mullan and Liam Cunningham and artists Charlotte Prodger and Helen Marten join pioneering poet K. Satchidanandan, novelist and screenwriter Candace Allen, composer and producer Brian Eno and musicians Roger Waters and Massive Attack in signing the letter, which concludes:

“We recognise that the rights guaranteed to refugees by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be upheld for Palestinians as well. 

In these times of international crisis, we must stand for justice, peace, freedom, and equal rights for all, regardless of identity or creed. We may be staying at home, but our ethical responsibility shouldn’t.”

Read the full letter:

Long before the global outbreak of COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm the already devastated healthcare system in Gaza, the UN had predicted that the blockaded coastal strip would be unliveable by 2020. With the pandemic, Gaza’s almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world’s largest open-air prison.

Two years ago on May 14th, Israeli snipers killed sixty Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza, with total impunity. The overwhelmingly peaceful Great March of Return weekly mass demonstrations, currently on hold due to the threat of coronavirus, were met with brutal violence. 

Well before the ongoing crisis, Gaza’s hospitals were already stretched to breaking point through lack of essential resources denied by Israel’s siege. Its healthcare system could not cope with the thousands of gunshot wounds, leading to many amputations. 

Reports of the first cases of coronavirus in densely-populated Gaza are therefore deeply disturbing. As several health professionals recently wrote: “Epidemics (and indeed, pandemics) are disproportionately violent to populations burdened by poverty, military occupation, discrimination & institutionalised oppression.”

Yet Israel’s blockade impedes the flow of medical equipment, personnel and fundamental humanitarian aid. International pressure is urgently needed to make life in Gaza liveable and dignified. Israel’s siege must be ended. And most urgently, a potentially devastating outbreak must be prevented.  

What happens in Gaza is a test for the conscience of humanity. We back Amnesty International’s call on all world governments to impose a military embargo on Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law. We recognise that the rights guaranteed to refugees by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be upheld for Palestinians as well.

In these times of international crisis, we must stand for justice, peace, freedom, and equal rights for all, regardless of identity or creed. We may be staying at home, but our ethical responsibility shouldn’t.


