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

A few weeks after her release, on 5thNovember, Tatour listened to the Knesset debate on the first reading of Culture Minister Miri Regev’s Loyalty in Culture bill. In an article for Mondoweiss, she reflected on its significance.

Regev, wrote Tatour, spoke for three hours. She began her speech by naming a few works of art that had been recently presented in the country’s theatres, such as Palestinian former prisoner Walid Daqqa’s play “A Parallel Time”. She moved on to list works by director and actress Einat Weizman – “Prison Notebooks,” “Prisoners of the Occupation,” “The State of Israel against Poet Dareen Tatour,” –  before reading part of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Write Down, I am Arab” and Tatour’s own poem “Resist, My People.”

Regev said she would not fund venues that presented these works. They should instead be banned and censored. She also spoke of why there must be a vote on the loyalty in culture bill, drafted by her, and why there should broadly be loyalty in art to the state of Israel.

If the bill became a law, noted Tatour, it would grant Regev the sole discretion to decide what projects should be censored, and what projects critical of Israel constitute “incitement.”

The Failure of the Loyalty in Culture Bill

The bill did not become law.

On 26thNovember, the vote on the bill’s final reading was postponed indefinitely: following the resignation of Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman in protest against a ceasefire in Gaza, the ruling coalition lacks a stable majority.

Writing in Ha’aretz, Yossi Verter notes that despite Regev’s failure, the state still possessed the power to cut state funding to organisations which reject Israel’s self-description as a ‘Jewish and democratic state’, or that mark Israeli Independence Day as a day of mourning.

Einat Weizman, in conversation with Dareen Tatour, commented:

‘To my regret (unfortunately), loyalty in culture has existed long before the bill did. Most artists realized the national identity of the period and they know very well the subjects that could cause them trouble and the subjects that are easier on them to talk about and that receive support and encouragement; several years ago, a new prize was created, “The Zionist Creative Works Prize.” Several artists use self-censorship on their creations, they use allusions and symbols instead of talking about specific things as they are. I believe that the status quo here is very crucial and very critical to the point that there is no time to use symbols.’

Art.net has reported protests against the bill. On 25thNovember, artists came to burn their work in the centre of Tel Aviv, ‘to sacrifice them as victims of the loyalty law’. ‘We are sacrificing culture for politics,’ said sculptor Sigalit Landau. ‘These people don’t understand culture and how much love is needed to bring something into the world.’

The Disloyal (1)

Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar is one of the pioneers of Arabic hip-hop. Along with his group DAM, he has adopted the artform to tell stories of the street culture of Lod, or Al-Lyd, once a Palestinian city with a majority Arab population.

‘Hip hop just opened the door for me,’ Nafar told Tom Barnes of the mic website in 2017. ‘I started comparing things between Malcolm and the Black Panthers and the PLO and whatever the Palestinian people were going through. It’s weird that I had to go to the West to come back and explore my eastern roots.’

Central to Nafar’s work is the ongoing catastrophe of the occupation:

Who’s a terrorist? I’m a terrorist?

How am I a terrorist while I live in my country

Who’s a terrorist? You’re a terrorist!

You’ve taken everything I own while I’m living in my homeland.

Ha’aretz reports that the student union at an academic college in northern Israel has cancelled a performance by Nafar, scheduled for 28th November. A representative of the student union told Nafar’s manager that she did not want ‘unpleasant friction’.  In a WhatsApp message she added that ‘she just wanted to be certain that there simply won’t be anything political in the performance.’

Nafar said after the cancellation that the request for him to avoid the use of his political views in his concert ‘shows that something very bad is seeping into the student union.’ It wanted to silence his voice as part of ‘the overall war against the Palestinian narrative’.

Attorney Sawsan Zaher of the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said the union’s move discriminated against Arab students because ‘they are denied the right to be exposed to art and shows that are compatible with their views.’ She said the decision reflected an internalization of a ‘dangerous message’ and was a result of a ‘particularly racist and radical wave of legislation’ that includes the ‘cultural loyalty’ bill.

The Disloyal (2)

Lina Makhul is an American-Palestinian singer who in 2017 won the Israeli version of The Voice.

‘Statements obtained by this newspaper,’ runs an article in Yedioth Ahronoth (16thNovember) ‘point to problematic behaviour on the part of [this] Arab singer who was born in the U.S. and grew up in Acre. According to the statements, Makhul refuses to perform on Independence Day, defines herself not infrequently as a Palestinian with an Israeli passport and recently cancelled participation in a song recorded for the organization Israeli Flying Aid because its logo is a Star of David symbol.’

