AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIOHEAD

London, April 24th  2017

Dear Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway,

You’re listed to play Tel Aviv in July this year.

We’d like to ask you to think again – because by playing in Israel you’ll be playing in a state where, UN rapporteurs say, ‘a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people’.   

We understand you’ve been approached already by Palestinian campaigners. They’ve asked you to respect their call for a cultural boycott of Israel, and you’ve turned them down.   Since Radiohead campaigns for freedom for the Tibetans, we’re wondering why you’d turn down a request to stand up for another people under foreign occupation. And since Radiohead fronted a gig for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we’re wondering why you’d ignore a call to stand against the denial of those rights when it comes to the Palestinians. 

Radiohead once issued a statement saying: ‘Without the work of organisations like Amnesty International, the Universal Declaration would be mere rhetoric’.   You’ve clearly read Amnesty’s reports, so you’ll know that Israel denies freedom to the Palestinians under occupation, who can’t live where they want, can’t travel as they please, who get detained (and often tortured) without charge or trial, and can’t even use Facebook without surveillance, censorship and arrest.  

In asking you not to perform in Israel, Palestinians have appealed to you to take one small step to help pressure Israel to end its violation of basic rights and international law. Surely if making a stand against the politics of division, of discrimination and of hate means anything at all, it means standing against it everywhere – and that has to include what happens to Palestinians every day.   Otherwise the rest is, to use your words, ‘mere rhetoric’.

You may think that sharing the bill with Israeli musicians Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, who play Jewish-Arabic music, will make everything OK.   It won’t, any more than ‘mixed’ performances in South Africa brought closer the end of the apartheid regime.  Please do what artists did in South Africa’s era of oppression: stay away, until apartheid is over. 

Yours,

Tunde Adebimpe, musician, TV on the Radio
Conrad Atkinson, artist
Richard Barrett, composer
David Calder, actor
Julie Christie, actor
Selma Dabbagh, writer
William Dalrymple, historian, writer and broadcaster
April De Angelis, playwright
Shane Dempsey, theatre director
Laurence Dreyfus, musician and director, Phantasm Viol Consort
Geoff Dyer, writer
Eve Ensler, playwright
Bella Freud, fashion designer
Douglas Hart, musician and director
Charles Hayward, musician
Remi Kanazi, performance poet
Peter Kennard, artist
Peter Kosminsky, writer/director/producer
Hari Kunzru, writer
Paul Laverty, screenwriter
Mike Leigh, writer/director
Ken Loach, director
Lowkey, musician
Miriam Margolyes, actor
Kika Markham, actor
Elli Medeiros, musician
Pauline Melville, writer and actor
Roger Michell, director
China Miéville, writer
Thurston Moore, musician
Maxine Peake, actor
Dave Randall, musician
Ian Rickson, director
Michael Rosen, writer and broadcaster
Alexei Sayle, comedian and writer
James Schamus, screenwriter, director and producer
Nick Seymour, musician, Crowded House
Adrian Sherwood, record producer
Juliet Stevenson, actor
Ricky Tomlinson, actor
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa
Alice Walker, writer
Harriet Walter, actor
Roger Waters, musician
Susan Wooldridge, actor and author
Robert Wyatt, musician
Young Fathers, musicians

[end of letter]


Statements by Thurston Moore, Robert Wyatt, Ken Loach, Peter Kosminsky:

Thurston Moore:
‘If any concerned, humanitarian-conscious activists employ a boycott to protest brutal injustice in their country and request artists and scholars to refrain from working and/or being promoted as supportive of the normalization of that country – then I choose NOT to cross that line and suggest to all to not be complicit. It is a small sacrifice in respect to those who struggle in honourable opposition to state-sponsored fascism.’

Robert Wyatt:
‘These international cultural events are of course great propaganda for this ruling regime’s desperately sophisticated image, fragrant camouflage for their relentlessly accelerating ethnic cleansing campaign in, for example, Jerusalem. Are you really comfortable with that?’

Ken Loach:
‘I do hope Radiohead, and Thom Yorke in particular, realise the damage they will be doing to the Palestinians if they perform in Tel Aviv.  The Palestinians’ land is being stolen, they are being oppressed in every way, their daily lives made intolerable, many are imprisoned unlawfully in Israel, including shockingly, their children.  I’m afraid your pious words will mean nothing if you turn your backs on the Palestinians.  For their sake, and your own self-respect, please think again.’

