Artswatch Palestine: June-July 2017

Our regular report on Israel’s war on Palestinian cultural life and expression.
[Pictured: Palestinian-American rapper and video-maker, Abu Rahss]

HOW ISRAEL MAINTAINS A FREE AND THRIVING PRESS

In May 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2222, on the protection of journalists in conflict situations. The resolution ‘condemned all violations and abuses committed against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in situations of armed conflict’.

During the debate on the resolution, Israel’s delegate, David Roet, spoke in praise of his country, ‘a model for how a democratic nation, even while facing immense challenges could maintain a free and thriving press’.

In a statement released on Friday 28th July, the NGO Reporters sans Frontières condemned Israeli forces for using ‘intimidation, denial of access, violence and arrests to limit or prevent media coverage of the demonstrations and clashes sparked by the introduction of additional security measures around the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem’

In a statement released on 31st July, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a pre-dawn raid by Israeli forces on the headquarters of the media production company Palmedia. They ransacked Palmedia’s offices, and destroyed equipment.

In a statement released on 6th August, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Israel’s decision, announced by Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, to close Al-Jazeera’s offices in Israel, revoke the credentials of its journalists and censor its transmissions.

TATOUR – PROGRESS MEASURED IN SMALL VICTORIES

In October, Dareen Tatour will have spent two years in detention, for the crime of posting poems on her Facebook page – see Artswatch April-May 2017, and earlier. Her long-drawn out trial has not yet resulted in a verdict and so Tatour lives under highly restrictive bail conditions. The Free Haifa website (August 3rd) reports on a small courtroom victory won by Dareen. The conditions imposed by the court in May 2017 meant that she couldn’t go out of the house unless accompanied at every moment by one of her 5 certified “supervisors” – her parents, two brothers and a sister in law. But four of these five “supervisors” are working every day, and Dareen’s mother ‘is busy caring for a bunch of her small grandchildren while their parents are at work’. Dareen’s lawyers therefore asked for the court to approve three further supervisors. After extensive argument, the court agreed. For Palestinians, progress is measured in small victories.

Dareen’s ordeal continues. Its absurdity and viciousness is well brought out in this report, by Israeli sociologist Yehouda Shenhav.

THEATRE UNDER SIEGE IN ACRE

Shlomi Eldar reports in Al Monitor, June 2017, that various playwrights, directors and other artists have announced their withdrawal from the Acre Festival of Alternative Theatre, in which they were scheduled to take part in October 2017. Their withdrawal was a response to the decision of the festival organizers to ban the play “Prisoners of the Occupation” by Einat Weitzman.

Eldar sees the ban as an effect of the policies of Culture Minister Mini Regev ,which have ‘created a threatening climate that limits free expression and leads theatres to practice self-censorship’.

Ha’aretz reported on 7th June that the Executive Committee of Shacham, the Israeli Actors Guild had agreed to call on its members not to take part in productions selected for the festival under its new artistic management.

MOHAMMED BAKRI IN FRANCE

Mohammed Bakri harassed in the Israeli courts for his film ‘Jenin, Jenin’ (see Artswatch November 2016 and earlier) was guest of honour at the third Festival Ciné-Palestine, held in Paris and surrounding towns. The Festival has now established a real presence in France. 2700 people attended its screenings; details of its programme can be read here.

ON NOT CROSSING BORDERS (1): GAZA TO NABLUS IS AN IMPASSABLE ROAD

Amira Hass (Ha’aretz 8th August) reports that Israel’s high court has refused to allow two 16 year-old Palestinian musicians, members of the Edward Said National Conservatoire, to travel from their homes in Gaza to perform in the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus. Hass dissects the decision-making of the High Court, and of COGAT, the Israeli office for the Co-ordination of Government Activities in the Territories. She concludes that ‘they’re only following orders, which are to sever Palestinians in Gaza from those in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), to destroy the natural connections between them. Israel’s clear objective, which is gradually being realized, is to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate entity’.

ON NOT CROSSING BORDERS (2): THE VISA PROBLEMS OF A PALESTINIAN PHOTGRAPHER

Hamde Abu Rahma is an award-winning Palestinian photojournalist, an activist and the author of ‘Roots Run Deep – Life in Occupied Palestine’. His work as photojournalist focuses on the lives of Palestinians living in the Israeli occupied territories of the West Bank.

Some of Abu Rahma’s photos were exhibited at the PalExpo Event in London in July, attended by 15,000 people. Abu Rahma himself could not attend. The British government, having agreed his visa request, failed to return his passport in time.

Abu Rahma also experienced visa problems in 2016. He was unable to turn up at a travelling exhibition of his work because UK Visas and Immigration Office had refused his visa application, saying there was no proof of funding and that therefore they were not satisfied he was a genuine visitor.

ON NOT CROSSING BORDERS (3): THOM YORKE AND ABU RAHSS.

Thom Yorke is a musician, a member of Radiohead, who despite widespread opposition performed in July this year in Hayarkon Park, Israel. Before the concert, Yorke tweeted ‘Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression.’

