‘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.*

We, U.K. based artists and academics are dismayed that two Palestinian filmmakers Yousef Nateel and Hussein Owda from Gaza have been refused visitor visas to the UK. Their film Gazagraph is part of ‘The Past in the Present’ film programme developed for Creative Interruptions, a major research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.  They have been invited to attend the world premiere of their film, take part in further screenings and participate in an academic conference and networking events at Sheffield Hallam University,  the British Film Institute, Kings College London, Regents University, Migration Matters Festival in Sheffield and HOME in Manchester . The events are due to take place in June.

 We are alarmed at the recent trend of rejecting entry to academics and artists from Gaza. In August 2018 the Home Office delayed granting a visa to the Palestinian Author Nayrouz Qarmout making it impossible for her to attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival.  In the same month they prevented the young Palestinian visual artist Malak Mattar from attending an exhibition containing her own work. We wish to challenge what is a systemic problem affecting all artists in the Global South.  Over the last two years there has been a significant increase in the number of rejections.  In the case of Gaza, the systematic isolation of its artists and academics by the British government not only impedes academic and cultural exchange but also colludes in Israel’s efforts to isolate and inflict collective punishment on the people of Gaza. We call on the Home Office to reconsider their decision and allow Yousef and Hussein visitor visas to the U.K. to share their creative talents here.

List of signatories:

Adam Sargant Storyteller
Aitemad Muhanna-MATAR Middle East Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science
Alberto Fernández Carbajal University of Roehampton
Alex Callinicos Professor of European Studies, King’s College London
Alison Gibbons Sheffield Hallam University
Alnoor Mutha Senior Research Fellow
Amani Hassani PhD, independent researcher
Anand Pillay Mathematics, Visiting Professor, Leeds
Anandi Ramamurthy Sheffield Hallam University
Angela Martin film editor;  former Snr Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University
Anita Rupprecht Principal Lecturer, University of Brighton
Anna Bernard King’s College London
Anna Francis Associate Professor
Annabelle Sreberny Emeritus professor, SOAS, University of London
Annaliese Connolly Sheffield Hallam University
April de Angelis Playwright
Ash Kotak Writer and curator
Ava Hunt University of Derby
Aydan Greatrick University College London
Barry Heselwood University of Leeds
Bashir Abu-Manneh University of Kent
Ben Rogaly Professor of Human Geography, University of Sussex
Betty Hunter Honorary President Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Binita Walia Artist and Marketing and PR Consultant
Bob Jeffery Senior Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University
Cadi Catlow Animation director
Caroline Parker MBE Actress/arts practitioner
Caroline Rooney Professor of African and Middle Eatern Studies, Kent
Caryl Churchill Playwright
Cat Villiers film producer
Catherine Charrett Queen Mary University of London
Cathy Bergin University of Brighton
Christian Hogsbjerg University of Brighton
Claudia Kappenberg University of Brighton
Dani Abulhawa Sheffield Hallam University
Daniele Rugo Brunel University London
David Roger Production Designer in Film/Television Member of Artists for Palestine UK
David Thorpe Audiobook narrator and tutor
Delmozene Morris-Ley Examiner
Derek Attridge University of York
Diane Langford Writer
Douglas Kuhrt Theatre Lighting designer
Dr Adi Kuntsman Senior Lecturer,  Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Aida Foroutan Artist & Art Historian
Dr Anne Alexander University of Cambridge
Dr Fahid Qurashi Staffordshire University
Dr Hassan Hakimian Director, London Middle East Institute, SOAS
Dr Hilary Aked Writer
Dr Judy Price University of Brighton
Dr Karis Campion University of Manchester
Dr Katy Sian Lecturer in Sociology, University of York
Dr Katy Sian University of York
Dr Ken Fero Regents University London
Dr Melanie Richter-Montpetit Lecturer in International Security, University of Sussex
Dr Michael Pierse Senior Lecturer, School of AEL, Queen’s University Belfast
Dr Paul Kelemen University of Manchester
Dr Rajesh Patel Senior Lecturer Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Rich Moth Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Liverpool Hope University
Dr Rick Bowler Senior Lecturer Community and Youth Work Studies
Dr Robin Dunford University of Brighton
Dr Sabina Shah Independent academic essayist and filmmaker
Dr Sam Browse Sheffield Hallam University
Dr Sarah Irving Linnaeus University, Sweden
Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar University of Manchester
Dr Steven Lucas Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University
Dr Zoe Norridge King’s College London
Dr. Caitlin Fox-Hodess Lecturer, University of Sheffield
Dr. Mark Abel University of Brighton
Ekua Bayunu International Artist
Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh Professor of Migration and Refugee Studies, UCL
Elizabeth Lynch Research Fellow Birkbeck Contemporary Theatre
Erica Burman Professor of Education, University of Manchester
Eugene Michail University of Brighton
Eva McQuade Student
Eyal Clyne Sociologist
Faith Taylor Teaching Associate, QMUL
Farah Haddad RefuAid
Farhana Sheikh Writer
Francis Campbell actor/musician
Gary Cordingley Artist
Gaydon Phillips Former stage manager. Literary manager.
George Legg King’s College London
George Matheson
Gilbert Achcar SOAS, University of London
Gillian slovo Writer
Haim Bresheeth SOAS London
Hanan Abdalla Filmmaker
Haytham Bayasi translator, editor
Hilary Rose Emerita Professor of Social Policy University of Bradford
Hilary Wise Retired senior lecturer, Queen Mary, University of London
Harriet Walter Actor
Ian McDonald Newcastle University
Ian Parker Emeritus Professor of Management, University of Leicester
Ilan Pappe historian
Izzat Darwazeh Professor, University College London
James Dickins Prof. of Arabic, University of Leeds
James Krishna Floyd Actor/Writer
Jamila Boughelaf Dancer
Jananne Al-Ani Artist
Jane Elliott King’s College London
Janet Watson University of Leeds
Jared Margulies University of Sheffield
Jas Nijjar Brunel University London
Jason Hird dancer
Javed Majeed King’s College London
Jawed Siddiqi Sheffield Hallam Univesity
Jayne Davies Heritage Project Officer
Jeff Young Writer
Jennifer Fearon Sheffield Hallam University
Jo Beck Art Director
John Hextall Company manager
John Morgan artist
John Narayan Birmingham City University
John Rwothomach Director/Playwright/Actor
Jon Pullman Filmmaker
Jonathan Gilhooly Lecturer, University of Brighton