Makhul has denied making the comments attributed to her.

Itay Stern, writing in Ha’aretz, recalls that in an interview published by a magazine owned by Yedioth Ahronoth a year ago, Makhul said: ‘I am a native of the United States, I am an Israeli citizen and I am Palestinian. It’s very clear. These are facts; it’s not something I can choose.’ Asked about her Palestinian identify, she said: ‘When I am asked what my ethnic origin is, I say my great-grandmother is Palestinian. They lived here their whole lives and so did their children and my parents as well. So it’s like nothing changed here except for the country’s name.’

Stern quotes some of the Israeli journalists have defended Makhul. Chen Lieberman, Channel 10 News’ culture editor, wrote on Twitter: ‘Every Arab singer will now know that she must not express her political beliefs not only in public, but also in private forums in case Yedioth reporters hear and tattle.’

Hadas Bashan wrote: ‘Peak Zionism: If they perform on Independence Day, we’ll wrap them in a bear hug and boast about how good it is to be Arabs here; if they don’t perform on Independence Day, they’re traitors.’

The price of breaking the cultural boycott

Writing in Mondoweiss (11thSeptember), Jonathan Ofir welcomes the decision by Lana del Rey, following dialogue with Palestinians, to cancel her scheduled September appearance at the Meteor festival in Northern Israel. Her decision initiated a wave of some 20 other cancellations.

Ofir recalls that when the UN imposed a cultural boycott on South Africa in 1980, the hotel magnate Sol Kerzner offered lavish sums to international artists who were willing to defy the boycott by performing in Sun City, in the Bantustan of Bophuthatswana. Frank Sinatra performed there in 1981 for $2 million.

Meteor made available similar, off-the-scale deals: $700,000, according to Variety, nine times Del Rey’s usual appearance fee.

Palestine Literature Festival: the price of attendance

Rafique Gangat reports at length in Gulf News on Kalimat, the Palestine Festival of Literature, which was held in in occupied Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Haifa in November. Kalimat, in the words of one of its co-ordinators, Mahmoud Muna, aims ‘to generate and widen existing discourses and practices of writing, shedding light on how writing can serve as an exercise in agency, humanism, creativity and resistance’.

The event was overshadowed by the detention and deportation by the Israeli authorities of bestselling Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa, author of Mornings in Jenin. After being denied entry to her homeland, and held in a prison cell, Abulhawa was flown back to the United States, she spoke via Skype to an audience in the Palestine Heritage Museum in Jerusalem:

‘There is no more appropriate place than Dar Al Tifel [the museum] to read this statement: the bitter irony of our condition is not lost on me. I, a daughter of the land, of a family rooted at least 900 years in the land, and who spent much of her childhood in Jerusalem, was being deported from her homeland by sons and daughters of recent arrivals, who came to Palestine mere decades ago with European-born ethos of racial Darwinism, invoking biblical fairy tales and divinely ordained entitlement. The true vulgarity is the way they have taken and continue to take everything from us, how they have carved out our hearts, stolen our everything, and occupied our history. I want to leave with one more thought I had in that jail cell. Israel is spiritually, emotionally, and culturally small, despite the large guns they point at us — or perhaps because of them. It is to their own detriment that they cannot accept our presence in our homeland, because our humanity remains intact and our art is beautiful and life-affirming, and we aren’t going anywhere but home.’

The patience of activism

Anthroboycott, the website of Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, republishes this, from Howard Zinn.

You do things again and again, and nothing happens. You have to do things, do things, do things: you have to light that match, light that match, light that match, not knowing how often it’s going to sputter and go out and at what point it’s going to take hold. . .Things take a long time. It requires patience, but not a passive patience–the patience of activism. . .We should be encouraged by historical examples of social change, by how surprising changes take place suddenly, when you least expect it, not because of a miracle from on high, but because people have laboured patiently for a long time. (Howard Zinn, The Historic Unfulfilled Promise [2012], pp. 46-47).

Judy Joo: Please stand with Palestinians

* In Gaza 97% of water is currently contaminated by sewage and/or salt due to the ongoing blockade of 1.7 million Palestinians living there (Oxfam)

Judy Joo is a chef, writer and restaurateur. We love the creativity of her work at London’s  Jinjuu — but we hate apartheid, so we’re hoping Joo will turn down the Israeli government-sponsored ‘Tel Aviv Round Tables’ food festival.  More than 70 chefs and food writers in the US are choosing to speak out against Israel’s violation of Palestinian land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Please join them Judy Joo!

