Aldeburgh DocFest disinvites author, invites Israel lobby CEO to discuss ‘GAZA’

On Sunday, Aldeburgh Documentary Festival will host a discussion that follows a screening of the acclaimed documentary ‘GAZA’, a film about Palestinian lives in the besieged enclave. Extraordinarily, the panel is advertised to include the CEO of the UK’s biggest pro-Israel public relations group, BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research). 

Clearly something has gone very awry with programming principles at Aldeburgh DocFest.  

Below, journalist and author Sarah Helm who has been reporting from Gaza during the ‘Great March of Return’ protests, describes how she was invited, and then disinvited, from the GAZA panel at Aldeburgh DocFest. Her statement gives an indication of the confused and troubling logic at work behind the scenes. 

It can never be appropriate or ethical for an independent cultural organisation to provide a platform for a PR company for Israel that is overtly complicit with the oppression of Palestinian people.  Filmmakers and audiences deserve better.

Artists for Palestine UK urges the festival programmers to get in touch, so that we can help connect Aldeburgh DocFest with one or more of the knowledgeable Palestinian artists, writers and speakers in the south of England who could enrich a proper discussion about Gaza, with reference to their own lived experience. 


“I’m the journalist “unplatformed” from the Aldeburgh DocFest screening of ‘Gaza’. The festival is this week-end. I was invited to be in a panel to discuss the documentary.

In the 1990s I was Jerusalem correspondent for the Independent and visited Gaza often. Since then I have worked in Gaza as a freelance for the Independent, Sunday Times, The New York Review of Books, Newsweek and the Observer, most recently spending three weeks there for The Sunday Times this summer when I wrote a piece about the border sniper shooting for The Sunday Times. When in August Jill Green, the DocFest organiser, invited me to join a panel to discuss the Gaza film, I naturally was pleased to accept.

But Ms Green then emailed me about a month or so later to say she was “embarrassed” to tell me that I was no longer invited because it had been decided the panel would not be “balanced” if it had me on it. She said she “knew my views” and had to have a more ‘balanced panel”.

The decision to “uninvite” me was particularly unsettling for me as I am currently working on re-erecting the lost stories of Palestinian refugees, whose stories have been buried or ignored over the years.

According to the DocFest program published on line, the “balanced” panel is now three men, one a representative of BICOM, the UK’s main pro-Israel lobby.

From details published there is no Palestinian voice on the panel and no woman and nobody who has recently spent time inside Gaza.

There is little doubt the organisers were pressured into removing me and it is extremely disappointing that a cultural event such as this should feel obliged to constitute a panel according to political calculations and pressures about what constitutes “ balance” – which is a highly tainted value judgement in any event. I pointed out to Miss Green that my views are based on painstaking in depth research over many years and I was surprised she knew what my views were as I am still formulating them.

My last book on a Nazi concentration camp for women won The History Today prize in 2015 and was not accused of being unbalanced.

Ms Green did not reply. By the time the panel chair emailed to say I could come along to the event in any case, I had made other plans.”

Sarah Helm

*Picture credit: ‘GAZA’ documentary

Open letter: the demand that artists disavow BDS is not a legitimate request

A museum in Aachen, Germany, has defied the city’s Mayor, who had said that respected artist Walid Raad should not be awarded the €10, 000 Aachen Art Prize, because, following the city’s inquiry, the artist had apparently “not distanced himself” from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The Association of Friends of the Ludwig Forum for International Art must now find an alternative venue for the award ceremony due the Mayor’s intervention and effective ban.

Today, a group of artists, academics, Jewish and Palestinian human rights defenders have addressed an open letter to Marcel Philipp, Mayor of Aachen. Artists for Palestine UK is happy to reproduce the letter below, in English.

