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

Anish Kapoor gifts Israel a PR coup

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

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

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

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

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

Miranda Pennell and  John Smith, artists”

Fatboy Slim scheduled to play in Tel Aviv

Artists to Fatboy Slim: please don’t play Tel Aviv

Artists have written to  DJ Fatboy Slim asking him to cancel his forthcoming show in Tel Aviv. Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim, said recently in an interview that his criteria for accepting a gig means it has to ‘fulfil the 5 f’s’  – a first, a favour for a friend,  fun, finance, food. Playing the settler-colonial state may be ‘a first’ for Fatboy, but it’s only going to be ‘fun’ if he ignores the experience of Palestinians  including those within Israel’s borders. We hope he thinks again.


London, 6 February 2017

Dear Fatboy Slim,

We’re disappointed to learn that you’re performing in Tel Aviv on March 12 this year.

Okay, it’s in the context of the Purim festival, and the venue, Hangar 11, is reported to be gay-friendly – so it all looks fine and inclusive and progressive and happy, and why not go?

But this is not the same as playing Brighton & Hove Pride, or Parma on New Year’s Eve.

Most of the young Israelis in Hangar 11 on Sunday March 12 will be doing national service, policing the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.   They’ll be taking time off from the whole range of things the Israelis do to suffocate Palestinian life.   If you think that’s an exaggeration, here’s what Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote on 20 January 2017: ‘To most Jewish Israelis, Arabs aren’t human beings equal to us. This dehumanization makes the soldiers and police trigger-happy’.

You may hope you’ll be lucky enough only to play for anti-racist Israelis like Levy. But you’ll be deluding yourself.   Please take a look at this sequence of pictures from the recent demolition of a Palestinian village inside Israel.   The people whose houses were destroyed are Israeli citizens.   The man lying on the ground with blood running down his face is a member of the Israeli parliament.   What’s their crime?   They’re Palestinians, non-Jews, in a state that wants their land for a Jewish town. You may hope that they will be in the audience to hear you on March 12.   But you’re much more likely to be playing for their attackers.   Do you really want to do that?

Please don’t go.

Yours sincerely,

Tam Dean Burn, actor

Jd Meatyard, musician

Jenny Morgan, film-maker

Miranda Pennell, artist/film-maker

Brendan Perry, musician (Dead Can Dance)

Leon Rosselson, musician

Nick Seymour, musician (Crowded House)

Farhana Sheikh, writer

Sigmatron, DJ/producer

Hilary Westlake, theatre director

Mohamed Jabaly, director of the acclaimed film 'Ambulance' (2016)

Call for support for ‘Ambulance’ director Mohamed Jabaly


The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and the Norwegian Immigration Tribunal have refused to grant Palestinian film-maker Mohamed Jabaly a work visa to allow him to tour with his first film, Ambulance (2016), and to make a second film with his Norwegian producers, in Tromsø, Norway. Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) is shocked at this decision, calls on the Norwegian government to rescind it, and invites others to join in this call.

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Mohammed Abu Sakha, circus trainer

Mohammad Abu Sakha: in prison for making children happy

***UPDATE Amnesty International briefing:
“…Amnesty International fears that the Israeli authorities – as they have done in many other such cases – are using administrative detention as a method of punishing Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha without prosecuting him, which would amount to arbitrary detention. Israel’s use of administrative detention itself may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, given the detainee’s inability to know why they are being detained or when they will be released.” 14.12.2016

On December 12th, at a hearing that he was not permitted to attend , the Administrative detention of 24 year-old Palestinian circus trainer and performer Mohammad Abu Sakha (pictured, on  left) was renewed for an additional 6 months. Abu Sakha has been imprisonment in Israeli jails without charge or trial for a year. The following article first appeared in Open Democracy on December 9th 2016, a few days before the court hearing.


One year after he was arrested by Israeli forces, Palestinian circus teacher Mohammad Abu Sakha  is still behind bars, and without charges.

