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’.

We’re struggling with the gap between this and the language of the ‘About Us’ page on your website, which is all about ‘transforming the Jewish landscape in London by helping to create a vibrant, diverse and proud community’.   Nowhere do you mention promoting a commitment to Israel and Zionism as part of JW3’s role, but that is what the Barkat meeting clearly does.

If JW3 is simply a venue for the meeting, why is Barkat on your website?   And since he is there, what does JW3 think about what Human Rights Watch at the beginning of August called Israel’s ‘entrenched discrimination against Palestinians in Jerusalem, including residency policies that imperil their legal status’?

Barkat is implementing the Jerusalem Outline Plan 2000, which aims at ‘maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city’.   Doing this involves, among other things, revoking the residency of Palestinian Jerusalemites.   Human Rights Watch describes this as forced transfer; it’s cruel, but it’s also illegal under international law.   When JW3 opens its doors to mayor Barkat on Tuesday night, you’ll be celebrating the person currently responsible for what Human Rights Watch calls war crimes.   Is this what JW3 intends?

Yours sincerely,

The Artists for Palestine UK collective

*Photo: Palestinian family of 8 are evicted from Jerusalem home of 50 years to make way for Jewish settlers earlier this week

 

 

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.

Grassroots campaign LDN against Apartheid is calling for the capital’s cultural venues to shun the Israeli Embassy’s branding effort. Artists for Palestine UK echoes this call. We  have spoken to a number of London artists who been appalled by news of  the Roundhouse’s close association with  an event designed to promote a repressive military regime.  Many of the artists we spoke to have previous artistic connections to the Roundhouse. Their comments are published below.

Finally, Artists for Palestine UK notes that the TLV in LDN website describes Tel Aviv as ‘the jewel of the Med’. We’d like to point out that this is the old name for Jaffa, the ancient Palestinian city that Tel Aviv supplanted and whose history it continues to erase.   Those impressed by the supposed glitter of Tel Aviv should be aware of the historic and continuing dispossession of Palestinians which haunts this festival and others like it.


Statements by artists

‘Back in the day, Pink Floyd performed on the night the Roundhouse opened in 1966, the launch of IT (International Times). This week, more than half a century later, that iconic space, so identified with freedom of expression and resistance to authoritarianism will be handed over for use by the State of Israel, a state that crushes artists through military occupation. It is unconscionable that a state that has held millions of people under siege for over a decade in Gaza, and operates apartheid throughout historic Palestine, should be allowed to use the Roundhouse as part of its propaganda effort to normalize its crimes against humanity. Resist!’
Roger Waters, musician

‘I was honoured to play at the Roundhouse ten years ago with my band Sonic Youth and earlier this year with my London based group, it’s a legendary venue that has long had a crucial role in the radical cultural heritage of London. With this impending decision for the Roundhouse to present TLV in LDN, which supports a decidedly political anti-Palestinian human rights agenda, I am curious, would the current directors have also granted the apartheid regime in South Africa their venue to whitewash egregious human rights violations in this blatant way?’
Thurston Moore, musician

‘The Roundhouse and the public should realise that TLV in London is a political event not just a “cultural” one. The Israeli government works hard to improve its image abroad and promotes arts events in an attempt to distract attention from its illegal settlements and extraordinary repression of Palestinians. The Roundhouse should consider if it wants to support this,  and if the event does go ahead people should  buy tickets only if they are happy to buy into Israel’s brutal policies.’
Caryl Churchill, playwright

‘The Tel Aviv festival is being staged on behalf of a government that holds millions of Palestinians under military occupation and siege and denies basic human rights to millions more. Its organisers say we should “indulge our senses and discover the delights of this jewel of the Med.” The directors of the Roundhouse should feel ashamed that they have allowed themselves to become part of the propaganda machine for this monstrous apartheid regime.’
Alexei Sayle, writer, comedian (and Camden resident)

War crime apologist Regev [Ambassador Mark Regev, former government spokesperson] wants us to turn our eyes and actions away from the ‘bad stuff’ about Israel. By this he means their brutal Occupation and desire to eliminate entirely the Palestinian ‘problem’. The Roundhouse should have nothing to do with this propaganda fantasy-fest.’
David Calder, actor

‘This festival is not about art but political propaganda. It is set up by the Israeli government as a distraction from its theft of land and brutal oppression of Palestinians. Particularly despicable is the presence of Mark Regev, notorious apologist for Israeli war crimes. The Roundhouse should have the guts to cancel this charade.’
Ken Loach, film director