Jonathan Meth Curator, The Fence network; Associate Lecturer, Institute for Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship, Goldsmiths; Visiting Fellow, Department of Film, Theatre & Television, University of Reading
Jonathan Rosenhead Emeritus Professor, London School of Economics
Jonathan Tate
Kalpana Wilson Birkbeck, University of London
Kani Artist
Karen Grainger Sheffield Hallam University
Karren Winchester Actor
Katucha Bento University of Leeds
Kellie Thompson Liverpool Hope University
Ken Jones Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths, University of London
Ken Loach filmmaker
Khaldoun Shami Academic Researcher in Documentary Film, Secularism and Minorities
Kooj Chuhan Artist and Filmmaker
L Whitworth University of Brighton
Laura Mulvey Professor, Birkbeck College, University of London
Lee Jasper Professor at UNI. Under No Illusions
Leon Sealey-Huggins Lecturer University of Warwick
Lisa Stampnitzky Lecturer in Politics, University of Sheffield
Louise Purbrick University of Brighton
Lowkey Musician
Lucy Hanson Senior Lecturer, Liverpool Hope University
Lyndsey Stonebridge Professor of. Humanites and Human Rights, University of Birmingham
LynneSegal Birkbeck, University of London
Madhav Sharma Actor
Madhu Krishnan Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Writing, University of Bristol
Majd University lecturer
Manick Govinda Freelance Arts Consultant
Manju Gregory Kabutar theatre
Marcella Mameli-Badi Ceramicist, teacher
Margareta Kern Lecturer, Falmouth University
Matthew Zajac Artistic Director, Dogstar Theatre company
Maxine Community Advocacy
Mazen Masri City, University of London
Meg Oxford Creative Director
Mica Nava Emeritus Professor, University of East London
Mike Dibb Independent UK Documentary Producer/Director
Mim Shaikh Broadcaster / Actor / Spoken Word Artist
Miriam Margolyes Actress
Miss Nicole Mailer Freelance Arts worker
Musheir El-Farra Film Maker
Nadia Edmond Principal lecturer Education, university of Brighton
Nadia Sibany Dancer
Nadje Al-Ali SOAS University of London
Neve Gordon Queen Mary University of London
Nicholas Harrison King’s College London
Noga RItter singer-songwriter, artist, workshop facilitator
Nooshin Farhid Artist & Associate Lecturer MAFA
Nora Parr SOAS, University of London
Norman Walshe Film production design
Omar Aysha Filmmaker
Patrick Williams Manchester Metropolitan University
Paul Laverty Screenwriter
Paul Mason Journalist
Penny Woolcock writer/director
Pete kaLu Artist
Peter Chand Professional Storyteller
Peter Jones Sheffield Hallam Universtiy
Philomena Harrison Psychiatric Social worker/senior lecturer in Social work
Photini Vrikki Brunel University London
Prof John S Yudkin University College London
Prof. Bob Brecher University of Brighton
Prof. Hagit Borer FBA Queen Mary University of London
Rachel Garfield University of Reading
Rachel Seoighe Lecturer in Criminology, University of Kent
Raisah Ahmed Screenwriter & Director
Ramzy Suleiman Musician 47soul
Rasha Soliman University of Leeds
Ray Bush Professor of African Studies and Development Politics, University of Leeds
Rebecca Hayes Laughton Theatre Producer/Director & Drama school lecturer
Rebecca O’Brien Film producer
Rebecca Ruth Gould University of Birmingham
Rehan Sheikh Actor
Remi Joseph-Salisbury Presidential Fellow, University of Manchester
Revd Canon Garth Hewitt musician
Richard Kuper Researcher
Rinella Cere Sheffield Hallam University
Roger waters Musician
RogerJames Elsgood Independent producer.
Roy Battersby Director
Russell Honeyman MA Fine Art 2019
Ruth ABOU RACHED University of Cambridge (alumni)
S. Sayyid Professor,
Sadia Habib Independent Researcher
Sadia Zulfiqar Academic/ LCWU, LUMS, Lahore, Pakistan
Saeed Taji Farouky director cinematographer
Samir Bhamra Creative Director of UK Asian Film Festival
Samir Eskanda Musician
Sara Haq Artist
Sarah Beddington Artist and filmmaker
Sarah Crafter The Open University
Sarah Griffin Free lance illustrator
Sarita Malik Professor of Media, and Creative Interruptions Principal Investigator, Brunel University London
Scott Massie Liverpool Hope University
Serena Spadoni Teacher
Shahd Abusalama Dancer and researcher at Sheffield Hallam University
Shirin Housee University of Wolverhampton
Sita Brand Producer and Storyteller
Sophia Brown Birkbeck, University of London
Stephania Goswami Artist
Steven Rose Emeritus professor, The Open University
Susan Trangmar Reader in Fine Art UAL
Sylvia Ferreira Dance artist
Taghrid Choucair Vizoso Artist & Producer
Tahra Anitya Activist, writer, actor
Tanzil Chowdhury Lecturer in Public Law, Queen Mary, University of London
Tarek Younis Psychologist
Tariq Mehmood Writer/Asst Professor
Terry Meade Principal Lecturer University of Brighton
Tim Allen Animator
Tim Garratt Musician
Tina Gharavi Filmmaker, Academic Newcastle University
Tom Hickey Principal Lecturer in Philosophy and Aesthetics, University of Brighton
Tony Erizia Musician, band leader
Tracy Ramsey University Tutor
Uriel Orlow University of Westminster, London
Virinder S Kalra University of Warwick
Virpi Kettu Media, teacher
Virtual Migrants Association Artists’ Collective
Yasmin Khan Youth worker
Yasmin Wilde Actress


