The Whitworth Gallery, lobby groups, and the right to speak about Palestine

In response to pressure from lobby groups that seek to deny the basic facts of Palestinian experience, last week the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester removed a statement that formed part of ‘Cloud Studies’, an exhibition on environmental violence by Forensic Architecture.

We wholeheartedly welcome the gallery’s subsequent U-turn and the reinstatement of the group’s statement of solidarity with Palestine, within days, following public outcry and thousands of letters of protest.

We believe this case is instructive as to the modus operandi of the UK’s pro-Israel lobby groups. It also illuminates the damage done when UK institutions accept at face value the claims of some self-appointed groups to represent the view of an entire ethnic group, and are unwilling to acknowledge the political nature of complaints about Palestine-related speech.

The public reaction of one lobby group to the gallery’s U-turn (copied below) makes plain the intimidatory aims of their campaign: to deter the institution from ‘running anything similar’ on Palestine in the future. This shows why collectively standing up to bullying tactics is essential.

The precedent set by a UK university or cultural institution acceding to campaigns that aim to intimidate and chill speech though baseless accusations, could not be more serious. Lessons must be learnt. We are making public our own letter of the 17th of August to the director of the Whitworth and to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester which controls the Whitworth, as a reminder of some the issues at stake.

Dear Alistair Hudson, Nancy Rothwell, Nalin Thakkar, 

We write to express our alarm at deeply concerning reports about a campaign by pro-Israel advocacy groups to censor a programme of work at the Whitworth Gallery.  We are shocked that the University of Manchester, which controls the Whitworth, apparently acquiesced to demands made by these groups. It is extraordinary that Turner Prize nominated artists Forensic Architecture learned of the removal of a statement that formed part of their exhibition, Cloud Studies, not from the gallery nor from the University, but from a blog-post by a lobby group called UK Lawyers for Israel. 

The issues exposed by this dangerous precedent could not be more critical, since they hit at the heart of the proper functioning of cultural institutions in a democracy. On the one hand, the principle of independence and curatorial integrity of cultural institutions to operate free from interference from lobby groups or vested interests, and on the other, the right of artists to bear witness, including through expressions of solidarity with marginalised peoples.

We understand that the University of Manchester has adopted the use of the ambiguously worded and indeed deeply flawed IHRA definition of antisemitism, despite warnings that it would be used to stifle speech on Israel. We fear that this shameful act of censorship will serve as a case-study in the institutional confusion the IHRA causes when perfectly legitimate critiques of Israeli policies towards Palestinians are the target of politically motivated complaints.

We note that UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), who initiated the complaint, is a controversial group that previously hosted far-right settler group Regavim, in the UK. One of its directors, Daniel Berke, represented and has appeared in a video with disgraced anti-Islam activist Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson). Last year, UKLFI was forced to retract false claims made as part of a misinformation campaign that targeted a children’s charity, Defense of Children International – Palestine. 

We also note that the lobby group that also met with the University of Manchester, North West Friends of Israel, has sent members to participate in the annual anti-Palestinian, far-right march through the Palestinian quarter of Jerusalem where marchers routinely smash Palestinian stalls and chant “death to Arabs”. 

The University and the gallery profess concern for ‘community cohesion’. How does this square with removing a statement that contained information accepted by all reputable human rights organisations, at the behest of self-selected groups that through their actions endorse intolerance against others and contempt for human rights? 

Artists and arts professionals around the world will be aghast at this betrayal of the values which should be embodied by our cultural institutions. We urge you to reverse this wrong-headed act of political censorship.

Yours sincerely,

Artists for Palestine UK

  • photo: from Cloud Studies, Forensic Architectur

Artists must reject ‘bothsidesism’ – because it serves the powerful and entrenches injustice

Artists for Palestine UK is troubled that the British Actors Network (BAN) has chosen to host an organisation that is funded by the UK government and currently promoted by education secretary, Gavin Williamson, called ‘Solutions Not Sides’. The event is billed as an educational workshop for actors that aims to promote ‘conflict resolution’ as an approach for understanding the situation in Israel-Palestine. 

A recent report by Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “the crime of apartheid and persecution” against the Palestinian population. We are saddened that BAN, an organisation that is working to challenge abuses of power in theatre and film, does not recognise that it is inappropriate and misleading to apply a conflict resolution model while the very grave crimes of apartheid and persecution – with all the violence and trauma these entail – persist.