Abu Rahss (pictured above) is a Palestinian-American rapper and video-maker.He is also a skateboader. In early August he made the journey to Palestine, in order to be a camp counsellor at SkateQilya Skate Camp in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. He got as far as the Allenby Bridge, on Israel’s border with Jordan. In Mondoweiss, Rahss explained what happened next:

‘After going up to the window and presenting my passport like all travellers, I was questioned for 15 minutes after which my passport was taken and I was told to sit and wait, as I had been expecting. Palestinians have to sit and wait while Europeans, Americans, and other international travelers pass through without any problem 95 percent of the time.

‘After two hours of waiting, I was finally called to be questioned. It was unpleasant and antagonistic from the start and I was questioned for about 30 minutes about my family history, who I know in the West Bank, if I attend protests in the U.S., if I attend protests in Palestine, and much more. My phone was taken and looked through for five minutes (a young woman looked through my Instagram account thoroughly but seemed upset that she couldn’t find whatever it was she was looking for).
I then waited for another hour before being taken to a back room and questioned further about the same things by two new border officers (they also took my fingerprints and took headshots). After this round of questioning, they informed me that since I’m going to the West Bank and not Israel, I have to talk with an official from the Israeli army’.

The official turned Rahss away, and he has since returned to Washington.

Don’t play Berlin Pop-Kultur under Israeli Embassy sponsorship!

***UPDATE:
Iklan, featuring Law Holt, are the first UK band to respond to Palestinians’ appeal to withdraw from Israeli-sponsored festival 17.08.2017

Brian Eno and Roger Waters have told Artists for Palestine UK they endorse APUK’s open letter (below) to Pop-Kultur musicians 17.08.2017

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL UK MUSICIANS  SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN BERLIN AUGUST 23 – 25, 2017

‘Art goes beyond a single act on a stage; it’s against all that is regressive and discriminatory in this world’
Mohammad Abu Hajar, Syrian rapper

Dear colleagues:

When you signed up to play Berlin Pop-Kultur, you possibly didn’t know that the Israeli Embassy in Germany was a sponsor.   Maybe you also don’t know that Palestinian civil society, living under Israeli military occupation or in exile, is appealing to artists not to take part in events sponsored by the state of Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinians’ long struggle for rights and freedom.

But now that you do know, will you follow the example of the musicians who have withdrawn from Pop-Kultur in the past few days?

For instance, Emel Mathlouthi, singer-songwriter of the Tunisian Revolution, who says:

I was looking forward to playing later this month in Berlin, until I realized the festival is sponsored by the Israeli embassy.   Now that I know, I’ll have to pull out.  

As things get tougher inside and outside Palestine, what each one of us can always do is show solidarity and empathy; as artists it starts by being true and faithful.
Emel Mathlouthi, 15 August 2017

 And Mohammad Abu Najar, of the Syrian rap band Mazzaj, himself a refugee from the Assad regime in Germany, whose statement says:

To be consistent with our political commitment against any form of oppression, colonialism or discrimination we proudly declare our withdrawal from the festival as long as it endorses the discriminatory policies of the Israeli state by collaborating with [it] and displaying its logo.

We call for all the participating artists to take a similar position to prove that art is still a message that goes beyond a single act on a stage, that art is a position against all that is regressive and discriminatory in this world.
Mohammad Abu Hajar, 11 August 2017

Pop-Kultur says the Israeli Embassy’s logo is on its site because the Embassy are paying some musicians’ expenses, and they have no influence on content.

But that’s not the point.   The point is that the state of Israel continues to dispossess the indigenous population of Palestine, and shows no sign of stopping.   Abu Hajar says:

‘We will not participate in a festival that accepts partnership with a government which openly declared on many different occasions anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Black attitudes.’

Dear colleagues, you know that you have the power to tell the Israeli government you disapprove of its actions.   You have the power to tell the Palestinians they are not alone under occupation and in exile.   Please use your power.

Please withdraw from Berlin Pop-Kultur.

Artists for Palestine UK
London, August 15, 2017


At the time of writing, the following UK artists are scheduled to appear at Pop-Kultur:

Arab Strap, Simone Butler, Shirley Collins, Darkstar, Christine Franz, Manuela Gernedel, Law Holt, IDLES, Iklan, Ian Keary, Lady Leshurr, David Laurie, Let’s Eat Grandma, Little Simz, Timothy London, Cieron Magat, Nick McCarthy, Anna Meredith, Piano Wire, Simon Price, Alexis Taylor, Throwing Shade, Typewriter-Klangwelten, Christian Vogel, Stephen Warwick, Rob Young, Young Fathers.

UPDATE: 17.08.2017 :  Iklan, featuring Law Holt, are the first UK band to respond to Palestinians’ appeal to withdraw from Israeli-sponsored festival

Radiohead gig promoted by Israeli diplomatic missions around the world

Radiohead are a band that many had associated with progressive politics. But now it turns out they have an extraordinary following among Israeli diplomats and right-wing conservatives. From US radio host Glenn Beck and Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, a range of around twenty Israel lobby groups, and thirteen Israeli diplomatic missions around the world from Ireland to Colombia, these groups are united in their explicit contempt for the indigenous Palestinian people’s lives.