Peter Kosminsky:
‘Some years ago, I had the great honour and privilege to work with the scarily talented Thom Yorke and Radiohead, when they allowed me to use their music for a film I was making about bullying.  I’ve admired from afar their support for the Tibetans and for Amnesty International, and their championing of human rights.  So I’m puzzled and really saddened to hear that they plan to play in Israel later this year.  I would urge them not to do so.  With Trump in the White House, the situation for Palestinians has become tougher than ever. They’ve asked for a cultural boycott of Israel, just as campaigners for freedom asked artists not to perform in Sun City during the apartheid era.  I think we should assume they know what’s in their best interests and respect their wish, irrespective of other considerations.’

 

 

 

 

Artswatch February-March 2017

Introduction
‘Artswatch’ is a regular digest that monitors attacks on Palestinian cultural life. Such attacks are a constant and shocking part of  a long-term campaign that attempts to undermine Palestinian collective identity and resilience. The pattern of this systemic abuse is overlooked by the mainstream media,  yet is testimony to the fact that  ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘free cultural exchange’ are privileges that have never been extended to Palestinians by Israel. This fact demands an urgent response from international artists in particular.

[Photo: T Suárez. Palestine Philharmonie: Amandine Beyer demonstrating a phrase to (left to right) Lamar Elias, Carol Ibrahim, Gandhi Saad, and Lourdina Baboun. ]

raiding jenin

Rania Wasfi, program coordinator at The Freedom Theatre, whose home was turned over by the army.

The Jenin Freedom Theatre website reported on 27th March a raid by Israeli soldiers on the home of its co-ordinator, Rania Wasfi.

‘They stayed for about 45 minutes,’ said Wasfi, in a statement on the website, ‘turning the house upside down: mattresses, sheets, clothes, even the saucepans in the kitchen were torn down from the shelves, the fridge was searched, everything.

‘When they left, they apologised for disturbing us. I asked: “What about the mess you made?” They answered that an apology was all I would get.’

In the morning, Wasfi’s children were afraid to leave the house: maybe there were soldiers waiting.

In the week leading up to the raid on Rania Wasfi, Israeli occupation forces conducted at least 70 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. 58 civilians, including 8 children, were arrested, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

Raiding Aida

The Lajee Centre, at the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, is a cultural centre that works with Palestinian youth. It is funded, among other sources, by Celtic football supporters.

Lajee has reported new raids by Israeli forces.

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, for the second time in three days, Israeli soldiers entered Lajee Centre. They demanded access to Lajee’s computers. When staff members refused, the soldiers confiscated two computers and ordered the Centre’s Director to report for interrogation the following day.

This was the latest in a line of military intrusions, some of which have been documented in Artswatch (October 2016).  In July last year, soldiers searched the Centre and detained the librarian and three other people in the library for several hours. Later the same month, they seized two young men assembling a new playground structure.  In September, they threw tear gas into the Centre while children were in it; and in December, they harassed football players and then beat and detained Lajee Media Unit Director Mohammad Al-Azza when he tried to come to their assistance.

Shutting down a Theatre

Earlier reports in Artswatch have documented the spread of ‘culture’ to Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank:  for instance, incited by the Ministry of Culture, Habima, Israel’s national theatre, has performed in Kiryat Arba and Ariel.

Expansion on the West Bank is accompanied by new restrictions on theatre within the state of Israel.  Rami Younis, wrote on 28th March in +972 about Culture Minister Miri Regev’s disclosure that she has cut off all funds to the Al-Midan theatre in Haifa – the only state-funded theatre in Israel that produces work in Arabic.

Younis explains the events leading up to Regev’s latest actions.

The Ministry froze the theatre’s budget in 2015, after it had planned to run a performance of ‘A Parallel Time’, based on the life of Walid Daka, a Palestinian prisoner convicted of aiding the killing and abduction of an Israeli soldier, Moshe Tamam.  Al-Midan petitioned Israel’s High Court – after which, Younis writes, ‘the Attorney General  pressured the Ministry to leave the theatre’s budget untouched’. The two sides came to a compromise: Regev would not touch Al-Midan’s budgets for 2016 and 2017, and the theatre would withdraw its petition. Regev went back on this deal, and since March 2016 has ceased funding the theatre.  Workers at the theatre are preparing to strike.