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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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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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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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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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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Artswatch Palestine: August-September 2017

Our regular report on Israel’s war on Palestinian cultural life and expression.

The Palestine Museum: in search of connectedness

August saw the opening of the Palestine Museum at Bir Zeit. Its first major exhibition, Jerusalem Lives, aims to speak about Jerusalem to Palestinians throughout the occupied West Bank who are prevented from visiting the city.  The exhibition registers Jerusalem’s diminishing place in the world: ethnic domination and the relentless takeover of Palestinian neighbourhoods, are turning Jerusalem from a global city into one which is losing its connectedness to other places. Nigel Wilson in Al Jazeera quotes curator Reem Fadda on a sound installation by Emily Jacir in the museum’s gardens: she asked the taxi drivers ‘to recreate the emotion that was there when they used to take travellers all across the cities of Palestine, from Lyd to Ramle to Ramallah and across the borders into Arab cities; they used to go to Damascus, Beirut and it was all connected’.

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Despite threats Kate Tempest affirms her support for Palestinian rights

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) strongly condemns threats made against British artist Kate Tempest as a result of her support for Palestinian rights. A poet, spoken word artist and author, Tempest is one of more than 1200 UK-based artists to sign APUK’s pledge to uphold the cultural boycott of Israel. This conscientious decision by so many principled artists stands in stark contrast to the shameful intimidation tactics, including personal threats, directed against Tempest, which led to the cancellation of her concert, scheduled for October 6th 2017 at Berlin’s former airport Tempelhof. Tempest’s management said that she did not want to perform in an “aggressive atmosphere”, having received “personal threats via email and over social media”, adding that they did not want to risk the safety of her team.

Last month eight artists cancelled appearances at Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin, in protest at the festival’s decision to partner with the Israeli embassy in Germany. In response, the festival organisers, media commentators and local politicians condemned these conscientious artists, often in racialised terms, and promoted straight lies about the terms and aims of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) human rights movement. As the festival drew to a close, the purveyors of this defamatory and abusive rhetoric found a new target, with Kate Tempest identified by German media as a signatory to the APUK pledge. One recent article asked, “Can an anti-Israel activist appear in Berlin?”. Another demanded the city’s Mayor Michael Müller cancel the concert. Continue reading

Open Letter to the Board of Deputies of British Jews

London, 30 August 2017

Dear Gillian Merron,

What are we to make of the UK’s main Jewish organisation calling for the Barbican to remove a video artwork from a science-fiction themed exhibition?

Apparently you had not seen ‘In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain’, the video installation by Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour and Danish author Søren Lind, when you chose to write to the Barbican to demand its removal.

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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]


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.

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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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Artswatch Palestine: February-March 2017

‘Artswatch’ is a regular digest that monitors attacks on Palestinian cultural life. Such attacks are a constant and shocking part of  a long-term campaign that attempts to undermine Palestinian collective identity and resilience. The pattern of this systemic abuse is overlooked by the mainstream media,  yet is testimony to the fact that  ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘free cultural exchange’ are privileges that have never been extended to Palestinians by Israel. This fact demands an urgent response from international artists in particular.

[Photo: T Suárez. Palestine Philharmonie: Amandine Beyer demonstrating a phrase to (left to right) Lamar Elias, Carol Ibrahim, Gandhi Saad, and Lourdina Baboun. ]

raiding jenin

Rania Wasfi, program coordinator at The Freedom Theatre, whose home was turned over by the army.

The Jenin Freedom Theatre website reported on 27th March a raid by Israeli soldiers on the home of its co-ordinator, Rania Wasfi.

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Immediate Threat to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech

Pictured: Jo Johnson MP, minister for Universities, suggested they seek to ban Israel Apartheid Week

On February 27, a letter signed by 243 academics appeared in the Guardian (copied below) condemning “outrageous interferences with free expression” and “direct attacks on academic freedom” resulting from attempts “to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years.”

The letter attributed these developments to adoption by the UK government of “the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism” which is being interpreted as meaning that criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights is prima facie evidence of antisemitism.

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ARTSWATCH December 2016 – January 2017

Regev Watch

Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, has commented , 27th December, on the change of presidency in the United States:   ‘Obama is history,’ said Regev. ‘We have Trump.’

