Leading artists condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian cultural centres & call for sanctions

Photo: Edward Said National Conservatory of Music by Ahdaf Soueif for PalFest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

  • Massive Attack, Steve Coogan, Peter Gabriel, Maxine Peake, Philip Pullman and Benjamin Zephaniah are among 60+ cultural figures to put their names to an open letter condemning attacks on key Palestinian cultural centres.
  • The letter says the attacks are ‘part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions’ by the Israeli government. 
  • Brian Eno: ‘These raids … seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture ’
  • The artists call for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’ against Israel.

Signatories to the letter include:

  • Musicians Massive Attack, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Matthew Herbert, Jonathan Ofir, Jocelyn Pook, Benjamin Zephaniah
  • Filmmakers, actors David Calder, Julie Christie, Steve Coogan, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Maxine Peake, Leila Sansour, Harriet Walter
  • Writers Carmen Callil, William Dalrymple, Inua Ellams, A.L. Kennedy, Sabrina Mahfouz, Ruth Padel, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Rose, Thomas Sleigh, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif 
  • 2019 Turner Prize winning artists Lawrence Abu Hamdam and Tai Shani

In an open letter published today (copied below) more than sixty musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers say that the ransacking of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), the Yabous Cultural Centre and the Shafaq Cultural Network in occupied East Jerusalem, and the arrest of their respective directors, ‘threaten to extinguish cultural life for thousands of artists, students and people in wider society’. (1)

The British Consulate in Jerusalem expressed its concern over the raids, via Twitter. (2) However, the artists say that expressions of concern are not enough. 

The letter says that the raids are linked to Israel’s ongoing annexation of Palestinian land. It calls on the British government to take action to halt Israel’s latest round of aggression towards Palestinians . The signatories say: ‘Palestinian civil society organisations are calling for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’, that relate to trade, arms sales and security co-operation. Britain should support them.’ 

Composer Jocelyn Pook, best known for scores for films such as Eyes Wide Shut, The Merchant of Venice and The Wife, said: ‘These raids strike a blow against music and a blow against education. No government which cared about culture would inflict them. No person who cares about culture should tolerate them.’

Pioneering musician Brian Eno argued: ‘These raids are part of a new series of assaults on Palestinian lives and livelihoods and seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture. It is essential that our government ends its silence, condemns Israeli actions and takes practical steps to stop the raids.’

Ahdaf Soueif, novelist and founder of the Palestinial Festival of Literature said: ‘Israel is using the familiar tactics of an authoritarian state – night-time raids, trumped-up charges, arbitrary arrests – to kill the cultural institutions that Palestinians have created. Western governments have the power to stop this intolerable use of force. They should use it.’

The British Council said on social media that the Council is  ‘a long standing partner’ of all three cultural centres, which support ‘music and culture for young people’, and preserve ‘Palestinian cultural identity & community in Jerusalem’. (3)

Composer Suhail Khoury, the director of the National Conservatory of Music, who was arrested during the raids, issued a statement urging friends of Palestinian cultural institutions in Jerusalem to ‘demand the Israeli authorities lift their foot off our necks so that we can sing in freedom’. (4)

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

The open letter in full:

On 22 July in occupied East Jerusalem Israeli police raided the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) and the Yabous Cultural Centre, two of the most important cultural centres in Palestine. The buildings were ransacked and their directors arrested. SHAFAQ, the network which links the major Palestinian arts institutions in East Jerusalem, also saw its director arrested, after his home was invaded by police.  

These attacks threaten to extinguish cultural life for thousands of artists, students and people in wider society. They are part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions of indigenous Palestinians by the Israeli government.  

This campaign is linked to Israel’s plans to annex large areas of Palestinian territory, which UN human rights experts have described as a ‘vision for a 21st century apartheid’. 

We note that the British Consulate General in Jerusalem has expressed its ‘concern’ about the raids. It must go further than this.  Israel’s policies must be brought to a halt.

We call on the British government to condemn the raids and to take action to stop Israel’s ongoing annexation. Palestinian civil society organisations are calling for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’, that relate to trade, arms sales and security co-operation. Britain should support them. 