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DJs, producers, electronic musicians join boycott of Israel en masse

Today a stream of DJs, producers, record labels, electronic musicians are speaking up for Palestine and endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel. Using the hashtag #DJsForPalestine, these artists and cultural producers say they are supporting the Palestinian call for boycott as a peaceful protest against the occupation, “for as long as the Israeli government continues its brutal and sustained oppression of the Palestinian people”.

This collective action follows the pattern of a similar wave of bands, including  Portishead and Wolf Alice, who came out in protest using the hashtag #ArtistsForPalestine, shortly after Israel’s massacre of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza this May.

Caribou, the Discwoman collective, Laurel Halo, The Black Madonna, Ben UFO, Tessela, Truants, Ciel, DEADBOY, FourTet, Room4Resistance and many, many more joined together for this action.   Some artists added personal messages, for example Ben Thomson / UFO explained:

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Artists call for boycott of Israel-hosted Eurovision 2019 – UK signatories

Artists, musicians and writers from 18 different  countries have published an open letter in the Guardian which condemns the purported hosting of Eurovision 2019 in Israel, saying that the contest should be moved to a non-divisive location, and – citing the recent killing of large numbers of Palestinian civilians – to a country with a better human rights record.
  • Personal statements by international artists can be found here.
  • In addition to the selection of international names in the Guardian, see the full list of British signatories attached to the letter here:

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Artswatch Palestine: June-August 2018

Gaza – the war against culture

On Thursday, 9th August, at around 17.45, Israeli drones began firing missiles at the Sa’ed al-Mishal Cultural Centre on Aydiyia Street in al-Rimal neighbourhood, west of Gaza City.  The 5-story building which housed the centre was completely destroyed.

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Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Viggo Mortensen among 70+ artists demanding free speech on Palestine

Artists for Palestine UK is publishing (below) a longer version of the open letter published in tomorrow’s print edition of the Guardian, with the full list of signatories.

The statement responds to news that the award-winning band Young Fathers were invited, disinvited and re-invited to the Ruhrtriennale arts festival in Germany, following demands that they renounce their support for the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestinian rights. The band refused, and re-affirmed their support for human rights principles. Now, 79 artists, writers and producers from all fields of the arts in the UK, the US, Germany and beyond, plus public figures including Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis, speak out about what they say is an “alarming form of censorship, “blacklisting” and repression”.

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Young Fathers affirm support for Palestinian rights despite cancellation by German arts festival

Ruhrtriennale arts festival in Germany have asked Mercury Prize-winning Young Fathers to declare themselves non-supporters of the Palestinian-led BDS movement for human rights, as a condition of appearing at the festival later this summer. In a statement on June 12, the festival announced the cancellation of the UK group’s concert, saying:

Regrettably, the Young Fathers have not distanced themselves from BDS. (…) The Ruhrtriennale distances itself in all forms from the BDS movement and wishes to have absolutely no connection with the campaign. We have therefore decided to cancel the concert.

Today, Young Fathers have asked Artists for Palestine UK to publish the following statement :

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Artists join the boycott of Israel en masse

Following Israel’s massacre in Gaza in which snipers targeted thousands of unarmed Palestinian protestors,  also attacking medics, journalists, photographers and children – a coordinated wave of  bands have publicly endorsed the cultural boycott of Israel in support of Palestinian rights, and for freedom, justice and equality.
Here are sample tweets from Wolf Alice, Portishead, Reverend and the Makers, Slaves, Peace, Circa Waves, Nadine Shah and more – starting with the response from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) who initiated the call.
Follow the hashtag #artistsforpalestine
British artists and bands can add their name to the now more than 1,300 who signed the Artists Pledge for Palestine on this site.

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Artswatch Palestine: January – May 2018

Artswatch reports on some of the events before, during and after the 14th May massacre in Gaza.

A chain of killings

Before the deaths of more than 60 people on 14th May, there were other killings, which took  a heavy toll of media workers.

In the early hours of April 7,  wrote Mariam Barghouti in AlJazeera, ‘we received a message that Palestinian photojournalist Yaser Murtaja had succumbed to his wounds in a hospital.’ He had been shot by Israeli snipers in Gaza a day earlier, on a day on which 28 others also died.

