Brian Eno, musician
Brian Eno, musician
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.
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
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.
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’.
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’.
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
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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 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?
‘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
Robert Cohen, a thoughtful commentator on the politics of Israel and Palestine, addresses an animated propaganda video designed to undermine support for the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) among students, particularly during Israel Apartheid Week . The film is voiced by, and credited to, former chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and is produced by an Israeli advertising production company.
Dear Jonathan Sacks:
Pictured: Jo Johnson MP, minister for Universities, suggested they seek to ban Israel Apartheid Week
On February 27, a letter signed by 243 academics appeared in the Guardian (copied below) condemning “outrageous interferences with free expression” and “direct attacks on academic freedom” resulting from attempts “to silence campus discussion about Israel, including its violation of the rights of Palestinians for more than 50 years.”
The letter attributed these developments to adoption by the UK government of “the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism” which is being interpreted as meaning that criticism of Israel and support for Palestinian rights is prima facie evidence of antisemitism.
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”.
Miri Regev, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, has commented , 27th December, on the change of presidency in the United States: ‘Obama is history,’ said Regev. ‘We have Trump.’
Christian Viveros-Fauné, writing in Artnet, suggests that ‘like Trump, the Likud politician consistently engages in a brazen, counter-factual brand of right-wing populism’. Viveros-Fauné charts the growing scope of Regev’s ‘war against culture’ noting inter alia that:
‘At least one major institution, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, has already found itself in the crossfire. As reported in February 2016 by Shany Littman at Haaretz, its director and chief curator Suzanne Landau recently “called off an exhibit by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman because of political pressures.” Kratsman’s contribution to the show, which was scheduled to open in November 2016, consisted of a Harvard University-funded series of 3,000 portraits of Palestinians he met on his travels to the Occupied Territories. Many of the photographer’s portrait subjects have since been killed in clashes with Israeli Defense Forces. When [the reporter] reached Landau for comment, the curator cited “scheduling problems.”’
Habima and Ashtar: tales from two theatres Continue reading
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.
The dangers of satire
The wild fires that swept through Northern Israel in mid-November provoked some Facebook posters in neighbouring countries into words of celebration. Abudaabes responded satirically, writing that the way to earn the respect of posters like these would obviously be to light more fires.
In paranoid and authoritarian states, satire is often a weapon that endangers the satirist. Israel’s legal system chose to take the words of Abudaabes literally, as an incitement to arson. On 25th November, Judge Alon Gabison ruled that there was reasonable suspicion that the post included incitement to harming state security, and that the author of the post should have thought about how others would interpret his words. A judge in a higher court speedily confirmed this ruling. Abudaabes, freed on bail, was placed under house arrest for five days and not allowed to use Facebook for 15 days.
The episode suggests that in addition to the multitude of other restrictions it imposes on the right of Palestinians to free expression, the Israeli state has now moved on to proscribing certain kinds of literary genre. If you are a Palestinian, do not be a satirist.
The continuing ordeal of Dareen Tatour
In June and July, Artswatch reported on the situation of Dareen Tatour, jailed and then placed under house arrest for poems and other writing that she posted on Facebook. In November, PEN International took up Dareen’s case, featuring her as one of the ‘Imprisoned Writers’, whose freedom it is demanding. On 24th November, Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, reported that the court that is hearing her case will reconvene on 26th January – and that Dareen’s period of house arrest has been extended accordingly. Dareen faces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence, as Israel continues to escalate its war against a militant Palestinian presence on social media.
Fighting back against Facebook
Charlotte Silver reports on Electronic Intifada (16th November) that Palestinian groups have joined with black and civil rights activists in the US to protest against the increasing tendency of Facebook – documented in September Artswatch – to block material at the behest of states. ‘Facebook’, a spokeswoman for the Oakland-based Center for Media Justice told the Guardian, is ‘a platform where people are documenting human rights injustices and breaking news’, yet for both black activists and Palestinians, it is a platform which is getting narrower by the month.
Confirming the CMJ’s claim, Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, reports that Facebook has granted 95 percent of Israel’s 158 requests to remove content in the last four months. Alongside this persistent pressure on internet companies, Israel continues to persecute individuals. Palestinian journalist Khalid Maaliimprisoned on the basis of his social media posts, was released by court order in mid-November – but only on the condition that he turn over his laptop to Israeli occupation forces and close his Facebook account, as well as paying a fine of $1700.
Miri Regev and the absolute politicisation of culture
Writing on AlJazeera’s website, Jonathan Cook (10th November) catalogues the long list of interventions made by Israel’s far-right culture minister, Miri Regev, since she took office 18 months ago. Aiming to ‘silence the Palestinian narrative’ Regev has been swift to denounce the broadcasting and performance of poems about the Palestinian experience. At the same time, she is completely explicit that Israeli cultural institutions should see themselves as arms of the Israeli state, supporting its policies: theatre companies which refuse to perform in the occupied territories will find themselves under-funded (see Artswatch October).
Cook notes that Regev’s efforts are increasingly successful: ‘people are starting to self-censor’, says the Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar, ‘the worst kind of censorship’. Yet, Cook concludes, there may be one positive side to Regev’s activities: for decades, those who have wanted to protect Israel from cultural boycott have argued that ‘culture’ exists in a different realm to ‘politics’, and that the border between them should not be crossed. Tenuous at the best of times, under Regev this claim has lost all credibility: in a society where culture has become just another channel for the politics of occupation, the case for boycott is strengthened.
The occupying power bans the call to prayer
Cultural repression is not limited to theatre and poetry. Middle East Monitor reports that the Israeli government is supporting the passage through parliament of a bill that will criminalise the use in occupied East Jerusalem of the loudspeakers that call Palestinian Muslims to prayer. The proposed ban is another step in the removal of the cultural presence of Palestinians from the occupied city: just as homes are demolished, so the material signs of Palestinian culture are effaced. Commenting on the move, Arab-Israeli MP Haneen Zoabi said that the proposed law was an attempt to change the culture and life in the occupied city. “This is part of the culture of the Arabic city and has been there since before the Israeli occupation,” she said. “For those, who are not happy with it, they have to go back home to Europe.”
Ashraf Fayadh – his poems translated
The Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, convicted of heresy, remains a prisoner in a Saudi jail (see Artswatch June and Artswatch July). The US publication Publishers Weekly, reports that English-speaking readers can now read his poems in a new collection, ‘Instructions Within’, produced by the independent publishing house, The Operating System.
Mohammed Bakri, actor – sign the petition
In August, Artswatch reported on the continuing persecution of actor and film-maker Mohammed Bakri, director of ‘Jenin, Jenin’. The Avaaz petition in support of Mohammed can be signed here.