The sculptor, Anish Kapoor accepts prize sponsored by the office of the Israeli prime minister (Credit Image: © Joel Goodman/Lnp/London News Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Anish Kapoor gifts Israel a PR coup

On Monday The Guardian put out a press association report on high-profile sculptor Anish Kapoor’s acceptance of Israel’s $1 million Genesis prize. The prize is awarded by the Genesis Prize Foundation, the office of the Israeli prime minister and the Jewish Agency for Israel and recognises individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their fields and whose actions and achievements express a commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and the State of Israel”. Kapoor is said to be set to donate the prize money to help refugees.

Israeli government officials have previously been explicit about the role of the arts in producing a more friendly and progressive profile for the state which is otherwise associated with violence and policies of occupation, colonisation and apartheid.

On Wednesday, two artists, signatories to the Artists Pledge for Palestine, respond in the pages of the Guardian pointing out that “as long as artists like Kapoor continue to accept these obscenely large gifts, they gift Israel the social license to pursue its ongoing dispossession of Palestinians.”

Full text ‘Anish Kapoor gifts Israel a PR victory to Israel’  in The Guardian letters, February 8th 2017:

“Anish Kapoor accepts Israel’s $1 million Genesis prize and makes a heartfelt statement about the plight of refugees – but fails to mention the word “Palestinian” [The Guardian 06.02.2017]. Predictably, his words have been packaged by the prize organizers (co-sponsored by the office of the Israeli Prime Minister) for a global audience, and yesterday they  provided Israel with a $1 million PR victory. It’s laudable that Kapoor wishes to give the prize money to refugee support. But given that Palestinians form one of the largest and most long-standing refugee populations on the planet, and given that the Genesis prize rewards “commitment to the state of Israel”, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Kapoor’s call for empathy for refugees has been used to improve Israel’s poor image abroad and promote empathy for Israel at the expense of its victims. For as long as artists like Kapoor continue to accept these obscenely large gifts they gift Israel the social license to pursue its ongoing dispossession of Palestinians.

Miranda Pennell and  John Smith, artists”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/07/anish-kapoor-has-gifted-a-pr-victory-to-israel

Mohammed Abu Sakha, circus trainer

Mohammad Abu Sakha: in prison for making children happy

***UPDATE Amnesty International briefing:
END ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION OF CIRCUS PERFORMER.
“…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.

by HANNAH PRYTHERCH

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

Palestinian musician Wasif Jawhariyyeh, born in Ottoman Jerusalem in 1897, died in exile in Beirut in 1972. (Photo from the memoir 'The Storyteller of Jerusalem: The Life and Times of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, 1904-1948' eds. Salim Tamari and Issam Nassa.)

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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‘Beautiful resistance’ meets cynical culture-washing on Edinburgh Fringe

 

Best singers

Alrowwad singers. Picture by Phil Chetwynd

The Edinburgh Fringe’s renowned open platform for all forms of artistic expression produced a curious juxtaposition this year, as Palestinians deployed creativity to shatter the bonds of political repression while Israeli state apologists cloaked a discredited political message in threadbare cultural clothing.

The gulf between the two was demonstrated in the pages of Scotland’s press, the airwaves and in the streets, as well as in performance and display spaces across the city.

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Opposition mounts as Edinburgh Fringe marred by “pro-Israel advocacy event”

shalom fest logoThe 2016  Edinburgh Fringe once again offers a much-needed platform for  Palestinian artists to demonstrate their talent, creativity and vitality despite the  extraordinary difficulties they face in their daily lives and in producing, exhibiting and performing their work. But this year “the biggest arts festival on the planet” has shocked friends of Palestine with a last minute addition to the programme organised by groups committed to promoting Israeli interests and undermining those of Palestine. A letter of protest from Artists for Palestine UK is attracting growing support and a local campaign is gathering strength.

Sneaked onto the online programme after the printed version was published, the International Shalom Festival scheduled for August 17  is an initiative of COFIS, the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland, and StandWithUs – two pro-Israel advocacy organisations that work with the Israeli Embassy to undermine and oppose campaigning work in support of Palestinian rights.

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SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE TOLD “DON’T GIVE THIS PERFORMANCE IN ISRAEL”

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.

inminds Globe apartheid pic

Image projected on the Globe’s iconic riverside building by activists taking part in a protest organised by inminds.com in London on Friday

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.

Flyer used during the protests against Shakespeare's Globe hosting Habima in May 2012

Flyer used during the protests against Shakespeare’s Globe hosting Habima in May 2012

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

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Top Oscar nominees invited to witness Palestinian life under Israeli occupation

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Oscar nominees: ‘Give your Israeli swag bag to a Palestinian refugee!’

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) on Wednesday called on actors and directors on this year’s Oscars shortlist:  ‘Give your Israeli swag bag to a Palestinian refugee!’

 

  • Mike Leigh, film director and five-times Oscar nominee said:  A five-star trip to the land of their parents and grandparents is just what exhausted Palestinians from the refugee camps could do with. I think the world would be happy to see Israeli government money used for once to make reparations to Palestinians — and I hope the stars will agree.’
  • Ken Loach, BAFTA nominee and Palme d’Or winner said: “Just think what $55,000 could do for Palestinians whose homes have been destroyed and their lands stolen.  Let’s hope that film people can see through this crude propaganda.”
  • Brian Eno, musician and composer suggested an alternative swag bag offering: “Visit Palestine! Enjoy a tear-gas filled weekend in an East Jerusalem ghetto!

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ARTISTS’ VERDICT – CULTURAL BRIDGES WITH ISRAEL LEAD NOWHERE

Like the staircases at Hogwarts, Israel's cultural bridges can lead interminably to nowhere

Like the staircases at Hogwarts, Israel’s cultural bridges can lead interminably to nowhere

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

Photo: Reuters

Finally Israel and Iran find common cause – against Daniel Barenboim: Artists for Palestine UK reaction

Daniel Barenboim, Israel and Iran: an APUK statement

Newspapers in Israel, the US and Europe reported last week that Daniel Barenboim, one of the world’s foremost pianists and conductors, was planning to take a Berlin orchestra [the Staatskapelle] to Iran for a concert. Immediately, Israel’s culture minister Miri Regev stepped in to call for the concert to be cancelled:

“This melody must be stopped. Barenboim promotes an anti-Israeli line and makes sure to bash [Israel] by using culture as a lever for his anti-Israel political views.” (1)

While the world was still digesting the hypocrisy of this demand from the minister of a government which, when threatened by boycott, never fails to talk the language of ‘communication’ and ‘bridge building’, Iranian officials said that they would block the concert because of Barenboim’s Israeli citizenship:

“The conductor of Germany’s symphonic orchestra is affiliated to Israel concerning his nationality and identity ,” the Spokesman of the Culture Ministry Hossein Noushabadi told reporters in Tehran. (2)

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