Artists for Palestine UK has written to the organisers of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe enclosing a letter of protest from the founder of Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, over the inclusion on the Fringe programme of an event billed as “probably the most significant pro-Israel advocacy event of the year in the United Kingdom”.
UPDATE: Globe actors defend playing in Israel “regardless of politics”
Shakespeare’s Globe theatre has ignored Palestinian appeals and the good counsel of a number of their UK peers by going ahead with their performance of Hamlet at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv on March 30.
Showing either ignorance of, or disregard for the highly politicised nature of culture in Israel-Palestine, members of the company justified their action at a press conference, stating, “It was clear to us that we would be coming to Israel, regardless of politics” and “We try not to deal with local politics of the places to which we travel”.
As is usual when the Palestinian boycott picket line is crossed by international artists, Israeli media portrayed the Globe’s appearance as a failure for the cultural boycott movement.
This English-language news report is a prime example.
Statements made at their press conference by actors Keith Bartlett and Jennifer Lang were quoted in a Hebrew language report . Thanks to Ofer Neiman for the following translations into English.
“We travel all over the world, and politics is none of our business”, said Keith Bartlett (playing Polonius), adding “We are here to tell a story, and it is exciting to see how it is received everywhere we perform. It was clear to us that we would be coming to Israel, regardless of politics”
Jennifer Lang (playing Ophelia): “We intend for this tour to tell its story to as many people across the world. Any viewer who is not a regular viewer of the Globe is an addition for us. We try not to deal with local politics of the places to which we travel”.
Why has Shakespeare’s Globe added a performance at Israel’s Cameri theatre on March 30 to the tour schedule for its production of Hamlet, in breach of the boycott of institutions that reinforce the oppression of Palestinian artists and their communities?
This is the question addressed on Friday (March 25) to artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, as his ten year stint at the celebrated London theatre draws to a close, in an open letter signed by British and Palestinian theatre professionals.
In 2012, 37 actors, writers and directors protested the fact that Shakespeare’s Globe had invited Habima, the national theatre of Israel, to take part in its Globe to Globe festival. The specific ground for the protest was that Habima regularly performs in Ariel, the largest of Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. A letter signed by the 37, including Mark Rylance who was Dromgoole’s predecessor as artistic director at the Globe, attracted considerable media attention and gave impetus to the cultural boycott campaign which is now supported by growing numbers of artists in all fields.
Four years on, the management of the Globe can be in no doubt that adding the Cameri theatre to its schedule attracts at least as much opprobrium as the invitation to Habima in 2012. Continue reading
Musician Roger Waters speaks out against the criminalisation in France of non-violent boycott in defence of Palestinian rights. We reproduce his letter, picked up from a French news agency by the website Mondoweiss.
Mes Cher Citoyens,
Along with most thinking, feeling and compassionate members of global civil society, I deplore the occupation of Palestine and the subjugation of all of its non-Jewish peoples. The State of Israel’s anti-Palestinian discrimination since 1947/8 is unacceptable.
I am anti-racist, anti-colonialist, anti-war, anti-oppression, and anti- discrimination.
Every document of civilisation, wrote Walter Benjamin, is also a document of barbarism. He could have had the corporate-sponsored London art scene in mind – and in particular the Zabludowicz Collection, now a strong presence in London, as it is in New York and Helsinki. With the growing influence of Zabludowicz, art and the occupation of Palestine are becoming more closely linked – a linkage which artists are now challenging.
Musician Brian Eno, signatory of the UK Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, and Ohal Grietzer , a musician and activist with the Israeli group BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, made the following joint contribution to public discussion about the cultural boycott of Israel on Vice.com.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has issued the following statement about the Zabludowicz Art Trust.
Art should not be used to cover up apartheid: Boycott the Zabludowicz Art Trust!
Occupied Palestine, October 26, 2015 — The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls for a boycott of the Zabludowicz Art Trust for its deep complicity in Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid.
The Zabludowicz Art Trust directly supports Israel’s oppression of Palestinians through its funder, The Tamares Group, which is responsible for investments in Knafaim, an Israeli-based holding company, focused on the aviation industry, with major holdings in several Israeli companies including Kanfey Tachzuka, which provides maintenance services to the Israeli Air Force, notorious for its ongoing commission of war crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. Continue reading
The appearance last week of some famous UK cultural names on a statement defending Israel against boycott has sparked a wave of incredulity and outrage from fellow artists.
Artists, actors, writers, editors, musicians and filmmakers are among those queuing up to defend the boycott tactic after JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel and historian Simon Schama joined well-known pro-Israel lobbyists in attacking it. Rowling and co urged cultural ‘coexistence’ and ‘dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians’ and called the Palestinian boycott campaign “divisive and discriminatory”.
“It is Israeli policies towards Palestinians which are divisive and discriminatory,” said actress Miriam Margolyes, one of more than 1000 UK artists who have signed a commitment not to cooperate with Israeli state-funded cultural institutions as long as Palestinian rights are denied.
