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Last year, the ‘Cultural Loyalty’ Bill, which would have withdrawn funding from cultural productions deemed to be anti-Israel, failed to win the approval of the Knesset.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

In contrast to the sound and fury of Culture Minister Miri Regev’s customary threats against institutions which allow the Palestinian narrative to be heard, this latest cancellation was managed quite discreetly. All it took was a phone call from Yitzhaki, and a few words, from Shawki Khatib, head of the Centre for Professional Arab Local Governance in Israel, and the Mayor called off the show. 

Noting the complicity between state institutions, director Einat Weizman described the situation as ‘very troubling’. ‘Neither I nor the cast have any intention to stop making our voices heard,’ she said.

A note to the German government

The Jewish Museum in Berlin was opened in 2001. It documents the centuries of German culture that the Nazis tried to wipe out. It works to educate its millions of visitors about the consequences of antisemitism. Its current exhibition, Welcome to Jerusalem, presents the city as a centre of faith and a ‘home to extraordinary political tensions’.

The Berlin International Film Festival has taken place every year since 1978, and is known for the space it gives to the cinema of the Middle East.

B’Tselem, the Coalition of Women for Peace and Breaking the Silence are Israeli organisations which have taken a stand against the Occupation, as has the online magazine +972.

The Catholic charity Miserior works in partnership with Israeli Physicians for Human Rights. Bread for the World is the development and relief agency of German protestant churches, committed to ‘constantly working to promote reconciliation and respect for human rights for all’. 

What do all these organisations have in common? All of them have been named in a note from the Israeli government to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reported by Jannis Hagmann in Die Tageszeitung on  5th December. 

Hagmann writes that Prime Minister Netanyahu has presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a letter calling on her government to end the financial support it gives to these organisations, on the grounds that they support BDS, or otherwise work against the interests of Israel. The letter complains, for instance, that the museum ‘often hosts events and discussions with the BDS movement’. Welcome to Jerusalem is said to be focused on the ‘Palestinian narrative’. 

In response, many Israeli artists signed an open letter, published in Die Tageszeitung, stating that they rejected ‘these attempts to curtail the freedom of cultural expression, which are part of a larger campaign by populist and ultra-rightwing governments worldwide to limit the scope of critical thought – and, where possible, to silence it altogether’. 

A spokesperson for the German government said that promotion of a vibrant civil society was a goal of German foreign and development policy, and that protection of human rights and freedom of expression were basic principles.  Nonetheless, noted Electronic Intifada,  the Israeli government’s escalating demands for censorship come against a background of official intolerance and repression in Germany of free expression in support of full Palestinian rights.

Conditions for a gallery’s survival

Artswatch, June 2018, reported the threats made by Culture Minister Miri Regev against the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem. According to Regev, the Barbur Gallery had been repeatedly guilty of “subversive activity” and of promoting ‘ceaseless pro-Palestinian provocations” that “seek to subvert the state’s existence and nurture fairy tales about the Nakba’.

In August 2018, the Gallery was closed, by court order. 

The exhibition Barbarism was conceived in the wake of the continual persecution of the Barbur and other art institutions and artists in Israel. It aimed to present the “barbaric” cases which raise questions about the notion of  freedom of expression, trying to ‘establish the extremes of expression that our society is willing to bear’. The project was supported by the Culture Administration of the Jerusalem Municipality and by the lottery fund, and held in the underground spaces of the Mamuta Art and Media Centre. 

The exhibition, raising questions about censorship, was itself censored. Dareen Tatour’s poem ‘Resist, My People’ (see previous Artswatches, and below)  was meant to be shown as part of a digital platform created by Meira Asher.  But when Miri Regev asked Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to withdraw funding from the gallery if Tatour’s poem was exhibited, the exhibition curators removed the work from open display. 

In response, reports Naama Riba in Al-Bilad, four artists, Laila Betterman, Anael Resnick, Guy Elhanan and Lee Lorian, wrote to the curators saying that they would withdraw their works from the exhibition. Though they understood the survival of the gallery and its financial suffocation were at stake, in their view the gallery had acted wrongly and failed to notice that these were the precise methods used by censors.

An offer from the judges

In June 2018, Dareen Tatour was sentenced to five months in prison by the Nazareth District court for incitement to violence and supporting terrorist organizations. The sentence was based on her social media posts, including the poem Resist, My People.  She was released from prison in September and began a process of legal appeal against her sentencing.

The Free Haifa website gives a full report of the first stage of the appeal, a hearing in the Nazareth District Court in December.  It appears that the judges hinted to Tatour’s advocate and to the State prosecutor, that they should reach a compromise agreement, outside the court. The charge against the poem would be rescinded, while Tatour’s other convictions, related to non-poetry Facebook statuses, would remain in place.

Such an agreement, comments Free Haifa, would ostensibly erase the blemish on the State of Israel and its judicial system for imprisoning a poet, and make the future prosecution of poets less likely. Dareen Tatour herself, however, would not be cleared. 

On the deaths of journalists, and the stance of the United Kingdom

At the Fortieth Session of the UN Human Rights Council (25thFebruary – 22ndMarch) an independent international committee of enquiry reported on the suppression of protests at the Gaza ‘fence’, in 2018, in which 189 people were killed and more than 6000 wounded. 

The commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot journalists intentionally, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such. Specifically, between 30 March and 31 December 2018, the Israeli security forces ‘killed two journalists, injured 39 with live ammunition, 5 with shrapnel, 32 with tear gas canisters direct hits, and 4 with rubber-coated bullets as they covered the Great March of Return demonstrations’. 

In relation to the two journalists (Yasser Murtaja, age 30 and Ahmed Ali Hussein, age 24) the Commission found that:

‘On 6 April, Yasser, a journalist from Gaza City, was shot in the lower abdomen by Israeli forces at the Khan Younis site while he was filming the demonstrations for a documentary. He was wearing a blue helmet and a dark blue bulletproof vest clearly marked “Press”. He died the following day.

‘On 13 April, Ahmed, a journalist from the Jabaliya refugee camp was shot by an Israeli sniper in the lower abdomen at the north Gaza site while he was taking photographs of the demonstrations, approximately 300 m from the separation fence. He was wearing a blue helmet and a blue vest clearly marked “Press”. He died of his injuries 12 days later.’

The commission recommended, inter alia, that Israel ‘refrain from using lethal force against civilians, including children, journalists, health workers and persons with disabilities, who pose no imminent threat to life’. 

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle on 21st March, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the United Kingdom would vote against all texts, including that of the committee of enquiry, which were brought to the Human Rights Council under ‘Article 7’, which is a permanent agenda item allowing a focus on Israel’s occupation.  Hunt argued that to single out Israel in this way was reprehensible. 

So far this year, a further sixteen Palestinians – seven of them children – have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza.

Postscript: a new spate of bannings

Mothers’ Day at the Institut Francais in Jerusalem.

Jewish South African anti-apartheid activist and former ANC government minister  Ronnie Kasrils at the Vienna Museum.

Palestinian former prisoner Rasmeah Odeh and poet Dareen Tatour in Berlin.

 

 

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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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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