Boots Riley, Naomi Klein among 100+ figures demanding free speech on BDS movement for Palestinian rights

Over one hundred high-profile artists and public figures are expressing dismay at political repression against  the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, slamming “attempts in Germany to impose political conditions” on artists such as Talib Kweli (pictured).  In an open letter published in the Guardian (and copied below), a broad range of artists from all fields and genres signed but also figures  from the field of human rights including: Index on Censorship, Patrisse Cullors co-founder of Black Lives Matter, human rights lawyer and former judge Sir Stephen Sedley, and philosopher Judith Butler.

“We are shocked that Open Source Festival, Düsseldorf has disinvited black American rapper Talib Kweli, leading to the cancellation of his Germany tour, after he refused to denounce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Attempts in Germany to impose political conditions on artists who support Palestinian rights, particularly targeting black, POC and queer artists, comprise a shameful trend of censorship, anti-Palestinian repression, and attacks on freedom of conscience.

We hold diverse views on BDS, but we concur with 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars who recently wrote, “the three main goals of BDS – ending the occupation, full equality to the Arab citizens of Israel and the right of return of Palestinian refugees – adhere to international law”.

Dr. Sara Roy of Harvard University, a leading Middle East scholar, recently addressed members of the German parliament: “I lost a large extended family to fascism and racism. By endorsing the motion that alleges that BDS is anti-Semitic—regardless of one’s position on BDS—you are criminalizing the right to free speech and dissent and those who choose to exercise it, which is exactly how fascism takes root. You also trivialize and dishonor the real meaning of anti-Semitism.”

We firmly oppose all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-blackness, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and sexism. We also agree with the 200 Palestinian civil society organisations who responded to the Bundestag’s declaration that equated BDS with bigotry: “Denying Palestinians the right to non-violently advocate for freedom, justice and equality is anti-Palestinian and puts the Bundestag at odds with international law, with universal democratic principles and even with the formal position of the European Union”.

Supporting a nonviolent struggle for freedom, justice and equality, for Palestinians or others, should never be conflated with bigotry. It’s a right. For many, it’s also a moral duty.”

Signed

Khalid Abdalla, actor, filmmaker

Tunde Adebimpe, musician

Aviad Albert, musician, linguist

Tariq Ali, writer

Nir Alon, visual artist

Monifa Bandele, human rights activist

David Banner, musician, producer, actor, activist

Daphna Baram, comedian, director Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK

Ben UFO, DJ

The Black Madonna, DJ, producer 

Nicholas Blincoe, writer

Judith Butler, philosopher

David Calder, actor

Iggor Cavalera, musician

Julie Christie, actor

Caryl Churchill, playwright

Ciel, DJ, producer 

Scott Cohen, music industry executive 

Ben Cook, director, LUX Artists’ Moving Image

Molly Crabapple, artist, writer

Patrisse Cullors, artist, co-founder Black Lives Matter

Liam Cunningham, actor

Selma Dabbagh, writer

Dror Dayan, filmmaker

Laurence Dreyfus, director, Phantasm Viol Consort

Michael Eric Dyson, author, minister, professor

Theo Ellis, musician

Eve Ensler, playwright, activist

Brian Eno, composer, producer

Jodie Evans, film producer

Gareth Evans, curator, producer

Anat Even, filmmaker

Chiara Figone, Archive Books/Kabinet/Journal

Saeed Taji Farouky, filmmaker

Peter Gabriel, musician, founder, Womad festival

Tom Gilroy, actor, director

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship

Ariel Gold, human rights activist

Ohal Grietzer, composer

LisaGay Hamilton, actor

Marc Lamont Hill, author, activist

HowNosm, street artists

Chace Infinite, artist, entrepreneur

Oli Isaacs, artist manager

Aki Kaurismäki, film director, screenwriter

Brigid Keenan, writer

Reem Kelani, singer, musicologist

Robin Kelly, historian, academic

A.L. Kennedy, writer

Peter Kennard, artist

Steve Kettley, musician, composer

Naomi Klein, writer

Paul Laverty, screenwriter

Mason Leaver-Yap, associate curator, KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Mike Leigh, writer, director