“Artists used the tactic of boycott against apartheid in South Africa and we are doing it again in support of Palestine– because no one else is holding Israel to account,” she said.
Composer Brian Eno, one of a number whose letters were published in the Guardian on October 27, said he appreciated the desire for dialogue, “but what kind of dialogue is realistically possible between a largely unarmed and imprisoned people whose land is disappearing before its eyes, and the heavily weaponised State that’s in the process of taking it.” Continue reading
This piece by Times of Israel founding editor David Horowitz perfectly demonstrates Israel’s desperate need for cultural nourishment from abroad to sustain its armed dominance over the Palestinian people.
The Indie band alt-J, from Leeds in northeast England, ignored weeks of appeals from pro-Palestinian campaigners and broke the boycott to play two nights in Rishon Lezion just south of Tel Aviv on August 23 and 24. Horowitz’s purple prose exalts the audience who had flocked to the concert as “young Israel — army kids and post-army kids and tomorrow’s army kids”.
Alt-J were providing much-needed R&R for the soldiers who had decimated Gaza a year earlier and will do so again if called upon. It would be hard to find a clearer justification for the Palestinian cultural boycott campaign urged upon those who wish to see an end to Israeli apartheid. (For a more prosaic write-up, see this piece in the Jerusalem Post .)
“ISRAEL’S BEAUTIFUL YOUTH LIFTED BY THE GOSPEL OF ALT-J
An English band’s soaring harmonies strike a chord with the soldiers of a year ago and tomorrow. Continue reading
Artists for Palestine UK is proud to be a partner in this new initiative .
It’s time to ‘Make Apartheid History’ starting Mandela Day, Sat 18th July, 2015
Make Apartheid History, the follow-up to Bethlehem Unwrapped, launched online on Saturday 18th July, and we held our first event at London’s Southbank with a programme of poetry and prose linking civil rights, anti-apartheid, and Palestinian solidarity movements.Edited highlights of performances by Paterson Joseph, Miriam Margolyes, Kika Markham, Leila Sansour, Jeremy Hardy and Sam West are here.
Make Apartheid History is an international project that brings together creative individuals, organisations and networks from around the world – starting with Palestine and the UK; South Africa and USA – for a programme of popular events commencing summer 2015 and culminating Mandela Day, summer 2016. Our short introductory video is here. Continue reading
It includes the important clarification that: “from the outset that the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign – in accordance with the Palestinian guidelines for the Cultural Boycott of Israel – never sought the cancellation of the Feis. Instead we sought to encourage Irish people who had planned on attending the competition – including the advertised adjudicators Seamus and Ainé Ó Sé – to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and Apartheid. Separately, we pleaded with An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG; The Irish Dancing Commission), as an organisation which receives money from the Irish taxpayer via Conradh Na Gaeilge, to withdraw its endorsement, promotion and support for the event taking place under its auspices.
As Thurston Moore, Miss Lauryn Hill and Primus become the latest to cancel shows in Tel Aviv, British-Palestinian musician Samir Eskanda makes the case for the boycott, with contributions from Moore and Jean-Hervé Peron of Faust.
In 2009, a couple of weeks after the end of Israel’s massacres in Gaza, dubbed “Operation: Cast Lead”, I decided to adopt the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel. The three-week assault, which served as the model for last summer’s rampage, was carried out on the pretext of ending erratic rocket fire from the besieged Gaza strip. In reality it represented an escalation of the daily violence committed by Israeli occupation forces against a relatively defenceless civilian population, themselves mostly refugees from previous rounds of aggression. Continue reading
Earlier this month, a piece by artist and critic, Steffen Zillig appeared in the German Magazine, art – Das Kunstmagazine (‘The Art magazine’), where he is also editor. Zillig attacks the artists who in February signed a Pledge for Palestine. His piece contains no new charges worth refuting; however, the familiar antisemitism smear – delivered in a particularly aggressive tone – was given two further platforms, and unwarranted credibility, in the UK arts press: in Artlyst and Artnet, both of which failed to offer any analysis or counter-argument. That has been left to us. There is an English translation of the German article below our response to Zillig.
Zillig attributes various qualities to the signatories:
– They are not serious political activists: signing the Pledge is just the latest, clueless form of a fashion for art-activism. The signatories are assuming a role in a drama of their own making: David against Goliath, the dissident artist against the Leviathan state.
– They are ignorant of history, and simplify and moralise conflicts that are in reality complex and many-sided.
– They lack empathy for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by states which have spurned every opportunity for peace.
– Unless and until all oppressive states are boycotted, a boycott of Israel is a signifier of antisemitism. (Deplorably, Zillig does not hesitate to impute antisemitic motives to individual artists.)