*To add your name contact: palestinianpanthers@riseup.net
*Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen

 

The Honorable Marcel Philipp
Mayor of Aachen
Rathaus
Markt
2058 Aachen
oberbuergermeister@mail.aachen.de

October 2019

Dear Mayor Philipp,

We were disconcerted to learn that your decision to withdraw the city’s support for the 2019 Aachen City Art Prize ceremony was based on “tip-offs” and “inquiries” about the political views of Walid Raad, the award winner. The political stance you feel it is urgent to denounce is the alleged, world-renowned Lebanese-American artist’s support for the civil society “BDS campaign.” As you are probably aware, many artists and intellectuals advocate for the recognition and implementation of legal rights, worldwide. Rather than recognize this advocacy as a form of democratic engagement, you regard Mr Raad’s commitment to the rights of Palestinians to be scandalous, and worthy of condemnation.

We, on the contrary, are scandalized that you’d make your approval of the city’s decision to honor Walid Raad dependant upon his disavowal of the BDS movement. Palestinians living in Israel, in the territory Israel occupies – in violation of international law –, and in the Diaspora have the same inalienable rights you yourself enjoy as a German citizen. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was launched in 2005 by a broad alliance of Palestinian civil society, which requested nothing more than that all “people with a sense of justice” make use of peaceful means to pressure the State of Israel to fulfill its obligations, as mandate by international law.   

To demand that Mr Raad renounce the BDS campaign is not a legitimate request. That would amount to tacitly endorsing the confused reasoning with which you justify your demand. You argue that both the German Parliament and the NRW State Parliament have found “the BDS movement to be anti-Semitic… because it essentially questions or denies Israel’s right to exist.” This is an extremely biased and erroneous assessment of the BDS, and of democratic debate.

To treat an assessment reached by a parliamentary majority like a royal decree, is fundamentally at odds with democratic practices. The gravity of the charge of anti-Semitism calls all of us ––and you as a political office-holder especially–– to be careful and considerate in our examination of this case, as well as independent in our position. 

Pointing out that a state’s has obligations towards those living inside its borders under human rights and international law and trying to persuade it to fulfill those obligations is not equivalent to questioning or denying its right to existence. To equivocate criticism of  Israeli policy toward the Palestinians with anti-Semitism, on the other hand, requires one to view Israel as identical to the Jewish collective, therefore making all Jews responsible for Israel’s policies –a view that in our opinion, and contrary to ours, does veer onto Antisemitism. The BDS campaign does not conflate the state of Israel’s policies with the Jewish population, either inside or outside Israeli borders – as your research should have shown. It targets institutions and businesses (often international, and not necessarily Israeli) with boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions, as many other civic society campaigns do. It is a campaign meant to pressure a state to recognize and honor the rights of those it discriminates against, it is not a campaign meant to discriminate against a state or its people, and it has nothing in common with the resentment of Jews, which is the essence of anti-Semitism. Given the dangerous increase of anti-Semitism in Germany today, we find it deeply disturbing that a German mayor would not be seriously willing to engage and debate this matter.

You were bothered by the thought of the City of Aachen awarding an artist who (by supporting the BDS campaign, as you claim) “opposes artistic and cultural exchange.” In fact, the BDS movement criticizes Israeli cultural institutions and individual artists (including non-Israelis) who justify and whitewash Israeli policies that violate international law – or downplay these policies in the service of Israeli public relations: In no way does that hinder artistic and cultural exchange. On the contrary, it makes this exchange more inclusive.

What is the significance of an award like the Aachen City Art Prize? The prize is intended to help make an artistically valuable oeuvre become better known and supported – and to promote appreciation for and debate about the work in Germany. An award like this contributes to artistic and cultural exchange.

Do you believe that by discrediting artists who support Palestinian rights – indiscriminately and without any serious examination – you are supporting artistic and cultural exchange?  

There are a great many reputable sources of information about BDS that you could have consulted before coming to your judgement, and deciding to withdraw the City of Aachen’s support for the 2019 prizewinner, Walid Raad. Here are two:

The Administrative Court of Cologne: The Administrative Court’s proceedings regarding the German-Palestinian Women’s Association versus the Federal City of Bonn http://www.justiz.nrw.de/nrwe/ovgs/vg_koeln/j2019/14_L_1765_19_Beschluss_20190912.html

The BDS Movement’s position on boycotting individuals  https://www.bdsmovement.net/news/bds-movement-position-boycott-individuals

As we have explained, your decision to withdraw support for Walid Raad as the 2019 winner of the Aachen City Art Prize lacks any basis.