I have a sense of deja-vu. One year ago, when I spent the Christmas period desperately contacting news agencies, begging them to publish a story about a friend of mine, Mohammad Abu Sakha, who had been arrested without charge, I didn’t expect that come December 2016, I would be sitting here in the same place, doing it all over again. I guess I was naïve then. I thought that others, if only they knew, would share my outrage at this injustice. And collective outrage would spark change. So all I needed to do was tell people, shine a light on the situation and it would change. A year on, I’ve learned a lot about the way in which power, politics and the personal psyche work together to facilitate and maintain social injustice. Continue reading

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

One Hundred Years and Counting: Britain, Balfour, and the Cultural Repression of Palestinians

by Aimée Shalan

First published by Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, this illuminating report looks at the repression of Palestinian cultural expression by Israel and collusion and censorship here in the UK by British government ministers. It traces this relationship all the way back to the wording of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The briefing offers an essential perspective for understanding Israel’s attempts to erase the Palestinian past and future, and proposes practical steps groups such as ours can take here in the UK to end the silencing of Palestinian voices and perspectives.


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Artists appeal to the Chemical Brothers

Artists appeal to the Chemical Brothers: Please don’t play Tel Aviv

  • Haaretz: ‘Former Pink Floyd bassist signs an open letter telling the electronic duo to not be fooled by Tel Aviv’s cool vibe while a different petition accuses artists who perform in Israel of whitewashing apartheid.’ (November 5, 2016)
    Report in the Guardian: ‘Former Pink Floyd man joins campaign alongside Caryl Churchill and Maxine Peake seeking a cultural boycott to promote better treatment of Palestinians’ (November 2, 2016)
  • Report in Pitchfork:  ‘Roger Waters, Thousands More Petition the Chemical Brothers to Cancel Tel Aviv Show’; and here in NME magazine and MixMag (November 1, 2016)
  • In an interview with Israeli media Chemical Brothers deny they are asked to boycott Israel despite over 7,000 people asking them to do just that. They are quoted as saying ‘pressure was not applied to us. We will go to any place where young people want to see us playing. We are not really involved in all the rest’. Needless to say, if the controversial concert goes ahead, fans in the occupied Palestinian territories will not be able to reach it due to ‘all the rest’. (October 29, 2016).
  • More than 7,000 people sign a petition asking Chemical Brothers Ed and Tom not to play Tel Aviv! (October 28, 2016)

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Artists as ‘ambassadors’ for NGOs: on what terms?

Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, due to perform in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday 20 September, is a Global Ambassador for Oxfam.

Artists for Palestine UK has engaged in discussion with Oxfam in the hope the organisation would dissuade him from going ahead with the performance.

We have argued that an NGO which recruits artists to promote its values needs to make sure the artists’ actions are consistent with those values.   Baaba Maal appearing in occupied East Jerusalem is not, we’ve argued, consistent with Oxfam’s stated opposition to Israeli colonisation policy.

We are making public an edited version of our most recent letter to our Oxfam interlocutors.

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Italian press reports opposition to state-sponsored Israeli dance performance, citing letter from Brian Eno

Batsheva Dance Company show in Jerusalem

Batsheva dancers in rehearsal in Jerusalem.                     Credit: EPA/ABIR SULTAN


UPDATE 11 Sept: Il Fatto Quotidiano today printed a full page interview with Eno.


Italian newspapers are reporting opposition to Israeli state sponsorship of a performance by Batsheva dance company, due to take place tomorrow (Sept 6) in Turin.

La Republica has published in full a letter sent in June to Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin by composer Brian Eno, explaining why he has withdrawn permission for his music to be used in the performance. La Stampa has quoted from it and the story has been picked up by Italian news agency ANSA.

See here a translation by Stephanie Westbrook of BDS Italia of the Republica article, plus the text of Brian Eno’s letter.

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slashed gazan picture

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


Best singers

Alrowwad singers. Picture by Phil Chetwynd

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

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

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Baaba Maal photo ©Oxfam

Baaba Maal yet to announce decision on going to Israel

Baaba and Gary YoungeUPDATE 3 SEPTEMBER:  Baaba Maal actively engaged with pro-Palestinian campaigners urging him to respect the Palestinian boycott call, seeming to leave open the possibility that he would not go to Israel on September 20.

Baaba is pictured (left) in discussion with Guardian editor-at-large Gary Younge during the Africa Utopia festival at London’s Southbank Centre, where hundreds of Artists for Palestine UK leaflets were in circulation. A separate protest took place outside the building.

Younge referred to his own experience as a participant in the Palestinian Literature Festival (PalFest) in which artists were obliged to travel to meet their audiences because Palestinians are not themselves free to move around.

“Why would you go to a place where people can’t travel and there is a boycott going on?” he asked.

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