Just two days before his murder, Barghouti wrote, Yaser messaged us to explain that he was working on a documentary on the Great March of Return. He never finished his documentary, never came home to his wife and two-year-old son and, instead of reporting news, he became the news.  

The message came as a shock to us. His friends were in disbelief and those of us that never met Yaser but knew of him as a journalist comrade met the news with pain and a realisation that we are never truly safe. No press card, no shield can save us from murder. Continue reading

Award-winning director withdraws film from Seret London Israel Film & TV Festival

The writer-director of the acclaimed feature film ‘In Between’, one of the films programmed by the Seret London Israel Film & TV Festival,  is one of 36 filmmakers and others to have signed a letter published in the Guardian today saying that UK cinemas should “uphold basic ethical standards” and refuse to provide a platform to  “a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations”. Maysaloun Hamoud has also withdrawn her film.

According to its website, the festival, which is supported by the Israeli Embassy and the World Zionist Organisation, intends to reflect Israel as a “melting pot of cultures, religions and backgrounds”. But Hamoud, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, said in a statement to Artists for Palestine UK:

“I do not want my film, or my name, to be used to portray an image of Israel as a “melting pot of cultures and religions”.

The arts, the filmmakers’ letter says, are “being employed to give an apparently acceptable face to a brutal reality”. They add that “Israel deliberately and routinely denies media freedom to Palestinians” citing  the targeting of Palestinian journalists and photographers by Israeli forces.

Shopping announce withdrawal from Pop-Kultur Berlin in solidarity with Palestinians

We are proud to publish to a statement from UK band Shopping, who today announce their withdrawal from Pop-Kultur Berlin festival in protest at its decision to accept support from the Israeli embassy in Germany. Last year, eight artists withdrew in protest for this same reason.

Their statement:
‘We will no longer be performing at Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin this August. After we were recently announced for the festival, we were contacted privately by Palestinian artists and human rights activists about the festival’s cooperation with the state of Israel, and how this serves to normalise and whitewash Israel’s military occupation and decades of oppression against the Palestinian people. We cannot in good conscience be part of that.


As a band, Shopping are and will always be completely opposed to any form of oppression and discrimination, including homophobia, transphobia, colonialism and racism. We stand firmly against antisemitism and Islamophobia. For these reasons, and in harmony with the principles of the nonviolent, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, we affirm our solidarity with the Palestinian call for BDS.’

The Palestinian appeal to international artists, information, and artists’ statements 2017-18 can be found on a new website, Boycott Pop Kultur Festival.
#popkulturfestival #popkultur2018 #popkulturberlin #popkulturberlin2018
Photo: Jenna Fox

Film-makers call on cinemas to reject Israel-sponsored festival

Maxine Peake, Liam Cunningham, Juliet Stevenson and Helena Kennedy QC are among 36 filmmakers and others who have signed a letter  protesting the hosting of  the Seret London Israeli Film and TV Festival in UK cinemas, due to the involvement of the Israeli Embassy.  The letter, published in Wednesday’s edition of The Guardian, says that cinemas are providing a platform for “a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations”.  Full letter and signatories below.
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Jamiroquai, will you stand with the Palestinians?

Dear Jamiroquai,

We write to ask you to cancel your concert in Israel. We do so knowing that band members are not indifferent to the situation in Palestine. In a 2008 interview, Jay Kay said, ‘Ask me something else; Ask me about the situation in Palestine’.

If we asked you about the situation in Palestine today, you’d probably know  that it has greatly deteriorated since 2008, with three prolonged bombing campaigns by Israel on Gaza. The besieged Strip is, according to the United Nations, ‘unlivable’, and there’s an ever expanding colonisation of land in the Palestinian West Bank. Continue reading

Morcheeba: Please don’t give comfort to the oppressor

Artists for Palestine UK is dismayed that despite the unlawful and calculated* massacre of 21  people (to date) during the march by refugees trapped inside Gaza – it appears that the duo that make up British trip-hop outfit Morcheeba, are set to entertain audiences in Tel Aviv next month. As we make our letter to Morcheeba public, we still hope that Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey will connect with Palestinian artists or organisations, or indeed with ourselves, before proceeding with business-as-usual under this deeply racist and brutal Apartheid regime.
*According to NGOs Human Rights Watch and B’tselem

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Artswatch Palestine: October – December 2017

Our regular report on Israel’s war on Palestinian cultural life and expression.