Christian Viveros-Fauné, writing in Artnet, suggests that ‘like Trump, the Likud politician consistently engages in a brazen, counter-factual brand of right-wing populism’.  Viveros-Fauné charts the growing scope of Regev’s ‘war against culture’ noting inter alia that:

‘At least one major institution, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, has already found itself in the crossfire. As reported in February 2016 by Shany Littman at Haaretz, its director and chief curator Suzanne Landau recently “called off an exhibit by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman because of political pressures.” Kratsman’s contribution to the show, which was scheduled to open in November 2016, consisted of a Harvard University-funded series of 3,000 portraits of Palestinians he met on his travels to the Occupied Territories. Many of the photographer’s portrait subjects have since been killed in clashes with Israeli Defense Forces. When [the reporter] reached Landau for comment, the curator cited “scheduling problems.”’

Habima and Ashtar: tales from two theatres Continue reading

Call for support for ‘Ambulance’ director Mohamed Jabaly


The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and the Norwegian Immigration Tribunal have refused to grant Palestinian film-maker Mohamed Jabaly a work visa to allow him to tour with his first film, Ambulance (2016), and to make a second film with his Norwegian producers, in Tromsø, Norway. Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) is shocked at this decision, calls on the Norwegian government to rescind it, and invites others to join in this call.

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Mohammad Abu Sakha: in prison for making children happy

***UPDATE Amnesty International briefing:
“…Amnesty International fears that the Israeli authorities – as they have done in many other such cases – are using administrative detention as a method of punishing Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha without prosecuting him, which would amount to arbitrary detention. Israel’s use of administrative detention itself may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, given the detainee’s inability to know why they are being detained or when they will be released.” 14.12.2016

On December 12th, at a hearing that he was not permitted to attend , the Administrative detention of 24 year-old Palestinian circus trainer and performer Mohammad Abu Sakha (pictured, on  left) was renewed for an additional 6 months. Abu Sakha has been imprisonment in Israeli jails without charge or trial for a year. The following article first appeared in Open Democracy on December 9th 2016, a few days before the court hearing.


One year after he was arrested by Israeli forces, Palestinian circus teacher Mohammad Abu Sakha  is still behind bars, and without charges.

I have a sense of deja-vu. One year ago, when I spent the Christmas period desperately contacting news agencies, begging them to publish a story about a friend of mine, Mohammad Abu Sakha, who had been arrested without charge, I didn’t expect that come December 2016, I would be sitting here in the same place, doing it all over again. I guess I was naïve then. I thought that others, if only they knew, would share my outrage at this injustice. And collective outrage would spark change. So all I needed to do was tell people, shine a light on the situation and it would change. A year on, I’ve learned a lot about the way in which power, politics and the personal psyche work together to facilitate and maintain social injustice. Continue reading

One Hundred Years and Counting: Britain, Balfour, and the Cultural Repression of Palestinians

by Aimée Shalan

First published by Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, this illuminating report looks at the repression of Palestinian cultural expression by Israel and collusion and censorship here in the UK by British government ministers. It traces this relationship all the way back to the wording of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The briefing offers an essential perspective for understanding Israel’s attempts to erase the Palestinian past and future, and proposes practical steps groups such as ours can take here in the UK to end the silencing of Palestinian voices and perspectives.


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Mohammed Bakri, actor

ARTSWATCH November 2016

The dangers of satire

blog by ‘John Brown’ in +972 magazine (27thNovember) reports on recent experiences of the Bedouin blogger Anas Abudaabes.

The wild fires that swept through Northern Israel in mid-November provoked some Facebook posters in neighbouring countries into words of celebration. Abudaabes responded satirically, writing that the way to earn the respect of posters like these would obviously be to light more fires.

In paranoid and authoritarian states, satire is often a weapon that endangers the satirist. Israel’s legal system chose to take the words of Abudaabes literally, as an incitement to arson. On 25th November, Judge Alon Gabison ruled that there was reasonable suspicion that the post included incitement to harming state security, and that the author of the post should have thought about how others would interpret his words.  A judge in a higher court speedily confirmed this ruling. Abudaabes, freed on bail, was placed under house arrest for five days and not allowed to use Facebook for 15 days.