‘Attempts by Israel and its apologists to seduce people through the arts and invisibilise the plight of Palestinian generations withering in a political hinterland through well funded and publicised events are not new phenomena. They are part of a wider campaign to decontextualise the Zionist project and present the distinctly political and as merely cultural. Hosting events such as this is an unambiguously political stance and all venues should be aware of this. From this platform I and many others publicly call on the Roundhouse and all hosting venues to discontinue their involvement in this insidious apologism for the usurpation of Palestinian rights to free movement, self-determination and safe housing.’
Lowkey, musician

‘The Roundhouse should know better.’
Mike leigh, writer and film director 

 

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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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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.

So may we fill you in on its style and content? ‘In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain’ was filmed entirely in a studio using computer-generated, other-worldly imagery that mixes the past with the future. The piece obliquely questions national mythologies, and its Arabic-speaking protagonist uses archaeology to stake claims on the past and thereby on the future of a vanishing land. Like much art, its narrative is ambiguous, open-ended, more akin to poetry than any kind of polemic. Why would the Board of Deputies want to protect British Jews from a video that uses science-fiction to explore the relationship of history, myth and national identity?

You’ve said in your letter to the Barbican, ‘The film is a means by which to deny the historical Jewish connection to Israel… Accusing Jews of falsifying our connection to Israel smacks of antisemitism’.

Just this week Israel’s Haaretz newspaper ran the headline: Fake History: Netanyahu Boasts about ‘Ancient Jerusalem Coin’ – Turns Out to be Kid’s Souvenir. The Prime Minister had claimed the coin was ‘evidence of the deep connection between the people of Israel… to the communities in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]’. Is this story, which suggests that archaeology is being used by politicians to justify the dispossession of Palestinian communities in the West Bank, also antisemitic?

In the past two weeks, Charlottesville has shown us what a live and threatening issue antisemitism is. It has shocked everyone to see a large crowd of racists with flaming torches screaming against Jews. In this context, what does calling for the withdrawal of a work of fiction by a Palestinian artist, which you actually haven’t seen, tell us about the priorities of the Board of Deputies?

And, as practising artists and writers, we’d like to know how many other galleries, theatres, universities or community spaces have received similar demands from the Board regarding narratives which the Board alone interprets as unacceptable challenges to Israel’s founding mythologies.

Yours sincerely,

Artists for Palestine UK


 

Trailer for the video which the BoD wanted the Barbican exclude from the exhibition:

The video can be viewed in its entirety until September 1st here:  https://vimeo.com/222682204  password: ‘porcelain’

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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Israeli cultural whitewash fails to impress at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

For the second August in a row, advocates for Israel have used Edinburgh’s huge annual cultural gathering as cover for an attempt to whitewash the state’s decades of oppression and racist discrimination against Palestinians.

Under the rubric of coexistence and cultural cooperation, this year’s International Shalom Festival, staged over three days at a community secondary school, sought to avoid the opprobrium heaped upon its blatantly propagandistic 2016 incarnation.

Last year the event’s organisers, known for working with the Israeli Embassy to undermine and oppose campaigning work in support of Palestinian rights, proudly proclaimed it as a major “Israel advocacy” initiative. This year the same groups – the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (COFIS) and StandWithUs – have tried to entice audiences with a vision of Israel as a haven of tolerance and harmony offering “real examples of coexistence”.

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Ken Loach has nothing to apologise for

Statement from Artists for Palestine UK
London, July 15

As UK band Radiohead prepares to perform in Israel on July 19 in direct breach of the Palestinian boycott, leading boycott supporter Ken Loach has faced defamatory attacks on his integrity.

Loach is committed to supporting Palestinian rights

Loach is one of over 1,220 signatories to the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine who have made the following commitment:

‘… In response to the call from Palestinian artists and cultural workers for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.’

Because Artists for Palestine UK (APUK)  has always understood the complex problems that artists from all disciplines face around rights ownership once an artwork enters the market, we have been explicit about which practical steps can be expected of artists who support the Palestinian call for boycott, and which  cannot. The guidelines, which have been on the Artists for Palestine UK website since we launched in February 2015, include the following question and answer:

‘Q. I am an artist and I do not have control over who buys the art I produce, nor the circulation of that work once it has been sold. Am I in a position to sign the Pledge?

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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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‘Dear Rabbi Sacks – stop your lies about BDS’

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