We ask you to accept the jury’s proper decision to honor an excellent artist and his work with the Aachen City Art Prize and to not prevent the presentation ceremony being held on city property.

Yours sincerely,

BDS Berlin

BDS Initiative Oldenburg

Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (CPJPO), Luxembourg

ECCP – European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, Belgien

Jewish Antifa Berlin

Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V.

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Palestinian Panthers Deutschland

Palästina spricht – Coalition for Palestinian Rights and Against Racism

Pericentre Projects, Kairo

Gilbert Achcar

Avi Berg, Berlin

Federica Bueti, Kunstkritikerin/Editorin, Berlin.

Sophia Deeg, Autorin/Übersetzerin, Berlin

Marguerite d‘Huart, Frankreich

Hermann Dierkes, ehem. Mitglied des Rates der Stadt Duisburg

Nancy du Plessis, Dokumentar Filmemacher/Solo Performerin, Berlin

Dror Dayan, Filmemacher/Filmwissenschaftler, John Moores University, Liverpool, GB

Pary El-Qalqili, Filmemacherin, Berlin

Claudio Feliziani, Filmemacher, Berlin

Dominik Finkelde, Professor für Philosophie an der Hochschule für Philosophie München

Sylvia Finzi, Künstlerin, Berlin/London

Ruth Fruchtman, Autorin, Berlin

Jochen Gester, Gewerkschafter und Verleger, Berlin

Doris Ghannam, Berlin

Nathan Gray, Künstler, Berlin

Hartmut Heller, Soziologe, München

Dr. Renate Hürtgen, Historikerin, Berlin

Shahira Issa, Künstlerin, Hamburg/Kairo

Ellen Keller, München

Angela Klein, Köln

Elfriede Krutsch, Berlin

Dr. Hadas Leonov, Softwareentwicklerin, Heidelberg

Marcella Lista, Kuratorin, Centre Pompidou

Anna Regina Mackowiak, München

Jumana Manna, Künstlerin, Berlin

Gabriele Martin, Berlin

Mónica Martins Nunes, Visuelle Künstlerin, Portugal

Miranda Pennell, Künstlerin/Filmemacherin, UK

Agnieszka Polska, Künstlerin

John Smith, Künstler/Filmemacher, UK

Sille Storihle

Tanya Ury, Künstlerin/Schriftstellerin, Köln

 

Offener Brief an den Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Aachen bzgl. des Kunstpreises für Walid Raad

October 2019

Sehr geehrter Herr Oberbürgermeister Philipp,

wie wir mit Befremden zur Kenntnis nehmen, sahen Sie sich nach „Hinweisen“ und „Recherchen“ zur politischen Haltung des designierten Preisträgers des Aachener Kunstpreises 2019 Walid Raad veranlasst, die Unterstützung der Stadt für diese Preisverleihung zurückzunehmen. Ihre Recherchen ergaben, dass der international renommierte libanesisch-amerikanische Künstler die zivilgesellschaftliche Kampagne BDS unterstützt. Dass sich Herr Raad, wie viele andere Künstler*innen und Intellektuelle weltweit, für die Anerkennung und Umsetzung von verbrieften Rechten, in diesem Falle denen der Palästinenser*innen einsetzt, ist also in Ihren Augen der Skandal.

Wir empfinden es eher als skandalös, dass Sie Ihre Zustimmung zur Verleihung des Aachener Kunstpreises an Walid Raad davon abhängig gemacht haben, dass er sich von seiner Überzeugung distanzieren sollte: Auch die Palästinenser*innen – sei es in Israel, in dem von Israel völkerrechtswidrig besetzten Gebiet oder in der Diaspora – haben unveräußerliche Rechte – wie auch Sie sie als Bürger der Bundesrepublik genießen. Nicht mehr und nicht weniger konstatiert die 2005 von einem breiten Bündnis der palästinensischen Zivilgesellschaft ins Leben gerufene BDS-Kampagne und fordert „Menschen mit Gerechtigkeitssinn“ weltweit dazu auf, mit friedlichen Mitteln Druck auf den Staat Israel auszuüben, damit er seinen völkerrechtlichen Verpflichtungen nachkommt.

