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


Nora Barrows-Friedman reports in Electronic Intifada that a group of filmmakers, artists and presenters have cancelled their scheduled appearances at TLVFest, Israel’s premier LGBTQ film festival in Tel Aviv, following appeals by queer Palestinian activists and boycott supporters to withdraw.

Award-winning South African film director John Trengove has withdrawn from the festival, which began on 1st June.  He requested that his film, The Wound (Inxeba), not be screened.

“While I appreciate that the organizers ​of TLVFest ​may be well intentioned and progressive, it is impossible to look past the fact that the festival (and my participation in it) could serve as a diversion from the human rights violations being committed by the state of Israel,” the filmmaker wrote.

Catherine Gund, a filmmaker and organizer, also cancelled her appearance, as did her co-director Daresha Kyi and their entire production team.

“TLVFest is being supported by government entities in Israel that are deeply complicit in violations of international law which include ongoing wars, repression of Palestinians and occupation of Palestinian lands,” Gund and Kyi wrote to festival organizers.

“Cultural events, such as this festival, aim to cover up these violations,” they added. “On a personal and political level, we cannot support this. Our film, which sets forth a vision of peace and freedom, should not be at an Israeli-government funded cultural event. We stand in solidarity with the boycott.”


Poet and social media activist Dareen Tatour remains under house arrest, while her show trial – reported in February-March Artswatch – continues.

Tatour is unemployed and her legal expenses have left her in debt. As Budour Youssef Hassan reports in Electronic Intifada, house arrest has stretched her and her family to the very limits, both emotionally and financially.

A crowdfunding campaign to help defray her expenses has been set up. Tatour faces up to 9 months in prison. A verdict is expected in June.


Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, reports on the continuing administrative detention of circus performer Abu Sakha (see Artswatch February-March).  (Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial.)

On 10th May, the Israeli authorities sought to renew his detention for a further six months. This was rejected by the High Court: Abu Sakha, originally due to be released on 11th June, will be detained for three months beyond that date , on condition that there is no further renewal.

In April, Abu Sakha joined the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners, suspended on 28th May after concessions on key demands from the Israeli authorities. His mother, Raja’a Abu Sakha, also joined the hunger strike, in solidarity.


Maan News reports that Israeli forces prevented Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem from holding two cultural events to celebrate International Women’s Day. First they raided the Saint George Hotel blocking access to the venue, then Israeli forces raided the al-Hamra Palace on Salah al-Din Street in East Jerusalem, forcing participants to leave.

The order was issued by Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan because he said the organisers, Women For Life and Democracy (AWED) association and al-Mortaqa Women Organization, were sponsored by the Palestinian Authority (PA).  Shirin Awida, committee member of  Al-Mortaqa, said that the event was self-funded and was unrelated to any political faction. Speaking to Middle East Monitor, Zohour Abu Mihaela, Chairwoman of AWED, expressed shock at the amount of police that arrived at the venue. “They came as if [this was an event for] war criminals. ” The event was a cultural gathering with no “political agendas”, Abu Mihaela explained, intended to provide disadvantaged women from occupied East Jerusalem with a pleasant break from their daily lives. It was planned to also include recreational and cultural activities for Arab females in Jerusalem.

* This item should have been posted in March-April edition, apologies. Ed.


Former UN Rapporteur Richard Falk recently published ‘Palestine’s Horizon: towards a just peace’. Events to publicise the book were disrupted, at several British universities, by pro-Israel activists.

Writing for Palestine Chronicle Falk notes that this disruption has continued online. “The same persons who disrupted (events) in London wrote viciously derogatory reviews of my book on the Amazon website in the U.S. and UK, giving the book the lowest possible rating.” This, Falk reflects “was a new kind of negative experience for me’, an ‘innovative version of digital book burning”.

Falk connects the campaign – obviously intended to deter publishers from committing to work like his – to Israeli initiatives against free speech on Palestine, including efforts to criminalise BDS.


In Nablus, in May, the Palestine Festival of Literature celebrated its tenth year. Often harassed and disrupted, the Festival has been in the words of one of its founders,   Ahdaf Soueif,   “a way of putting every resource we have in the service of Palestine”. It “created a community of writers and artists who lived the experience and came to a new realization of what’s happening here.”