When BAN invited expressions of interest from the acting community in a Solutions Not Sides event, we were highly critical because the framing appeared not to centre Palestinian lives.  We were delighted that BAN responded to our criticism on social media by publicly inviting us to submit an alternative event proposal for consideration.  Since sending a proposal for an event for and by artists on anti-racism, internationalism and Israel-Palestine, we have heard nothing.  In a follow up letter to Helen Raw, the person behind BAN, we outlined our concerns.

Today we are making this letter public in the hope of shining a light on some of the issues at stake.

“Our network is very concerned that BAN is engaging an organisation that uses an ‘anti-extremism’ framework – rather than a human rights and international law framework – to discuss British responses to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Framing the issue in this way presents a dehumanising and distorted narrative about what is taking place, about what Palestinians are asking for, and about the nature of antiracist solidarity. 

We sincerely admire your determination to challenge bullying and harassment within the industry, in a way that forces us to recognise unequal power relationships and how these work to silence victims of abuse.

We would never adopt a ‘conflict resolution’ approach to, say, the context of an abusive senior producer and young actor who has been victimised. Doing so would compound an abusive relationship because it erases the unequal power between the two sides, treating them as though they are the same.  This would benefit the powerful and silence the powerless. Instead, we would campaign to hold the powerful accountable before the law and we would amplify the voice of victims, as you are doing in your work.

By invoking a narrative of ‘extremists on both sides’, projects like Solutions Not Sides work to deny the fundamental abuses that are taking place, and seek to attribute blame to victim and perpetrator alike.  This is why SNS is promoted by the UK government and Israel advocacy organisations in the UK. Its approach is not supported any human rights organisations, and certainly no Palestinian groups or organisations. 

We appreciate your desire to make a positive intervention, and strongly feel that the Solutions Not Sides approach is one-sided and damaging. We hope you will consider a different approach, and are ready to help in any way.” 

Artists for Palestine UK urges people in theatre and film to fully engage with anti-racist, feminist and internationalist movements, and work to amplify the voices of marginalised people. They should also reject approaches that fail to hold the powerful to account – whether within our own industries, or when it comes to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

photo: Palestinian commuters caged as they approach an Israeli checkpoint in the occupied West bank

Thousands of artists call for an end to complicity with Israeli apartheid

It is as if a dam has burst. The last few days have seen an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity with Palestinians from artists and cultural organisations around the world.  Half a century ago, there was massive support for a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa. Now, artists and cultural workers are mobilising on a similar scale against Israel’s system of apartheid, calling variously for boycotts, practical acts of solidarity with Palestinians and, in particular, an end to co-operation with cultural organisations that are complicit with apartheid.

On May 23rd, ‘Against Apartheid’, a letter signed by many leading Palestinian authors and artists, was endorsed by more than 1,300 international artists, writers and actors including Sally Rooney, Deborah Levy, Cornelia Parker, Alejandro Iñárritu, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Richard Ford, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alia Shawkat, and Tony Kushner. The letter, which referenced the 2021 report by Human Rights Watch which found Israel guilty of ‘crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’, said:

‘We call on activists, and especially our peers in the arts, to exercise their agency within their institutions and localities to support the Palestinian struggle for decolonization to the best of their ability. Israeli apartheid is sustained by international complicity, it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’.

May 25th saw more than 500 visual artists each posting a statement with the hashtag #VisualArtsforPalestine. The statement pledged to

‘refuse to exhibit or sell to Israeli and international arts institutions that are complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses’.

The artists included 2019 Turner Prize winners Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu-Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo, as well as Meriem Benani, Juliana Huxtable, Cassils, Patrick Staff, Yto Barrada, Luke Fowler, Eddie Peake, Oreet Ashery, Harold Offeh, Andrew Kotting, Georgina Starr, John Smith, Benedict Drew and White Pube.

Meanwhile, London’s The Mosaic Rooms published a call to cultural organisations, artists and writers that attracted hundreds of signatures including Francis Alÿs, Jeremy Deller, Elizabeth Price, Mark Wallinger, Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.), Guerilla Girls, Rosalind Nashashibi, Larry Achiampong,  Adam Chodzko, Paul Hobson, Director of  Modern Art Oxford; Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon Gallery; Sarah McCrory, Director of Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art; Judith Carlton, Director of Southwark Park Galleries, and Barjeel Art Foundation. 

Their statement read:

‘As an artist, writer, thinker or worker in an institution, you have the agency to share information and to implement change.’ 

It asked signatories to commit to several actions including:

Refuse: funding from the Israeli government and from private funders who support its illegal occupation.

Language: use terms which make visible the Palestinian experience, including Palestine, occupation, dispossession, ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism, and apartheid.