Zu einer Distanzierung von dieser Kampagne war Herr Raad selbstverständlich nicht bereit. Denn es hätte bedeutet, eine verworrene Argumentation stillschweigend zu unterschreiben, mit der Sie Ihr Ansinnen begründen. Sie verweisen darauf, dass sowohl der Bundestag als auch der Landtag NRW „in parlamentarischen Beschlüssen die BDS-Bewegung als antisemitisch eingeschätzt“ hätten, „weil sie im Kern das Existenzrecht des Staates Israel in Frage stellt oder negiert“.

Doch selbst wenn ein Parlament mehrheitlich zu einer Einschätzung gelangt, ist diese unserer Auffassung nach – unter demokratischen Bedingungen – nicht wie ein hoheitliches Dekret umzusetzen. Sie als politischer Funktionsträger oder wir als Bürger*innen sind in einer so ernsten Angelegenheit wie der Frage, ob jemand oder etwas antisemitisch ist, nicht aus der Verantwortung entlassen, selbständig zu prüfen und zu entscheiden.

Sobald wir das tun, fällt uns auf, dass ein Staat in seiner Existenz weder in Frage gestellt noch gar negiert wird, wenn man ihn an seine menschen- und völkerrechtlichen Verpflichtungen erinnert und mit gewaltlosen Mitteln versucht, ihn dazu zu bewegen, dass er diesen Verpflichtungen nachkommt. Wenn wir versuchen zu verstehen, was eine Kritik der israelischen Politik gegenüber den Palästinenser*innen mit Antisemitismus zu tun haben soll, fällt uns dazu nur ein: Tatsächlich könnte eine solche Kritik antisemitische sein, wenn sie Israel als jüdisches Kollektiv auffassen und Juden/Jüdinnen für die Politik Israels zur Verantwortung ziehen würde. Genau das tut BDS nicht, wie Sie sich unschwer bei Ihren Recherchen hätten vergewissern können. Die Kampagne fordert ausschließlich zum Boykott, zu Desinvestition und Sanktionen gegen Institutionen oder Unternehmen auf (nebenbei: häufig internationale, nicht unbedingt israelische). Mit Jüdinnen/Juden oder einem Ressentiment gegen sie, also mit Antisemitismus, hat das schlicht nichts zu tun. Wir empfinden es als sehr beunruhigend, wenn der Bürgermeister einer deutschen Stadt heutzutage, da ein zunehmender Antisemitismus tatsächlich zu verzeichnen ist, derart nachlässig mit diesem Thema verfährt anstatt sich seriös zu informieren und auseinanderzusetzen.

Sie ereifern sich, die Stadt Aachen könne doch nicht ausgerechnet einen Künstler auszeichnen, der sich (mit BDS, wie Sie behaupten) „gegen künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch stellt“. Auch hier sind Sie einem Gerücht aufgesessen. Wenn BDS israelische kulturelle Institutionen oder einzelne Künstler*innen (auch internationale) kritisiert, sofern diese die völkerrechtswidrige Politik Israels rechtfertigen, beschönigen oder sich in irgendeiner Weise in den Dienst der israelischen Öffentlichkeitsarbeit zur Verharmlosung dieser Politik stellen, so verhindert das logischerweise keineswegs den künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch.

Was bedeutet eine Preisverleihung wie die des Aachener Kunstpreises? Wir nehmen an: Ein künstlerisch wertvolles Werk wird durch solch eine Preisverleihung noch breiter bekannt, wird gefördert – und fördert Wahrnehmung und Debatten hierzulande. Eine solche Preisverleihung trägt zum künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch bei.
Wir fragen Sie: Gedenken Sie, den künstlerischen und kulturellen Austausch dadurch zu fördern, dass Sie Künstler*innen, die für die Rechte der Palästinenser*innen eintreten, unbesehen und ohne seriöse Prüfung diskreditieren?

Neben der eigenen Urteilskraft stehen auch Ihnen seriöse Quellen zur Verfügung, die Sie bedauerlicherweise nicht konsultiert haben, bevor Sie sich dafür entschieden, sich für die Stadt Aachen vom diesjährigen Preisträger Walid Raad zurückzuziehen.