In Mondoweiss, 20th May, Sheren Khelel reported on the 2017 Festival, quoting from its closing statement:

“What, then, is the role of the artist, the festival, the witness in today’s battles? We turn to you, our audience, our friends, our authors, with that question. What is the shape of the world to come and how can we write what is yet to be written? Palestine is the laboratory of the future: the checkpoints, the sieges, the psyops, the architecture, the credit lines, the algorithms – all are commodities sold to future repressions. What of that future can we still unmake? What new future can we still imagine? That is what is under siege today: the possibility of imagining.

“After our closing night, here, in 2017, we will take a step back, a pause into thought for a year. Our hope is that together we can return in a future year with the right festival to take into battle.”


The Daily Mail (14th May) gave extensive coverage to an AFP report on Gaza’s alternative to Cannes.

The Red Carpet Festival showcases films focusing on human rights issues. The festival’s organisers have laid out a 100-metre long red carpet – to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

The carpet is not for celebrities. “The children and poor people are walking on the carpet,” said organiser Saad al-Saworki.  “They are far more important than the carpet.”

The festival began in 2015, amid the rubble of the previous year’s bombing. For the first time, all of the festival’s 40 entries are being screened simultaneously in Ramallah, in the West Bank and in Haifa.

The opening film was Palestinian director Raed Andoni’s ‘Ghost Hunting’, winner of best documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year.

It focuses on Israeli prison interrogation techniques. Its screening came with hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails on hunger strike for nearly a month in protest over their conditions.

There are no permanent cinemas in Gaza: there is an ongoing crisis of electricity supply.


Israel’s Culture Minister MIri Regev turned up at the Cannes Film Festival in a dress that celebrated Israel’s conquest of Jerusalem. It was the creation of Swedish-Israeli designer Aviad Arik Herman, who thanked Regev, on his Facebook page, for the ‘privilege, opportunity and great honour’ she had bestowed on him.

Adaptations of his design swiftly appeared on social media.



Radiohead’s Thom Yorke ‘offended’ by appeal from fellow artists: our response

Following personal approaches to Radiohead by Palestinians, by fans and by fellow artists, on April 24,  Artists for Palestine UK posted an open letter signed by 47 prominent artists appealing to the band to withdraw from their scheduled Tel Aviv gig in July. The letter drew widespread media attention including from Pitchfork, NME, The Telegraph and The Guardian, but the band chose not to comment on the question of standing up for Palestinian rights. Now, in an extraordinary outburst in the pages of Rolling Stone, Thom Yorke lambasts the artists who signed the letter.

Today, on the 50th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, acclaimed film director Ken Loach reacts to Yorke’s comments:

Thom’s is a simple choice: will he stand with the oppressor or  the oppressed?’  

Artists for Palestine UK issues the following statement:

Radiohead’s concert is itself a political statement,
and a deeply divisive one.

Press statement

London, 5 June 2017

Rolling Stone did well to prise a reaction from Thom Yorke to the many appeals by musicians, Palestinians and others for Radiohead to withdraw from their Tel Aviv concert in July.

These were off-the-cuff remarks, rather than the considered response the signatories to Artists for Palestine UK’s April 24 open letter  – who included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Thurston Moore, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Kosminsky, Bella Freud, Tunde Adebimpe and Robert Wyatt among many others – were hoping for.

We read the remarks closely, for some sign Thom Yorke appreciates he and the band are going into a live colonial situation.   We couldn’t find that sign.

Palestinians who read Yorke’s comments will wonder if he knows anything at all about their dispossession and forced exile, and what it’s like to live under military occupation.   He doesn’t mention the Palestinians other than to say guitarist Jonny Greenwood has ‘Palestinian friends’.   A lot of us do, Thom.   That doesn’t mean we think it’s okay to play a 40,000-strong stadium built on the ruins of a Palestinian village.

We don’t dispute Radiohead’s ability to make ‘moral decisions’.   Our signatories simply think Radiohead are making the wrong one.

Yorke complains people have been ‘throwing shit’ at the band in public rather than approaching them privately, but we know of at least three colleagues of the band who have approached them privately – in fact we held off our open letter for weeks in the hope this private diplomacy would yield results.   It didn’t.

Yorke complains about Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and the dangers of divisiveness.   He doesn’t seem to appreciate that Radiohead’s concert is itself a political statement, and a deeply divisive one.   It’s telling the Israeli public they really don’t need to bother their heads with the Occupation and the boring old story of Palestinian suffering.   Throw off the army uniform; forget what you’ve seen and done, because Radiohead are telling you it has no consequences.   They’ve made a moral decision on your behalf.   Radiohead are here to tell you everything’s all right.