Signed:

Full list of 60+ signatories:

Lawrence Abu Hamdam, artist

Nicholas Blincoe, writer

Victoria Brittain, playwright, journalist

David Calder, actor

Carmen Callil, publisher

Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, producer, performance-maker

Julie Christie, actor

Steve Coogan, actor, comedian

Selma Dabbagh, writer

William Dalrymple, author

Andy De La Tour, actor

Tam Dean Burn, actor

Raymond Deane, composer, author

Robert Del Naja, Massive Attack

Laurence Dreyfus, musician

Thomas Eisner, violinist

Omar El Khairy, writer

Nancy Elan, violinist

Inua Ellams, poet, playwright

Brian Eno, musician

Kodwo Eshun, writer, filmmaker

Gareth Evans, writer, curator

Adam Foulds, writer

Peter Gabriel, musician

Judy Granville, musician

Trevor Griffiths, playwright

Rahila Gupta, playwright

Omar Robert Hamilton, writer

Rachel Holmes, writer

Tom Hammond, conductor

Matthew Herbert, musician

Gemma Jackson, production designer

Vanessa Jackson, artist

Brigid Keenan, writer

Peter Kennard, artist

A. L. Kennedy, writer

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Paul Laverty, screenwriter

Mike Leigh, screenwriter, director

Ken Loach, film director

Sabrina Mahfouz, playwright

Jamal Mahjoub, writer

Kika Markham, actor

Grant Marshall, Massive Attack

Pauline Melville, writer, actor

Roy Mowatt, violinist

Courttia Newland, writer

Jonathan Ofir, conductor, violinist

Nii A Parkes, writer

Ruth Padel, poet

Maxine Peake, actor

Joceyn Pook, composer

Phillip Pullman, author

Siobhan Redmond, actor

David Roger, production designer

Bruce Robbins, writer

Jacqueline Rose, writer

Leila Sansour, filmmaker

Tai Shani, artist

Thomas Sleigh, poet, writer

Gillian Slovo, writer

Ahdaf Soueif, writer

Sarah Streatfeild, violinist

Tom Suarez, violinist

Jacques Testard, publisher

Harriet Walter, actor

Hilary Westlake, performance director

Penny  Woolcock, screenwriter, director

Benjamin Zephaniah, writer, dub poet

 

 

 

2. British Consulate in Jerusalem expresses ‘concern’

3. The British Council said the council are ‘a long standing partner’ of all three cultural centres, which support ‘music and culture for young people’, and preserve ‘Palestinian cultural identity & community in Jerusalem’. 

4. Full statement by composer Suhail Khoury, director of the National Conservatory of Music, 29th July 2020

5.Joint statement by the boards of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and the Yabous Cultural Centre, 28thJuly 2020

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music photo by Ahdaf Soueif for PalFest

 

 

Threats to anti-racism charity lead to Ken Loach stepping down as competition judge

  • Show Racism the Red Card commends Loach’s ‘commitment to fighting racism’
  • Charity’s funding put at risk by unfounded allegations

Show Racism the Red Card and Ken Loach – a statement from Ken Loach’s supporters – first published at the website of Sixteen Films

Film director Ken Loach has withdrawn as a judge in the 2020 School Competition run by respected anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC).

The charity announced on February 4 that Ken Loach and author and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen were to judge this year’s competition, which involves thousands of schoolchildren in hundreds of schools producing poetry, drama, films and other forms of creative work on combating racism. Loach, Rosen and SRtRC were then subjected to an aggressive and abusive campaign both on-line and in print media, making baseless accusations of antisemitism against Ken Loach in particular.

In response to these allegations actor and comedian Steve Coogan said: “His entire career has been to shine a light on the plight of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. His films have given a voice to the voiceless.….Ken Loach’s legacy will remain long after his critics have gone.”

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Anti-racism charity confirms Ken Loach as judge for its School Competition

For immediate release

  • Show Racism the Red Card has resisted pressure to ditch campaigning film-maker Ken Loach as a judge for its annual School Competition.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Mark Rylance, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Dame Marina Warner, Baroness Blackstone, Steve Coogan and many other leading figures have backed Loach.
  • Eric Cantona: Everybody knows Ken Loach is a warrior against injustice. Show Racism the Red Card is right to work with him.
  • Fellow filmmaker Mike Leigh: ‘The charity has unquestionably made the right moral decision.’ 
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Artswatch Palestine: September – December 2019

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

Cádiz – and London

On December 20th the press office of the City of Cádiz announced that the Cádiz Court (Juzgado de Instrucción número 1 de Cádiz) had dismissed a case brought by the pro-Israeli organisation, ACOM against the Council’s decision to cancel a festival of Israeli films, organized in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Madrid and set to take place in a municipal building.

The court’s decision overturns an earlier ruling. In making it, Judge Maria del Carmen Fornell found that ‘the suppression of the Israeli film cycle does not rest on antisemitic motives or exclusion on the grounds of nationality, nor does it demonstrate contempt for elementary norms of coexistence or dignity of the person.’

Responding to the decision, the Mayor of Cádiz, José María González, said that the cancellation of the film festival was ‘not an act of hate, but an act of love and respect for Human Rights, framed in defence of the freedom of the Palestinian people, in the rejection of the illegal Israeli occupation and apartheid.’

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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.

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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

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Artswatch Palestine: April – August 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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