Zillig has constructed his polemic without, it seems, taking the trouble to read the ways in which the artists who have signed the pledge explain why they have done so. Continue reading
Published at artnet News, Monday, March 2, 2015
In answering JJ Charlesworth’s broadside (See: The Cultural Boycott of Israel Isn’t Solidarity, It’s Condescension) against the Artists Pledge for Palestine, now signed by over 1000 British artists, we should start by recalling what the pledge actually says.
Those thousand artists, and more coming in all the time, say they will not accept professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to Israel’s government. This is not an act of “moral condescension by the self-righteous and self-regarding,” as Charlesworth alleges. It is a response to a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) from across the whole of Palestinian civil society, including both individual artists and their representative organisations.
In an article that raises many common arguments against cultural boycott, but fails on nearly all counts to understand the position he is attacking, JJ. Charlesworth presents an unsustainable caricature of the motives and actions of artists and cultural workers who’ve signed the pledge. He makes some points that are serious and deserve serious answers. But there is a morass of soft thinking and loose argument to clear out of the way first. Continue reading
A week before we launched the artists’ pledge, Artleaks published a call by a group calling themselves Challenging Double Standards (CDS), arguing against what they term ‘the Boycott of Israeli Art and Society.’ You can read their call here. Subsequent to our launch, some of the UK arts press linked to the CDS call in their coverage of the artists’ pledge. APUK felt it necessary to publish a response – together with Israeli citizens for BDS – which Artleaks agreed to post on their website. You can also read it in full below:
On 13th February, Artists for Palestine UK launched the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, which now has more than 1,000 signatories. In its first week, the website received over 160,000 hits; it seems fair to say that its launch has opened another phase in the debate about the response that cultural workers can make to the struggle of Palestinians against oppression.
Another contribution to these arguments – strongly opposed to ours – has been made by a group of cultural workers based mainly in Germany. Published in ArtLeaks a few days before we launched the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, it comprises a call against boycott, made under the heading ‘Challenging Double Standards.’In the interests of debate, we offer a summary of what we take to be the authors’ main propositions, followed by a defence of our own approach and a critique of theirs.
The antisemitism smear was the anticipated response of Israel’s apologists to the artists’ pledge for human rights. Indeed that is what makes signatories courageous individuals. What was feared but less anticipated was the extent to which that smear would be sharpened – and then given a platform in the mainstream press – to hold pledge signatories responsible for the deadly targeting of Jews.
My name is Abdelfattah Abusrour. I am director of Alrowwad cultural and theatre training society, which I founded with a group of friends in 1998 in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine, where I was born, to create a safe space of beautiful expression, a philosophy that I call beautiful resistance against the ugliness of occupation and its violence… and to help our children and youth to see their potential as change makers, without needing to carry a gun and shoot everybody else…
In May 2002, Alrowwad theatre centre was vandalised by the Israeli army. They broke our video cameras and computers, and emptied oil and acrylic painting tubes all over the space. During our tours in the West Bank, many checkpoints forbid us passage with our theatre or dance shows and our play bus. We wait for hours, sometimes without being allowed to pass south to Hebron or to the north. No access is granted to Gaza, to East Jerusalem or 1948 Palestine.
Theatre and arts are about giving a voice to those who are not heard, and defending what we believe is just and right… That is why for me as an artist, as a theatre practitioner, I boycott every relation with Israeli artists or academics or politicians… Continue reading
In the week following the publication of our letter announcing the launch of the artists’ pledge, the Guardian published several responses – on the letters page, and in Comment is Free (CiF). Of nine published letters, three were supportive. Our riposte (below) went unpublished. Novelist Kamila Shamsie’s piece on why she signed the pledge was easy to miss: it appeared only in the print edition, under ‘The week in Books’.
Unusually, an Israeli politician was given a slot in both sections of the newspaper. On the same day, a CiF piece appeared entitled ‘Those calling for a boycott of Israel are ignoring some painful truths‘, as well as a letter under the sensationalist and inflammatory headline, ‘Why no petition to protect Jewish people?‘. The author, chairperson of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, was even permitted to repeat his hasbara, so that Guardian readers are subjected twice to his derisory hyperbole suggesting an inevitable genocide of Israeli Jews would be on the consciences of the pledge signatories:
As artists – who by definition are people with imagination – are they willing to take a moment and consider what would happen if, following a call in the Guardian, the IDF puts down its weapons and stops protecting the people of Israel for 24 hours? If you don’t share the imagination of an artist let me tell you: radical Islamists would kill us all. Women and children first.
Jonathan Chadwick – artistic director of Az Theatre, and a Pledge signatory – has written a blog post about his recent trip to the West Bank, which we think is worth sharing:
I went to Palestine on Saturday 7th February and came back on Sunday 15th February. I failed to get into Gaza to pursue the work on War and Peace.
Caryl Churchill and I worked on her recent play, Love and Information, at Ashtar Theatre. The British Council accommodated us. The Royal Court Theatre provided finance for the translation. We paid for the travel and did the work for free. It was our contribution, like planting a play in Palestine! Continue reading