Controlling the film industry

Meanwhile, in a parallel development, Jessica Steinberg in The Times of Israel reports (29th March) that Israel’s Ministry of Culture is asking Israeli film funds to provide detailed information about the approval process for films, ‘in an apparent attempt to clamp down on those that portray Israel in a negative way’.  A portion of the funds’ budgets comes from government.

Among the films whose funding the Ministry is scrutinising is ‘Five Broken Cameras’ – the work by Emad Burnat which depicts villagers’ resistance to the encroachment of Israeli settlements on their land.

Ha’aretz reports that one of the film funds in question, the Rabinovich Foundation, now requires that film-makers who receive their funding must declare that they will not depict key features of Israeli society in a negative light. At the centre of the Foundation’s concerns is the representation of Israel’s Independence Day . Palestinians regard Independence Day as their catastrophe – the Nakba.  The Foundation’s requirement makes it impossible for a film that receives its support to represent what Israel’s founding has meant for Palestinians.

Putting poetry on trial

The Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, an Israeli citizen,  who is accused of writing poetry that amounted to “dangerous incitement” against the Israeli state, has been in custody or under house arrest for over 18 months now (see Artswatch June, July, November, December 2016).

Blogging on +972 on 26th March, Yoav Haifawi details the latest stages of Tatour’s prosecution.

On 19th March Tatour’s attorneys brought two expert witnesses to testify in her defence before the Nazareth Magistrates Court.

Professor Nissim Calderon described a long tradition of poets – particularly Jewish poets – who used harsh words to oppose oppression or injustice. The poets, Calderon said, were not prosecuted, even by oppressive regimes like the Tsar in Russia or the British Mandate in Palestine. Why had the Israeli state learned nothing from this experience?

Dr Yoni Mendel, a literary translator, showed in the course of a 5 hour testimony that the police’s translation had deliberately and systematically distorted the text to make it appear extremist and violent: Tatour had called on her people to endure suffering;  in the police translation, this became a call to inflict it.

The trial continues, with Tatour facing the possibility of an 8 year jail sentence. Tatour’s defence campaign has launched an appeal for funding, here.

Making Music

While Asmaa al-Ghoul charts for al-Monitor (9th March) the dire effects of austerity and conflict on the cultural resources available to Palestinians, Tom Suarez, writing for Mondoweiss, details the work of the emergent Palestine Philharmonie, an initiative that aims to create the infrastructure for a musical culture in Palestine, ‘not least by establishing Palestine’s first permanent  professional orchestra, based in Bethlehem’.

Suarez writes that ‘efforts to reclaim Palestine’s cultural identity and cultural life from the paralysis of displacement, subjugation, and occupation’ have been under way for years, with ‘myriad local initiatives’.  He has every hope that these will continue.

Banksy Withdraws Invitation to Fatboy Slim to Perform at Walled Off Hotel

Banksy, artist turned hotelier, has responded to an appeal from Palestinians, and withdrawn an invitation to English DJ Fatboy Slim to perform at a street party outside the new Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.

Fatboy Slim scheduled a Bethlehem appearance the day after his planned March 12 performance in Tel Aviv. Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), have appealed to the DJ to cancel his Israeli show.
Continue reading

‘No one now regrets boycotting apartheid South Africa’

 UPDATE 09.03.2017 From Israeli Citizens: Radiohead, Please Don’t Play Tel-Aviv
Open letter from Israeli citizens to Radiohead : “We urge you to cancel your performances in Israel and not grant your seal of approval to Israel’s ongoing crimes and human rights violations.” 09.03.2017

London, 7 March 2017

Calls mount for Radiohead to cancel Israel gig 

  • Artists for Palestine UK joins growing appeal to Radiohead to cancel Israel gig
  • Palestinian artists say, ‘Stand with the oppressed,  as Brian Eno, Alice Walker and Roger Waters do’
  • Jewish Voice for Peace in South Florida, USA, says, ‘We urge you to cancel, as an inspiration to young people everywhere’

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), whose Artists’ Pledge for Palestine has over 1200 signatories, called today for UK band Radiohead to cancel their concert in Tel Aviv, scheduled for July 19.
Continue reading

‘Dear Rabbi Sacks – stop your lies about BDS’

Continue reading

Immediate Threat to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech

Pictured: Jo Johnson MP, minister for Universities, suggested they seek to ban Israel Apartheid Week

On February 27, a letter signed by 243 academics appeared in the Guardian (copied below) condemning “outrageous interferences with free expression” and “direct attacks on academic freedom” resulting from attempts “to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years.”

