Is this the Guardian’s notion of balance?

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 Our riposte (below) went unpublished.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.

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Theatre director Jonathan Chadwick: BDS crucially important element in resistance

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

Kamila Shamsie: Why I signed the artists’ pledge for Palestine

On Saturday 14 February, a 600 word piece was published in the Guardian Saturday Review by novelist and pledge signatory, Kamila Shamsie, which we reproduce in full here:

Kamila Shamsie 14.02.15It doesn’t take long in the West Bank and Jerusalem to work out that ‘apartheid’ is the only word that will do. It is present in the extensive infrastructure of military might, 3G phone coverage (not allowed to Palestinian mobile providers), and no-Arabs-permitted bus routes that cater to settlers in the West Bank whose presence there is illegal. It is present in the implementation of laws that make it virtually impossible for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to acquire residence permits for their spouses from the West Bank and Gaza. It is present in the security checkpoint in the middle of a once-busy market street in Hebron where Israeli guards inspect your paperwork to make sure you aren’t Palestinian – absolutely everyone else is allowed through. It is present, most starkly, in the Separation Wall. Continue reading

Guardian: Our cultural boycott of Israel starts now

Guardian letters
Friday 13 February

Along with more than 600 other fellow artists, we are announcing today that we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel. We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Since the summer war on Gaza, Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence. “2014,” says the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, was “one of the cruellest and deadliest in the history of the occupation.” The Palestinian catastrophe goes on. Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of “Brand Israel”. During South African apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to “play Sun City”. Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.

To see the full list of supporters, go to artistsforpalestine.org.uk. Khalid Abdalla, Riz Ahmed, Peter Ahrends, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Will Alsop, Richard Ashcroft, John Berger, Bidisha, Nicholas Blincoe, Leah Borrromeo, Haim Bresheeth, Victoria Brittain, Niall Buggy, Tam Dean Burn, Jonathan Burrows, David Calder, Anna Carteret, Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, Ian Christie, Caryl Churchill, Sacha Craddock, Liam Cunningham, Selma Dabbagh, Colin Darke, April De Angelis, Andy de la Tour, Ivor Dembina, Shane Dempsey, Elaine Di Campo, Patrick Driver, Earl Okin, Sally El Hosaini, Brian Eno, Gareth Evans, Annie Firbank, James Floyd, Aminatta Forna, Jane Frere, Kadija George, Bob Giles, Mel Gooding, Tony Graham, Omar Robert Hamilton, Jeremy Hardy, Mike Hodges, James Holcombe, Rachel Holmes, Adrian Hornsby, Rose Issa, Ann Jungman, John Keane, Brigid Keenan, Hannah Khalil, Shahid Khan, Peter Kosminsky, Hari Kunzru, Paul Laverty, Alisa Lebow, Mike Leigh, Tom Leonard, sonja Linden, Phyllida Lloyd, Ken Loach, Liz Lochhead, David Mabb, Sabrina Mahfouz, Miriam Margolyes, Kika Markham, Simon McBurney, Sarah McDade, Jimmy McGovern, Pauline Melville, Roger Michell, China Mieville, Russell Mills, Laura Mulvey, Jonathan Munby, Courttia Newland, Lizzie Nunnery, Rebecca O’Brien, Treasa O’Brien, Andrew O’Hagan, Jeremy Page, Timothy Pottier, Michael Radford, Maha Rahwanji, Ravinder Randhawa, Siobhan Redmond, Lynne Reid Banks, Ian Rickson, Leon Rosselson, Kareem Samara, Leila Sansour, Alexei Sayle, Seni Seneviratne, Kamila Shamsie, Anna Sherbany, Eyal Sivan, Gillian Slovo, John Smith, Max Stafford-Clark, Maggie Steed, Sarah Streatfeild, Mitra Tabrizian, Mark Thomas, Cat Villiers, Roger Waters, Esther Wilson, Penny Woolcock, Susan Wooldridge, Emily Young, Andrea Luka Zimmerman