Lawrence Abu Hamdan, artist

Taha Adnan, poet

Giannis Aggelakas, singer, songwriter, poet

Mania Akbari, film director

Fatiha al Ghorri, comedian

Pau Alabajos, singer, songwriter

Senad Alic, visual artist

Simon Allemeersch, theatre maker

Candace Allen, author

Udi Aloni, filmmaker

Rafael Alvarez, choreographer, dancer

Miren Amuriza, writer, versolari

Lisa Appignanesi, writer

Ariane Ascaride, actor

Austra, solo artist

Ariella Azoulay, writer, filmmaker

Kobe Baeyens, classical singer

Balkan Bomba, band

Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, author, performer

Kevin Barry, writer

Kevin Beasley, artist

Patrick Bebi, theatre maker, actor, teacher

Nacera Belaza, choreographer

Yacine Belhacene, singer

Bella Cuts, DJ, producer

Ronan Bennett, screenwriter

Rimli Bhattacharya, writer, academic

Akeel Bilgrami, philosopher

Mary Black, singer

Bruno Boussagol, theatre director

Tove Bøygard, singer, composer, writer

Howard Brenton, playwright

Adam Broomberg, artist

Pankaj Butalia, filmmaker

Teresa Cabral, painter

Burt Caesar, actor, film director

Paulo Caetano, author, photographer

Carmen Callil, publisher, writer, critic

Dayana Cata, writer, artist

Oliver Chanarin, artist

Pascal Chardome, musician, composer

Sheba Chhachhi, photographer

Régine Chopinot, choreographer

Julie Christie, actor

Chullage, rapper

Ciel, DJ, producer

Luís Cília, musician, singer

Céline Condorelli, artist

Steve Coogan, comedian, actor

Molly Crabapple, writer

Crisis de los 40, band

Darren Cullen, artist

Liam Cunningham, actor

Sinéad Cusack, actor

Bruna Cusí, actor

Alain Damasio, writer

Jesse Darling, artist

Eva De Roovere, singer-songwriter

Foivos Delivorias, singer, songwriter

Rokhaya Diallo, writer, filmmaker

Doctor Prats, band

Mark Donne, filmmaker

Geoff Dyer, writer

Galit Eilat, curator, writer

Radhouane El Medebb, choreographer

Fons Elders, writer

Brian Eno, musican

Anne Enright, writer

Annie Ernaux, writer

Charles Esche, museum director, professor

Marcelo Evelin, choreographer

Tristan Faes, classical singer

Shepard Fairey, artist

David Farr, screenwriter

Isabel Fazenda, writer

Mark Fell, electronic musician

Simon Fisher Turner, composer, producer, actor

Annar Follestø, violinist, artistic director

Cesk Freixas, singer, songwriter

Peter Gabriel, musician, music festival founder

Dimitra Galani, singer, composer

Rashna Gandhy, author, psychologist

Sylvain George, filmmaker

Katia Gerou, actor, writer

Gigakoops, electronic musician

Jordi Ginesta, singer

Thea Glenton Raknes, musician

Sérgio Godinho, musician, singer

Priyamvada Gopal, writer, scholar

Antony Gormley, artist

Gossos, band

Øyvind Grande, composer

Andre Gregory, actor, theatre director

Ohal Grietzer, composer, mixed-media performer

Trevor Griffiths, playwright

Probir Gupta, artist

Gwenno, musician, songwriter

Ella Maria Hætta Isaksen, artist, singer

Maysaloun Hamoud, film director

Nir Harel, artist

Githa Hariharan, writer

Tobi Haslett, writer, art critic

Justin Hayward-Young, musician

Charles Hayward, musician

Tzion Abraham Hazan, artist

Kristien Hemmerechts, writer

Dalilla Hermans, writer, columnist

Claire Hilger, visual artist, graphic designer

Hiro Kone, DJ, producer

Martin Horntveth, musician, composer, artist

Gemma Hummet, singer

Asad Hussain, writer, film editor

Emmanuelle Huynh, dancer

Trond Ingebretsen, musician, singer

Marc Isaacs, documentary filmmaker

Vanessa Jackson, artist

Julie Jaroszewski, singer, filmmaker, actress

Terry Johnson, playwright, director

Filip Jordens, singer, actor

Em Joseph, artist

Embla Karidotter, musician

Ioanna Karystianni, writer

Kyriakos Katzourakis, artist, film director

Patrick Keiller, artist, filmmaker

A.L. Kennedy, author

Chris Keulemans, writer

Naomi Klein, writer

La Kruel band

Lágrimas de Sangre, band

Lankum, band

Mike Leigh, screenwriter, director

Leo Leonhardsen, musician

Faustin Linyekula, choreographer

Lluís Llach, singer, songwriter

Ken Loach, film director

Jen Long, artist manager, DJ

Josie Long, comedian

Los Castos, band

Los Chikos del Maíz, rap group

Dónal Lunny, musician

Nightmare Lyre, musician

Mammút, band

Esther Manito, comedian

Kika Markham, actor

Yann Martel, author

Helen Marten, artist

Emer Martin, writer

Raoul Martinez, artist, writer

Marwan, singer, songwriter, poet