Artists for Palestine UK

Save the First Drama School in Palestine from Closure

Those who saw Ramallah-based Ashtar Theatre’s production of Richard II at the Globe in 2012 will long remember it. Now Ashtar is faced with financial crisis. The theatre needs to raise £40,000 to keep its premises open. It has launched an appeal for funds. Ashtar’s reputation is global, and its work is aimed at creating international solidarities. Its ‘Gaza Monologues’ have brought the voices of Gaza’s children to audiences across the world. It recently launched the ‘Syrian Monologues’ to draw attention to the Syrian refugee crisis and to ‘fight the war machine that turns people to numbers and casualties’.  

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London, April 24th  2017

Dear Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway,

You’re listed to play Tel Aviv in July this year.

We’d like to ask you to think again – because by playing in Israel you’ll be playing in a state where, UN rapporteurs say, ‘a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people’.   

We understand you’ve been approached already by Palestinian campaigners. They’ve asked you to respect their call for a cultural boycott of Israel, and you’ve turned them down.   Since Radiohead campaigns for freedom for the Tibetans, we’re wondering why you’d turn down a request to stand up for another people under foreign occupation. And since Radiohead fronted a gig for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we’re wondering why you’d ignore a call to stand against the denial of those rights when it comes to the Palestinians. 

Radiohead once issued a statement saying: ‘Without the work of organisations like Amnesty International, the Universal Declaration would be mere rhetoric’.   You’ve clearly read Amnesty’s reports, so you’ll know that Israel denies freedom to the Palestinians under occupation, who can’t live where they want, can’t travel as they please, who get detained (and often tortured) without charge or trial, and can’t even use Facebook without surveillance, censorship and arrest.  

In asking you not to perform in Israel, Palestinians have appealed to you to take one small step to help pressure Israel to end its violation of basic rights and international law. Surely if making a stand against the politics of division, of discrimination and of hate means anything at all, it means standing against it everywhere – and that has to include what happens to Palestinians every day.   Otherwise the rest is, to use your words, ‘mere rhetoric’.

You may think that sharing the bill with Israeli musicians Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, who play Jewish-Arabic music, will make everything OK.   It won’t, any more than ‘mixed’ performances in South Africa brought closer the end of the apartheid regime.  Please do what artists did in South Africa’s era of oppression: stay away, until apartheid is over. 


Tunde Adebimpe, musician, TV on the Radio
Conrad Atkinson, artist
Richard Barrett, composer
David Calder, actor
Julie Christie, actor
Selma Dabbagh, writer
William Dalrymple, historian, writer and broadcaster
April De Angelis, playwright
Shane Dempsey, theatre director
Laurence Dreyfus, musician and director, Phantasm Viol Consort
Geoff Dyer, writer
Eve Ensler, playwright
Bella Freud, fashion designer
Douglas Hart, musician and director
Charles Hayward, musician
Remi Kanazi, performance poet
Peter Kennard, artist
Peter Kosminsky, writer/director/producer
Hari Kunzru, writer
Paul Laverty, screenwriter
Mike Leigh, writer/director
Ken Loach, director
Lowkey, musician
Miriam Margolyes, actor
Kika Markham, actor
Elli Medeiros, musician
Pauline Melville, writer and actor
Roger Michell, director
China Miéville, writer
Thurston Moore, musician
Maxine Peake, actor
Dave Randall, musician
Ian Rickson, director
Michael Rosen, writer and broadcaster
Alexei Sayle, comedian and writer
James Schamus, screenwriter, director and producer
Nick Seymour, musician, Crowded House
Adrian Sherwood, record producer
Juliet Stevenson, actor
Ricky Tomlinson, actor
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa
Alice Walker, writer
Harriet Walter, actor
Roger Waters, musician
Susan Wooldridge, actor and author
Robert Wyatt, musician
Young Fathers, musicians

[end of letter]

Statements by Thurston Moore, Robert Wyatt, Ken Loach, Peter Kosminsky:

Thurston Moore:
‘If any concerned, humanitarian-conscious activists employ a boycott to protest brutal injustice in their country and request artists and scholars to refrain from working and/or being promoted as supportive of the normalization of that country – then I choose NOT to cross that line and suggest to all to not be complicit. It is a small sacrifice in respect to those who struggle in honourable opposition to state-sponsored fascism.’