Hier einige dieser Quellen:

Verwaltungsgericht Köln: Beschluss in dem verwaltungsgerichtlichen Verfahren des Deutsch-Palästinensischen Frauenvereins e.V gegen die Bundesstadt Bonn – http://www.justiz.nrw.de/…/14_L_1765_19_Beschluss_20190912.…

BDS Movement Position on Boycott of Individuals – https://www.bdsmovement.net/…/bds-movement-position-boycott…

Wie wir gezeigt haben, entbehrt Ihre Entscheidung, sich von Walid Raad als Träger des Aachener Kunstpreises 2019 zurückzuziehen, jeglicher Grundlage.

Daher fordern wir Sie auf, Ihre Entscheidung zu revidieren. Sie sollten einem exzellenten Künstler und seinem Werk, von der Jury vollkommen zu Recht ausgewählt, den Aachener Kunstpreis zuerkennen und der Überreichung in städtischen Räumen nicht im Wege stehen.

Mit besten Grüßen,

BDS Berlin
BDS Initiative Oldenburg
Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (CPJPO), Luxembourg
ECCP – European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, Belgien
Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost e.V.
Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Palestinian Panthers Deutschland
Palästina spricht – Coalition for Palestinian Rights and Against Racism
Pericentre Projects, Kairo

Gilbert Achcar
Avi Berg, Berlin
Federica Bueti, Kunstkritikerin/Editorin, Berlin.
Sophia Deeg, Autorin/Übersetzerin, Berlin
Marguerite d‘Huart, Frankreich
Hermann Dierkes, ehem. Mitglied des Rates der Stadt Duisburg
Nancy du Plessis, Dokumentar Filmemacher/Solo Performerin, Berlin
Dror Dayan, Filmemacher/Filmwissenschaftler, John Moores University, Liverpool, GB
Pary El-Qalqili, Filmemacherin, Berlin
Claudio Feliziani, Filmemacher, Berlin
Dominik Finkelde, Professor für Philosophie an der Hochschule für Philosophie München
Sylvia Finzi, Künstlerin, Berlin/London
Ruth Fruchtman, Autorin, Berlin
Jochen Gester, Gewerkschafter und Verleger, Berlin
Doris Ghannam, Berlin
Nathan Gray, Künstler, Berlin
Hartmut Heller, Soziologe, München
Dr. Renate Hürtgen, Historikerin, Berlin
Shahira Issa, Künstlerin, Hamburg/Kairo
Ellen Keller, München
Angela Klein, Köln
Elfriede Krutsch, Berlin
Dr. Hadas Leonov, Softwareentwicklerin, Heidelberg
Anna Regina Mackowiak, München
Jumana Manna, Künstlerin, Berlin
Gabriele Martin, Berlin
Mónica Martins Nunes, Visuelle Künstlerin, Portugal
Agnieszka Polska, Künstlerin
Sille Storihle
Tanya Ury, Künstlerin/Schriftstellerin, Köln

Artswatch Palestine: April – July 2019

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

Our findings suggest that sniper bullets manufactured by Sierra were used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against civilian protesters in Gaza in 2018″
Forensic Architecture, May 2019.
photo: Natchez Shooters Supplies

Art and Power

The submission of the research group Forensic Architecture to the 2019 Biennial at the Whitney Museum in New York included an extensive investigation into the use of tear gas and bullets manufactured by companies led by Warren Kanders, a Whitney vice chair.

The companies’ products had been used against migrants at the US-Mexico border wall and in other states including Bahrain, Turkey and Kuwait.

Subsequently, Forensic Architecture discovered new evidence that directly linked the weapons manufacturer to Israel’s violence on the Gaza ‘border’.  The evidence, reported HyperAllergic on 20th July, took the form of an ‘unexploded open-tip bullet in the sand surrounding the Al-Bureji protest camp near the border’The bullet was intact and matched the analysis that Forensic Architecture had conducted on ammunition manufactured by one of Kanders’ companies, Sierra Bullets.

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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.

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‘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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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]

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.

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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

Introduction
‘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