Dareen Tatour: languid oppression

The Israeli state continues its legal harassment of Dareen Tatour (Artswatch 2016 and 2017). Yoav Haifawi reports in +972 (17th December) that more than two years after her arrest in October 2015, the poet’s trial ‘drags on languidly’ in a Nazareth court with no end in sight. On Monday, December 4, the remand judge once again rejected her request to be released from the house arrest imposed on her ‘until the end of legal proceedings.’ Even when she is allowed to leave her house during the day, she must be accompanied at all times by a court-authorized custodian. Under such conditions it is clear, writes Haifawi, that she cannot work or live a normal life.

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Artists to Lorde: individual messages of support

On 5 January 2018, more than a hundred international artists signed a letter to the Guardian in the UK in support of New Zealand singer Lorde’s decision to cancel her gig in Tel Aviv later this year.
Since then, some of those signatories have given APUK permission to publish the personal letters they’ve also written to Lorde.   We’re happy to share, amongst others, Brian Eno’s and Roger Waters’ moving expressions of solidarity and support, while Peter Gabriel’s message affirms the need for artists to stand up for human rights.  We’re also reproducing below some of the many messages artists have posted in support of Lorde on social media or via this site.

 

Brian Eno, musician

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Leading artists stand with Lorde

More than 100 artists including leading lights in film, theatre, literature, and music  have come together to sign a statement of support for the singer, songwriter and record producer Lorde. While signatories to the letter, which is published on the Guardian’s letter page, may hold a range of positions on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), they are united in their defence of the right to freedom of conscience. We are happy to publish the letter and the FULL list of signatories, below.
[Photo: Perou for the Guardian]

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Artists’ statements on Trump and occupied Jerusalem

Today’s edition of The Guardian (December 12) carries a letter signed by one hundred artists, including prominent writers, filmmakers, and musicians, in response to Trump’s ‘recognition’ of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.   The signatories, who include actors Mark Ruffalo and Tilda Swinton and musician Peter Gabriel, said:

In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Donald Trump seeks to achieve through a declaration what Israel has been trying to do for fifty years through force of arms: to erase Palestinians, as a political and cultural presence, from the life of their own city […]

We reject Trump’s collusion with such racist manipulation, and his disregard for international law. We deplore his readiness to crown the Israeli military conquest of East Jerusalem and his indifference to Palestinian rights.

As artists and as citizens, we challenge the ignorance and inhumanity of these policies, and celebrate the resilience of Palestinians living under occupation.

The full list of signatories is published here.

Separately, some of the artists have issued their own individual statements, one of them in verse. We are proud to publish responses by poet Michael Rosen, musicians Peter Gabriel and Robert Wyatt, playwright Caryl Churchill, writers Selma Dabbagh, Hari Kunzru and Ahmed Masoud, producer Kate Parker, filmmaker Ken Loach, and more below.

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Israel’s apartheid regime salutes Nick Cave

Musician and writer Nick Cave declared at a press conference on Sunday that he wanted to ‘make a principled stand’ by crossing the Palestinian boycott picket line, dismissing widespread calls to cancel his group the Bad Seeds’ two concerts in Tel Aviv.  Cave’s words have found him a new fan-base in the form of Israel’s government: there has been an outpouring of public endorsements from its foreign ministry and diplomatic missions across Europe, the U.S., and Australia, as well as from numerous lobby groups.

We have sampled, and reproduced below, tweets from ten Israeli government bodies and spokespeople and seven lobby groups, all of which work hard to counter the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) human rights movement and promote Israel’s interests.

Nick Cave declared his love for Israel, and the Israeli regime reciprocated, providing further proof, if any were needed, of the propaganda value to Israel of appearances by international artists.  Cave has gifted Israel’s government a PR coup. Yet Israel’s imposition of decades of military occupation and apartheid against the indigenous Palestinian population is increasingly being challenged by principled solidarity, including from artists. Instead of helping Israel’s regime to whitewash its violations of Palestinian human rights, we invite Cave to support those working for freedom and rights for all. Continue reading

Leading writers respond to Nick Cave

Israel’s officials wasted no time in reciprocating Nick Cave’s declaration of love for Israel, made at his recent press conference there. Today, leading writers have responded to the musician and author’s claims about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  These statements, published below, follow responses from artists including Brian Eno and Roger Waters. 

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