Robert Wyatt:
‘These international cultural events are of course great propaganda for this ruling regime’s desperately sophisticated image, fragrant camouflage for their relentlessly accelerating ethnic cleansing campaign in, for example, Jerusalem. Are you really comfortable with that?’

Ken Loach:
‘I do hope Radiohead, and Thom Yorke in particular, realise the damage they will be doing to the Palestinians if they perform in Tel Aviv.  The Palestinians’ land is being stolen, they are being oppressed in every way, their daily lives made intolerable, many are imprisoned unlawfully in Israel, including shockingly, their children.  I’m afraid your pious words will mean nothing if you turn your backs on the Palestinians.  For their sake, and your own self-respect, please think again.’

Peter Kosminsky:
‘Some years ago, I had the great honour and privilege to work with the scarily talented Thom Yorke and Radiohead, when they allowed me to use their music for a film I was making about bullying.  I’ve admired from afar their support for the Tibetans and for Amnesty International, and their championing of human rights.  So I’m puzzled and really saddened to hear that they plan to play in Israel later this year.  I would urge them not to do so.  With Trump in the White House, the situation for Palestinians has become tougher than ever. They’ve asked for a cultural boycott of Israel, just as campaigners for freedom asked artists not to perform in Sun City during the apartheid era.  I think we should assume they know what’s in their best interests and respect their wish, irrespective of other considerations.’





Artswatch Palestine: February-March 2017

‘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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Eddie Izzard’s registration for Palestine Marathon this Friday sent back to him by organisers

British comedian Eddie Izzard holds a South African flag beneath a statue of former president Nelson Mandela at the government’s Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, March 20, 2016. Izzard completed 27 marathons in 27 days for Sport Relief to remember the 27 years Mandela spent in prison in 2016. (AP Photo)

MEDIA: Eddie Izzard Misses Palestinian Marathon Following Backlash Over Tel Aviv Gig, Hollywood Reporter 31/3/2017
Israel bans Gaza runners from Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem’ Middle East Monitor March 30, 2017
Palestinians run for right to free movement in Bethlehem marathon 31.03.2017
In a development saturated with political and emotional charge, South African runner Mervin Steenkamp came in first, for the second year in a row. Second-placed Thaer Shanaah is from Gaza, the densely populated coastal strip under blockade by Israel’.

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Fans ask Eddie Izzard – “Don’t support Apartheid Israel”

Eddie Izzard leaflet

Click image to download 2-sided PDF flyer

UK comedian Eddie Izzard is known for his opposition to apartheid South Africa. He played gigs for the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the 1980s. In 2016, as part of a charity fund-raising effort, he ran 27 marathons in 27 days to honour the 27 years Nelson Mandela spent in prison . And yet, despite pleas from fellow artists in the UK and Palestine, he is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on March 30, in breach of the Palestinian boycott which challenges Israel’s continuing Apartheid regime.

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Banksy Withdraws Invitation to Fatboy Slim to Perform at Walled Off Hotel

Banksy, artist turned hotelier, has responded to an appeal from Palestinians, and withdrawn an invitation to English DJ Fatboy Slim to perform at a street party outside the new Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.

Fatboy Slim scheduled a Bethlehem appearance the day after his planned March 12 performance in Tel Aviv. Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), have appealed to the DJ to cancel his Israeli show.
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‘No one now regrets boycotting apartheid South Africa’

 UPDATE 09.03.2017 From Israeli Citizens: Radiohead, Please Don’t Play Tel-Aviv
Open letter from Israeli citizens to Radiohead : “We urge you to cancel your performances in Israel and not grant your seal of approval to Israel’s ongoing crimes and human rights violations.” 09.03.2017

London, 7 March 2017

Calls mount for Radiohead to cancel Israel gig 

  • Artists for Palestine UK joins growing appeal to Radiohead to cancel Israel gig
  • Palestinian artists say, ‘Stand with the oppressed,  as Brian Eno, Alice Walker and Roger Waters do’
  • Jewish Voice for Peace in South Florida, USA, says, ‘We urge you to cancel, as an inspiration to young people everywhere’

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), whose Artists’ Pledge for Palestine has over 1200 signatories, called today for UK band Radiohead to cancel their concert in Tel Aviv, scheduled for July 19.
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‘Dear Rabbi Sacks – stop your lies about BDS’

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