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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Open letter to UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019

 

Dear UK artists booked for Pop-Kultur Berlin festival 2019,

Artists for Palestine UK has joined the call from Palestinians, and also from Israeli artists and Israeli human rights defenders, and from LGBTQI+ campaigners in Berlin, for participating artists to withdraw from Pop-Kultur Berlin 2019, in protest at the festival’s continued partnership with the Israeli embassy.

As you may know, the far-right Israeli government cynically exploits the arts to improve its image abroad and to distract from state-sanctioned discrimination and violence against millions of Palestinians on the basis of their identity. For this reason, Palestinians asked Pop-Kultur Berlin to end its partnership with the Israeli state.

Art matters. The arts should not be used to whitewash a regime whose apartheid character has become explicit and undeniable.

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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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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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Film-makers call on cinemas to reject Israel-sponsored festival

Maxine Peake, Liam Cunningham, Juliet Stevenson and Helena Kennedy QC are among 36 filmmakers and others who have signed a letter  protesting the hosting of  the Seret London Israeli Film and TV Festival in UK cinemas, due to the involvement of the Israeli Embassy.  The letter, published in Wednesday’s edition of The Guardian, says that cinemas are providing a platform for “a regime that is guilty of systematic and large-scale human rights violations”.  Full letter and signatories below.
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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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Artists to Lorde: individual messages of support

On 5 January 2018, more than a hundred international artists signed a letter to the Guardian in the UK in support of New Zealand singer Lorde’s decision to cancel her gig in Tel Aviv later this year.
Since then, some of those signatories have given APUK permission to publish the personal letters they’ve also written to Lorde.   We’re happy to share, amongst others, Brian Eno’s and Roger Waters’ moving expressions of solidarity and support, while Peter Gabriel’s message affirms the need for artists to stand up for human rights.  We’re also reproducing below some of the many messages artists have posted in support of Lorde on social media or via this site.

 

Brian Eno, musician

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Artists’ statements on Trump and occupied Jerusalem

Today’s edition of The Guardian (December 12) carries a letter signed by one hundred artists, including prominent writers, filmmakers, and musicians, in response to Trump’s ‘recognition’ of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.   The signatories, who include actors Mark Ruffalo and Tilda Swinton and musician Peter Gabriel, said:

In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Donald Trump seeks to achieve through a declaration what Israel has been trying to do for fifty years through force of arms: to erase Palestinians, as a political and cultural presence, from the life of their own city […]

We reject Trump’s collusion with such racist manipulation, and his disregard for international law. We deplore his readiness to crown the Israeli military conquest of East Jerusalem and his indifference to Palestinian rights.

As artists and as citizens, we challenge the ignorance and inhumanity of these policies, and celebrate the resilience of Palestinians living under occupation.

The full list of signatories is published here.

Separately, some of the artists have issued their own individual statements, one of them in verse. We are proud to publish responses by poet Michael Rosen, musicians Peter Gabriel and Robert Wyatt, playwright Caryl Churchill, writers Selma Dabbagh, Hari Kunzru and Ahmed Masoud, producer Kate Parker, filmmaker Ken Loach, and more below.

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Israel’s apartheid regime salutes Nick Cave

Musician and writer Nick Cave declared at a press conference on Sunday that he wanted to ‘make a principled stand’ by crossing the Palestinian boycott picket line, dismissing widespread calls to cancel his group the Bad Seeds’ two concerts in Tel Aviv.  Cave’s words have found him a new fan-base in the form of Israel’s government: there has been an outpouring of public endorsements from its foreign ministry and diplomatic missions across Europe, the U.S., and Australia, as well as from numerous lobby groups.

We have sampled, and reproduced below, tweets from ten Israeli government bodies and spokespeople and seven lobby groups, all of which work hard to counter the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) human rights movement and promote Israel’s interests.

Nick Cave declared his love for Israel, and the Israeli regime reciprocated, providing further proof, if any were needed, of the propaganda value to Israel of appearances by international artists.  Cave has gifted Israel’s government a PR coup. Yet Israel’s imposition of decades of military occupation and apartheid against the indigenous Palestinian population is increasingly being challenged by principled solidarity, including from artists. Instead of helping Israel’s regime to whitewash its violations of Palestinian human rights, we invite Cave to support those working for freedom and rights for all. Continue reading

Leading writers respond to Nick Cave

Israel’s officials wasted no time in reciprocating Nick Cave’s declaration of love for Israel, made at his recent press conference there. Today, leading writers have responded to the musician and author’s claims about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  These statements, published below, follow responses from artists including Brian Eno and Roger Waters. 

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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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Why is Jewish Community Centre JW3 celebrating Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat?

AN OPEN LETTER TO RAYMOND SIMONSON,
CEO OF JW3 JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTRE LONDON

From Artists for Palestine UK
Sunday 10 September 2017, London.

Dear Raymond Simonson,

We’re reading the blurb for Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat’s presentation on Tuesday at JW3, and curious to know if JW3 as an organisation supports the views it expresses.

The blurb says ‘Nir Barkat was 7 years old…when Israel’s capital was finally reunited’.   You will know that the United Nations Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and the International Court of Justice consider that East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel.   Where does JW3 stand?

The blurb refers to ‘Jerusalem at 50’ (presumably fifty years of Israeli conquest, since Jerusalem has been in existence in some form since the Canaanites), and calls this ‘the fulfilment of a 2000-year-old dream’.

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Artists slam Israel’s planned occupation of London’s Roundhouse

Roger Waters, Ken Loach, Caryl Churchill and Thurston Moore are among many leading artists calling for London’s celebrated Roundhouse to cancel its involvement with a festival designed to promote Israel as a progressive and liberal destination with a ‘glittering’ capital city.

TLV in LDN is supposedly a celebration of culture, but its director Marc Worth has revealed in an interview that the festival is the dream child of Israel’s diplomatic mission in the UK, and was conceived in response to the growing movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). BDS seeks to highlight Israel’s systemic violation of Palestinian human, civil and political rights. Continue reading

The naked face of Israel – Ilan Pappé on rebranding Zionism

 

In 2007, Wonderwoman star Gal Gadot was poster girl for a new Israeli branding campaign.
Credit: Maxim

In 2007 a poster of an almost naked Miss Israel, Gal Gadot, and a poster of four fit young men, equally barely dressed, were the faces of Israel in a campaign named Brand Israel, commissioned by the government and the Jewish Agency for Israel. The young woman (Miss Israel 2004 and a recent star in the Hollywood blockbuster Fast and Furious) was meant to attract the heterosexual young American to a rebranded Jewish State, while the young men became the faces advertising Tel Aviv as the gay capital of Israel. One wonders how Theodore Herzl or even David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin would have regarded this presentation of Zionism as a soft-porn wet dream. But policymakers had decided that anything and everything was appropriate in the struggle to fend off Israel’s negative image.

This passage appears in the Epilogue  to “The Idea of Israel” by Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, published in 2014 with the subtitle “A History of Power and Knowledge”.   A “mordantly witty book” (Jewish Quarterly), it shows how Zionism operates outside of the government and military in areas such as Israel’s literature, education system, media and cinema. Pappé reveals how successive generations of intellectuals have framed the 1948 conflict as a liberation campaign, creating a foundation myth that went unchallenged in Israeli society until very recently. Its perpetuation is the goal of a “Brand Israel” campaign which continues to this day.

Prof. Pappé has kindly made his Epilogue, which focuses on Brand Israel, available to supporters of the boycott movement which seeks to unmask and challenge the weaponisation of culture in Israel’s war against Palestinians.

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