The letter attributed these developments to adoption by the UK government of “the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism” which is being interpreted as meaning that criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights is prima facie evidence of antisemitism.

Continue reading

Artists to Fatboy Slim: please don’t play Tel Aviv

Artists have written to  DJ Fatboy Slim asking him to cancel his forthcoming show in Tel Aviv. Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim, said recently in an interview that his criteria for accepting a gig means it has to ‘fulfil the 5 f’s’  – a first, a favour for a friend,  fun, finance, food. Playing the settler-colonial state may be ‘a first’ for Fatboy, but it’s only going to be ‘fun’ if he ignores the experience of Palestinians  including those within Israel’s borders. We hope he thinks again.

Continue reading

ARTSWATCH December 2016 – January 2017

Regev Watch

Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, has commented , 27th December, on the change of presidency in the United States:   ‘Obama is history,’ said Regev. ‘We have Trump.’

Christian Viveros-Fauné, writing in Artnet, suggests that ‘like Trump, the Likud politician consistently engages in a brazen, counter-factual brand of right-wing populism’.  Viveros-Fauné charts the growing scope of Regev’s ‘war against culture’ noting inter alia that:

‘At least one major institution, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, has already found itself in the crossfire. As reported in February 2016 by Shany Littman at Haaretz, its director and chief curator Suzanne Landau recently “called off an exhibit by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman because of political pressures.” Kratsman’s contribution to the show, which was scheduled to open in November 2016, consisted of a Harvard University-funded series of 3,000 portraits of Palestinians he met on his travels to the Occupied Territories. Many of the photographer’s portrait subjects have since been killed in clashes with Israeli Defense Forces. When [the reporter] reached Landau for comment, the curator cited “scheduling problems.”’

Habima and Ashtar: tales from two theatres Continue reading

Call for support for ‘Ambulance’ director Mohamed Jabaly

ARTISTS FOR PALESTINE UK STATEMENT

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and the Norwegian Immigration Tribunal have refused to grant Palestinian film-maker Mohamed Jabaly a work visa to allow him to tour with his first film, Ambulance (2016), and to make a second film with his Norwegian producers, in Tromsø, Norway. Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) is shocked at this decision, calls on the Norwegian government to rescind it, and invites others to join in this call.

Continue reading

Mohammad Abu Sakha: in prison for making children happy

***UPDATE Amnesty International briefing:
END ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION OF CIRCUS PERFORMER.
“…Amnesty International fears that the Israeli authorities – as they have done in many other such cases – are using administrative detention as a method of punishing Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha without prosecuting him, which would amount to arbitrary detention. Israel’s use of administrative detention itself may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, given the detainee’s inability to know why they are being detained or when they will be released.” 14.12.2016


On December 12th, at a hearing that he was not permitted to attend , the Administrative detention of 24 year-old Palestinian circus trainer and performer Mohammad Abu Sakha (pictured, on  left) was renewed for an additional 6 months. Abu Sakha has been imprisonment in Israeli jails without charge or trial for a year. The following article first appeared in Open Democracy on December 9th 2016, a few days before the court hearing.

by HANNAH PRYTHERCH

One year after he was arrested by Israeli forces, Palestinian circus teacher Mohammad Abu Sakha  is still behind bars, and without charges.

I have a sense of deja-vu. One year ago, when I spent the Christmas period desperately contacting news agencies, begging them to publish a story about a friend of mine, Mohammad Abu Sakha, who had been arrested without charge, I didn’t expect that come December 2016, I would be sitting here in the same place, doing it all over again. I guess I was naïve then. I thought that others, if only they knew, would share my outrage at this injustice. And collective outrage would spark change. So all I needed to do was tell people, shine a light on the situation and it would change. A year on, I’ve learned a lot about the way in which power, politics and the personal psyche work together to facilitate and maintain social injustice. Continue reading