Massive Attack, band

Tom McCarthy, author

Vic Mensa, rap artist

Marc Mercier, artistic director

China Miéville, author

Luc Mishalle, musician

Thurston Moore, musician

Christy Moore, singer

Gérard Mordillat, filmmaker

Viggo Mortensen Jr., actor, musician, author

Junior Mthombeni, theater director, actor, musician

Peter Mullan, actor, director

Rita Natálio, artist, researcher

Nel Tardiu, band

Jef Neve, pianist, composer

Courttia Newland, author

Bernard Noël, writer

Object Blue, DJ

Joff Oddie, musician

Joan Miquel Oliver, singer, songwriter

Ragnar Olsen, singer

Susie Orbach, psychoanalyst, writer

Jørn Simen Øverli, singer, artist

Ruth Padel, poet

Carmen París, singer, songwriter

Melissa Parmenter, composer, film producer, pianist

Anand Patwardhan, documentary filmmaker

Maxine Peake, actor

Eddie Peake, artist

Mireille Perrier, actor

Dimitris Piatas, actor, writer

Ernest Pignon-Ernest, artist

Marijke Pinoy, actress

Alain Platel, choreographer

Jocelyn Pook, composer

Patrícia Portela, writer, playwright

Aaron Porter, solo artist

Charlotte Prodger, artist

Philip Pullman, author

Pupil·les, band

Michael Radford, film director

Roland Ramade, singer

RAVI, artist, composer

Stephen Rea, actor

Ian Rickson, theatre director

Tiago Rodrigues, national theatre director, playwright

Luz Room for Resistance, DJ

Rrose, musician

Liv Runesdatter, singer, composer

Pilar Salamanca, writer

Xavi Sarrià, musician

K. Satchidanandan, writer

Aura Satz, artist

James Schamus, director, producer

Noémie Schellens, classical singer, actress

Gaea Schoeters, writer, journalist, scenarist

Mim Shaikh, broadcaster, writer, actor

Tai Shani, artist

Alia Shawkat, actor, artist

Sindicat de Músics Activistes de Catalunya – SMAC musicians’ union

Robyn Slovo, film producer

John Smith, artist filmmaker

Smoking souls, band

Patrick Staff, artist

Stay at Homas, band

Janneke Stegeman, theologian, writer

DAAN Stuyven, singer-songwriter, composer

Vivan Sundaram, artist

BV Suresh, artist

Nick J. Swarth, poet, performer, musician, visual artist

Guy Swinnen, singer

Jakob Thonander Glans, composer, musician, conductor

Colm Tóibín, author

Sílvia Tomàs, singer, songwriter

Ricky Tomlinson, actor

Tudanca, band

Dirk Tuypens, actor

Merlijn Twaalfhoven, composer

Txarango, band

Adil Tyabji, editor

V (formerly Eve Ensler), playwright, activist

Myriam Van Imschoot, performance, theatre, music

Michiel Vandevelde, choreographer

Judith Vanistendael, graphic novelist

David Verdaguer, actor

Violet, DJ, producer

Erik Vlaminck, author

Pantelis Voulgaris, film director

Naomi Wallace, playwright

Mark Wallinger, artist

Harriet Walter, actor

Roger Waters, musician

Einat Weizman, director, writer, actor

Irvine Welsh, author

Michael Wiehe, singer, musician

Unni Wilhelmsen, musician, composer, writer

Jeanette Winterson, writer

Bent Wold, singer

XY, band

Luke Younger, experimental musician

Zoo, band

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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Artswatch Palestine: September- November 2018

  • Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa (pictured) was on her way to Palestine Literature Festival when she was denied entry to her homeland,  held in a prison cell, then flown back to the United States.

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

Dareen Tatour

Dareen Tatour, Palestinian poet and citizen of Israel, was released from prison on September 20th. She had spent almost three years in jail or under house arrest. Her ‘crime’ was to post one of her poems on Facebook –  ‘Resist my people, resist them’.  In July this year, she was finally sentenced, on grounds of incitement to violence and support for terror organisations.   (Indictments for online incitement have tripled in Israel since 2014.)

In August, Tatour entered the special wing of Damoun Prison. She was classified as a ‘security’ prisoner and denied access to her phone and the internet. Her father was at first denied permission to visit her. He and Dareen’s mother were finally allowed to see her on 5 September, after Tatour had spent almost a month in prison. She was released with a suspended sentence hanging over her, to guard against further ‘incitement’.

The Loyalty in Culture Bill

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