Laima Leyton, musician

Ken Loach, director

Liz Lochhead, poet, playwright

Sabrina Mahfouz, writer

Jens Maier-Rothe, curator, film producer

Miriam Margolyes, actor

Kika Markham, actor, writer

Yann Martel, writer 

Francesca Martinez, comedian

Ahmed Masoud, writer, director

Pauline Melville, writer

Avi Mograbi, filmmaker

Jessica Care Moore, poet, author, publisher

Thurston Moore, musician

Tom Morello, musician

Ali Shaheed Muhammad, rapper, producer, DJ

Laura Mulvey, filmmaker, writer

Joff Oddie, musician

Jonathan Ofir, conductor

Mutulu “M-1” Olugbala, musician, activist

David Oppenheim, artist, musician

Maxine Peake, actor

Cat Phillipps, artist

Danielle Alma Ravitzki, musician, visual artist

Boots Riley, director, musician, activist 

Ben Ronen, visual artist

Rrose, musician

Mark Ruffalo, actor

Gavin Rayna Russom, composer

Michal Sapir, writer, musician

Sate, artist 

James Schamus, screenwriter, producer, director

Stephen Sedley, human rights lawyer

Itamar Shapira, musician

Shain Shapiro, music industry executive

Eyal Sivan, filmmaker

Gillian Slovo, writer

Christopher Somes-Charlton, artist manager

Ahdaf Soueif, writer

Lia Tarachansky, journalist, filmmaker

Eyal Vexler, cultural producer, curator

Violet, electronic musician

Roger Waters, musician

Jonathan Watkins, director, Ikon Gallery 

Eyal Weizman, director, Forensic Architecture 

Penny Woolcock, screenwriter, filmmaker

Robert Wyatt, musician

Young Fathers, band

‘UK government must end isolation of artists from Gaza’: hundreds of academics and artists speak out

The letter  below criticises the UK government’s shameful ‘hostile environment’ policy, as it impacts  on artists, and in particular artists from Gaza. Israel’s policies have brought Gaza to the brink of economic, social and ecological collapse. To refuse visas to individuals who use all their efforts to be productive and creative in the face of dire circumstances, largely brought about by Israeli policy, makes the UK an accomplice in a strategy of collective punishment.
*UK-based academics and artists can sign the letter here.*

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Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Pratibha Parmar, Ken Loach and others say UK cinemas should boycott Israeli film festival Seret

In our letter published in the Guardian yesterday and copied below, 20 British filmmakers and writers including Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Ken Loach and Prahitbha Parmar criticise the hosting of an Israeli government sponsored film festival in the UK. 

The letter cites the findings of the recent UN report on Israel’s violence against Palestinians in Gaza.  It compares celebrity and business protests against Brunei over its new anti-LGBT law, with those against Israel over its violence against the Palestinians.

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Artswatch Palestine: December – March 2019

*Photo: The play ‘Palestine: Year Zero’ cancelled a few days before premiere.

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

A word in the mayor’s ear 

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

The Bill may have died, but its principles live on. 

Ha’aretz (9thDecember 2018) reports that Avigdor Yitzakhi, head of Israel’s state-run lottery, has successfully pressured the mayor of Kabul, a Palestinian-majority town in the north of Israel, to cancel a play whose plot involves the demolition of Palestinian homes.  Performances of ‘Palestine: Year Zero’ were cancelled a few days before its first performance.

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Brian Eno: Israel must not be allowed to use Eurovision as a propaganda tool

Brian Eno’s op-ed is published in today’s Guardian, and copied below.

“Those of us who make art and culture for a living thrive on free and open communication. So what should we do when we see culture becoming part of a political agenda? “Music unites,” says UK Eurovision entrant Michael Rice. What happens when a powerful state uses art as propaganda, to distract from its immoral and illegal behaviour? Everybody involved in the Eurovision song contest this year should understand that this is what is happening.

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Artswatch Palestine: September- November 2018

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

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

Dareen Tatour

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

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

The Loyalty in Culture Bill

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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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