The Jerusalem Post described Radiohead’s Israel gig and Thom Yorke’s rejection of the Palestinian call for BDS as “the best hasbara [advocacy] Israel has received lately”. Thom Yorke has defended their decision saying that “playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government”, but the Israeli government and its supporters certainly do endorse Radiohead.
Palestinian, Israeli and UK artists and activists have repeatedly pointed to the inevitable instrumentalisation  of the band’s appearance in Tel Aviv by Israel and its supporters.

Here are samples of messaging from June and July.

1. ISRAEL GOVERNMENT & DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS:

The State of Israel’s official twitter channel, Foreign Ministry: 

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Israeli historian Ilan Pappe to Radiohead: ‘It would be immoral to perform in such circumstances’

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has issued the following statement regarding Radiohead’s decision to appear on stage in Israel tomorrow, disregarding appeals from Palestinians and their supporters around the world.

Via Artists for Palestine UK, London, July 18th

‘The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has not ceased for one day in the last 50 years. This oppression includes daily violations of Palestinian human and civil rights and does not spare children, pregnant mothers, old people, disabled persons and ordinary men and women. The so called peace process has failed to end this oppression and each failure of its various stages has produced more oppression and despair for the millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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Mike Leigh slams Radiohead for ignoring Palestinians

Artists for Palestine UK statement
London, July 17

Film writer and director Mike Leigh has criticised Thom Yorke and Radiohead for ignoring Palestinian suffering, two days ahead of their controversial Israel gig.

Last week Radiohead front-man Yorke defended the band’s decision to play in Israel and ignore the Palestinian picket-line, arguing that music was about ‘crossing borders’ and ‘shared humanity’.

Today, Oscar nominated Leigh, who is in production for his forthcoming feature film ‘Peterloo’, issued the following statement via Artists for Palestine UK – Continue reading

Ken Loach has nothing to apologise for

Statement from Artists for Palestine UK
London, July 15

As UK band Radiohead prepares to perform in Israel on July 19 in direct breach of the Palestinian boycott, leading boycott supporter Ken Loach has faced defamatory attacks on his integrity.

Loach is committed to supporting Palestinian rights

Loach is one of over 1,220 signatories to the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine who have made the following commitment:

‘… In response to the call from Palestinian artists and cultural workers for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.’

Because Artists for Palestine UK (APUK)  has always understood the complex problems that artists from all disciplines face around rights ownership once an artwork enters the market, we have been explicit about which practical steps can be expected of artists who support the Palestinian call for boycott, and which  cannot. The guidelines, which have been on the Artists for Palestine UK website since we launched in February 2015, include the following question and answer:

‘Q. I am an artist and I do not have control over who buys the art I produce, nor the circulation of that work once it has been sold. Am I in a position to sign the Pledge?

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Thom Yorke’s words about art ‘crossing borders’ ring hollow in Israel-Palestine

Artists for Palestine UK published an Open Letter to Radiohead signed by 47 leading cultural figures back in April.  Today, we issue the following statement in response to frontman Thom Yorke’s comments via Twitter directed at Ken Loach (copied below).

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Artswatch Palestine: April-May 2017

‘Artswatch’ is a regular digest that monitors attacks on Palestinian cultural life, creative resistance, and cultural interventions in Israel-Palestine. In this edition:
* Pinkwashing rejected
* The trial of Dareen Tatour
* The detention of Abu Sakha
* The banning of International Women’s Day
* A war of aggression on Amazon
* Ten years of PalFest
* On the red carpet in Gaza
* Regev’s dress at Cannes

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Radiohead’s Thom Yorke ‘offended’ by appeal from fellow artists: our response

Following personal approaches to Radiohead by Palestinians, by fans and by fellow artists, on April 24,  Artists for Palestine UK posted an open letter signed by 47 prominent artists appealing to the band to withdraw from their scheduled Tel Aviv gig in July. The letter drew widespread media attention including from Pitchfork, NME, The Telegraph and The Guardian, but the band chose not to comment on the question of standing up for Palestinian rights. Now, in an extraordinary outburst in the pages of Rolling Stone, Thom Yorke lambasts the artists who signed the letter.

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Save the First Drama School in Palestine from Closure

Those who saw Ramallah-based Ashtar Theatre’s production of Richard II at the Globe in 2012 will long remember it. Now Ashtar is faced with financial crisis. The theatre needs to raise £40,000 to keep its premises open. It has launched an appeal for funds. Ashtar’s reputation is global, and its work is aimed at creating international solidarities. Its ‘Gaza Monologues’ have brought the voices of Gaza’s children to audiences across the world. It recently launched the ‘Syrian Monologues’ to draw attention to the Syrian refugee crisis and to ‘fight the war machine that turns people to numbers and casualties’.  

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