The episode suggests that in addition to the multitude of other restrictions it imposes  on the right of Palestinians to free expression, the Israeli state has now moved on to proscribing certain kinds of literary genre.  If you are a Palestinian, do not be a satirist.

The continuing ordeal of Dareen Tatour

In June and July, Artswatch reported on the situation of Dareen Tatour, jailed and then placed under house arrest for poems and other writing that she posted on Facebook.  In November, PEN International took up Dareen’s case, featuring her as one of the ‘Imprisoned Writers’, whose freedom it is demanding. On 24th November, Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, reported that the court that is hearing her case will reconvene on 26th January – and that Dareen’s period of house arrest has been extended accordingly. Dareen faces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence, as Israel continues to escalate its war against a militant Palestinian presence on social media.

Fighting back against Facebook

 Charlotte Silver reports on Electronic Intifada (16th November) that Palestinian groups have joined with black and civil rights activists in the US to protest against the increasing tendency of Facebook  – documented in September Artswatch – to block material at the behest of states. ‘Facebook’, a spokeswoman for the Oakland-based Center for Media Justice told the Guardian, is ‘a platform where people are documenting human rights injustices and breaking news’, yet for both black activists and Palestinians, it is a platform which is getting narrower by the month.

Confirming the CMJ’s claim, Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, reports that Facebook has granted 95 percent of Israel’s 158 requests to remove content in the last four months. Alongside this persistent pressure on internet companies, Israel continues to persecute individuals. Palestinian journalist Khalid Maaliimprisoned on the basis of his social media posts, was released by court order in mid-November – but only on the condition that he turn over his laptop to Israeli occupation forces and close his Facebook account, as well as paying a fine of $1700.

Miri Regev and the absolute politicisation of culture

Writing on AlJazeera’s website, Jonathan Cook (10th November) catalogues the long list of interventions made by Israel’s far-right culture minister, Miri Regev, since she took office 18 months ago.  Aiming to ‘silence the Palestinian narrative’ Regev has been swift to denounce the broadcasting and performance of poems about the Palestinian experience. At the same time, she is completely explicit that Israeli cultural institutions should see themselves as arms of the Israeli state, supporting its policies: theatre companies which refuse to perform in the occupied territories will find themselves under-funded (see Artswatch October).

Cook notes that Regev’s efforts are increasingly successful: ‘people are starting to self-censor’, says the Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar, ‘the worst kind of censorship’.  Yet, Cook concludes, there may be one positive side to Regev’s activities: for decades, those who have wanted to protect Israel from cultural boycott have argued that ‘culture’ exists in a different realm to ‘politics’, and that the border between them should not be crossed.  Tenuous at the best of times, under Regev this claim has lost all credibility: in a society where culture has become just another channel for the politics of occupation, the case for boycott is strengthened.

The occupying power bans the call to prayer

 Cultural repression is not limited to theatre and poetry.  Middle East Monitor reports that the Israeli government is supporting the passage through parliament of a bill that will criminalise the use in occupied East Jerusalem of the loudspeakers that call Palestinian Muslims to prayer.  The proposed ban is another step in the removal of the cultural presence of Palestinians from the occupied city: just as homes are demolished, so the material signs of Palestinian culture are effaced.  Commenting on the move, Arab-Israeli MP Haneen Zoabi said that the proposed law was an attempt to change the culture and life in the occupied city. “This is part of the culture of the Arabic city and has been there since before the Israeli occupation,” she said. “For those, who are not happy with it, they have to go back home to Europe.”

Ashraf Fayadh – his poems translated

 The Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, convicted of heresy, remains a prisoner in a Saudi jail (see Artswatch June and Artswatch July). The US publication Publishers Weeklyreports that English-speaking readers can now read his poems in a new collection, ‘Instructions Within’, produced by the independent publishing house, The Operating System.

Mohammed Bakri, actor – sign the petition

 In August, Artswatch reported on the continuing persecution of actor and film-maker Mohammed Bakri, director of ‘Jenin, Jenin’.  The Avaaz petition in support of Mohammed can be signed here.