Open: your programme and your collection to artists, collectives, initiatives and galleries who are led by non-mainstream or radical voices, including artists in Palestine, and fund and support their participation.

Elsewhere in the art world, ArtForum and Hyperallergic reported that the 600+ artists, activists, curators, writers, and gallerists who make up ‘BDZ’, or the Boycott/Divest Zabludowicz group, had condemned the forced displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and reiterated their call for arts professionals to boycott the Zabludowicz Arts Trust. The artists denounced Poju Zabludowicz’s ties to the pro-Israel lobby and the Israeli Air Force. Their statement explained:

‘All contracts drawn up with the Zabludowicz Arts Trust are simultaneously contracts drawn up with Tamares Group1. All cultural engagement with the Zabludowicz Arts Trust – from artistic sales to gallery visits, from online promotion to project commissions – are complicit with structural oppression.’

On May 27th, a group of over 600 musicians calling themselves #MusiciansForPalestine published an open letter. The letter brought together an extraordinary range of artists including Rage Against the Machine, Patti Smith, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Arcade Fire, Run the Jewels, Noname, Chromeo, Serj Tankian of System of a Down, Fred Wreck, and A-Trak. The artists said: 

‘We call for you to join us in refusing to perform at Israel’s complict cultural organisations and by standing firm in your support of the Palestinian people and their human right to sovereignty and freedom’

The letter was covered by CNN, Billboard, Pitchfork and other outlets.

On May 28th the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers announced its’ support for the Palestinian-led movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and urged cultural workers to collectively withhold their labour in solidarity with Palestinians.

After demonstrations by Palestinian citizens of Israel were violently suppressed by Israeli police and groups of racist thugs began attacking Palestinians on the street and in their homes, the pioneering Palestinian hip-hop group DAM launched an appeal (May 13th) on behalf of the the Palestinian community in Lydda, calling for International protection now for the Indigenous Palestinians from Israeli state-sanctioned pogroms!

‘We, members of the Palestinian hip-hop band DAM, living in Lydda (Lydd), survived with our brothers & sisters in Lydda, Ramla, Haifa, Jaffa, Akka and elsewhere, a racist attack by far-right Israeli extremists last night. We join the majority of our people in calling for immediate international intervention to defend us before it is too late.’

More than 1,000 international cultural figures went on to sign a statement in solidarity with the community of Lydda, which was published on May 25th. Signatories included artists Molly Crabapple and Rehab Nazzal; scholars Judith Butler and Angela Davis; and authors Rachel Kushner and Ottessa Moshfegh.

At the same time, other groups of cultural workers were mobilising. Members of the children’s picture book industry KidLit4Palestine published an open letter, ‘Solidarity with Palestinian Liberation’. It said:

 ‘We note that the industry has largely maintained its silence on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine’ 

and stated that its’ signatories 

‘stand unequivocally in solidarity with Palestinians as they resist colonisation’. 

Architects and planners also spoke out fiercely, in a statement entitled: Architecture and Urban Planning Organizations Stand in Solidarity for Palestine. Signed by over 250 organisations from around the world, it said:

 “We recognise that architecture and planning continue to be used by Israel to consolidate and extend its illegal occupation of Palestinian”

It went on:

‘We commit to amplify the voices, stories, and histories of Palestinian people in their struggle for justice and freedom from occupation, through the following:

1.    Pressuring our institutions to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions and refusing to engage in partnerships with entities that enact or implement Israel’s apartheid policies.

2.    Supporting student, faculty and staff activism for justice in Palestine

3.    Holding accountable those who undermine academic freedom within our institution by silencing, threatening or bullying students, staff, and faculty who speak up against Israeli State violence

4.   As we teach about architecture and planning’s complicity in settler colonialism and apartheid, we commit to teaching about Palestine by centering Palestinian scholarship and experience’.

The Arab Free Cinema Network released a statement on May 22nd, asserting their belief in cinema ‘as a form of resistance’ and affirming their support for the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). They stated their refusal to cooperate with Israeli film festivals, and called on other film-makers to do the same.

Artists for Palestine UK launched the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine in 2015. It has attracted over 1400 signatories from across the arts, many in the past two weeks, with artists committing to refuse to work with complicit Israeli organisations. We are proud to play our part amid the inspiring groundswell of solidarity and pressure for meaningful change.

Artists’ Pledge for Palestine

We salute the commitment and energy of so many artists, activists and organisations working together to further the cause of justice and freedom for Palestinians.

Notes

1 Zabludowicz Arts Trust was founded by Poju Zabludowicz, the founder, major funder, and former director of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre). BICOM lobbies the UK government, the main political parties in the UK and the British mainstream media on behalf of Israel. Poju is also founder and director of Tamares Group, a global private investment group with real estate interests that in the past have included illegal settlements on Palestinian land. In 1994, Poju inherited his family arms dealing business and most of the defence interests were sold. Today, it is now controlled through Tamares Group, which continues to invest in Knafaim Holdings Ltd, offering ‘military aircraft maintenance services’ to the Israeli Air Force via various maintenance contracts.

Israel Must Be Held To Account For Ongoing Violence Against Palestinians

We share with millions our anger at the indiscriminate and pitiless bombing of the Gaza Strip; at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah; at the armed invasion of the Al-Aqsa compound during the holy month of Ramadan; at the brutal attacks on peaceful protests in the Occupied West Bank, and on Palestinian citizens of Israel in towns within Israel. All this must stop immediately.


The violence the Israeli authorities are meting out is the same violence that has displaced, repressed and fragmented Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948, when over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly removed from their homes. Israel’s policy of forced displacement, and the ongoing police repression that punishes any form of protest or peaceful resistance by Palestinians, has been taking place in many forms for decades, often without it registering in our news media. Continue reading

Celebrated film director Ken Loach wrongly condemned by Oxford students

We are alarmed that students at Wadham College and St. Peter’s College, Oxford have condemned trailblazing anti-racist film director Ken Loach by applying the discredited and discriminatory IHRA definition of antisemitism to quotations which they have taken out of context and which Loach has clarified comprehensively. 

These moves are part of a wider attempt across the UK and abroad to use the IHRA to silence discussion of Britain’s well-documented historical role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, as well as its ongoing support for Israeli apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism. Without openly discussing and reckoning with this history, we cannot hope to alter its course.

Ken Loach’s work has, over decades, consistently exposed inhumanity, inequality and injustice, from Cathy Come Home (1966) and Kes (1969), to I, Daniel Blake (2016). His award winning films have shone a light on the struggles against fascism in Spain, austerity in Britain, British colonial rule in Ireland and movements for justice in Latin America.

Yesterday #IStandWithKenLoach was trending on Twitter.  It is heartening to see such expressions of support for the celebrated director who has stood with so many others.

As dozens of artists wrote in a statement of support for Ken Loach on Monday:  ‘We cannot fight racism, including antisemitism, by demonising and silencing supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Artists for Palestine UK

Artists stand with Ken Loach and against McCarthyism

“We are deeply troubled to learn of a McCarthyite campaign demanding Oxford University cancel a public event with director Ken Loach discussing his distinguished career in film. The campaign to silence a world-renowned artist, which has been active behind the scenes and which became public at the last minute, is using the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism to try to prevent a cultural event from taking place. If any further evidence were needed to demonstrate how a vaguely worded definition is being deployed to silence critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians — then this is it. We have been warned by respected Palestinian academics, Israeli scholars, leading experts on antisemitism, dozens of progressive Jewish groups, and others that this definition is being used as a political weapon. We cannot fight racism, including antisemitism, by demonising and silencing supporters of Palestinian rights.”

Signed:

Continue reading

Brian Eno: Artists must call out Germany’s anti-Palestinian witch-hunt

A 2019 parliamentary resolution has had a chilling effect on critics of Israeli policy. Now the cultural sector is speaking up.

  • This article was published in The Guardian under the title ‘Artists like me are being censored in Germany – because we support Palestinian rights’.

I am just one of many artists who have been affected by a new McCarthyism that has taken hold amid a rising climate of intolerance in Germany. Novelist Kamila Shamsie, poet Kae Tempest, musicians Young Fathers and rapper Talib Kwelli, visual artist Walid Raad and the philosopher Achille Mbembe are among the artists, academics, curators and others who have been caught up in a system of political interrogation, blacklisting and exclusion that is now widespread in Germany thanks to the passing of a 2019 parliamentary resolution. Ultimately this is about targeting critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians.

Recently, an exhibition of my artwork was cancelled in its early stages because I support the nonviolent, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The cancellation was never publicly declared, but I understand it to have been the consequence of cultural workers in Germany fearing that they and their institution would be punished for promoting someone labelled as “antisemitic”. This is the work of tyranny: create a situation where people are frightened enough to keep their mouths shut, and self-censorship will do the rest.Advertisement

But as my own story is relatively minor, I’d like to tell you about my friend, musician Nirit Sommerfeld.

Continue reading

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. 

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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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.’ 
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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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