Chomsky clarifies position on the cultural boycott of Israel

In recent years, people promoting the mantras of ‘constructive engagement’ and ‘bridge-building’ with Israel have cited Professor Noam Chomsky in their defence. He is alleged to oppose the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005.

Artists for Palestine UK contacted Professor Chomsky to ask him to clarify his position, for the record.

He has given us this statement:

‘I am opposed to any appearance in Israel that is used for nationalistic or other propaganda purposes to cover up its occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights. I’ve been involved in activities to hold Israel accountable for its international law violations since before the BDS movement took shape. While I have some tactical differences with the BDS movement, I strongly support the actions and continue to participate in them.’

Asked about arguments that invoke Israel’s purported democracy, he said:

The oft repeated idea that Israel is a “vibrant democracy” is an absurd one. Unless the qualification is purely symbolic, there can be no “democratic Jewish (Christian, Muslim, white) state”. In the case of Israel, the “Jewishness” is very far from symbolic. There is no need to repeat here what I’ve written in the past, documenting extensively Israel’s discriminatory practices.’

APUK thanks Professor Chomsky for his clarification, and respectfully draws the attention of any artist contemplating performing or exhibiting in Israel to the essential point he makes: that the presence of international artists in Israel is used by the government to cover up its occupation and human rights abuses.

UK band Radiohead dismissed appeals from Palestinians and artists around the world to cancel their Tel Aviv concert in July this year, with singer Thom Yorke arguing that Radiohead did not ‘endorse Netanyahu’. But as APUK has shown, Netanyahu’s government certainly endorsed Radiohead, with Israeli politicians and diplomatic missions loudly promoting the group’s anti-boycott stance. All major artists who appear in Israel are likely to find themselves similarly hailed, with every performance considered a victory by Israel’s apartheid regime.

We hope that Professor Chomsky’s clarification encourages international artists to respect the call from their Palestinian counterparts to refrain from performing in Israel until it ends its violations of international law.

Despite threats Kate Tempest affirms her support for Palestinian rights

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) strongly condemns threats made against British artist Kate Tempest as a result of her support for Palestinian rights. A poet, spoken word artist and author, Tempest is one of more than 1200 UK-based artists to sign APUK’s pledge to uphold the cultural boycott of Israel. This conscientious decision by so many principled artists stands in stark contrast to the shameful intimidation tactics, including personal threats, directed against Tempest, which led to the cancellation of her concert, scheduled for October 6th 2017 at Berlin’s former airport Tempelhof. Tempest’s management said that she did not want to perform in an “aggressive atmosphere”, having received “personal threats via email and over social media”, adding that they did not want to risk the safety of her team.

Last month eight artists cancelled appearances at Pop-Kultur festival in Berlin, in protest at the festival’s decision to partner with the Israeli embassy in Germany. In response, the festival organisers, media commentators and local politicians condemned these conscientious artists, often in racialised terms, and promoted straight lies about the terms and aims of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) human rights movement. As the festival drew to a close, the purveyors of this defamatory and abusive rhetoric found a new target, with Kate Tempest identified by German media as a signatory to the APUK pledge. One recent article asked, “Can an anti-Israel activist appear in Berlin?”. Another demanded the city’s Mayor Michael Müller cancel the concert. Continue reading

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’.

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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. Continue reading

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.

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Award-winning Young Fathers become 8th act to cancel Pop-Kultur

Young Fathers, the Mercury Award-winning group from Edinburgh, have announced their withdrawal from Berlin Pop-Kultur to protest the festival’s acceptance of sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy in Germany.

The band are the third group of UK artists, and the eighth in total, to withdraw from Pop-Kultur in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation and in exile.

Artists for Palestine UK warmly thanks all fellow artists who act in support of the Palestinians’ urgent need for rights and freedom – despite considerable misinformation put out by the festival organisers and in German media coverage.

Young Fathers, who performed in M.I.A.’s Meltdown Festival at the London Southbank in June 2017, said in their statement:

“Young Fathers have a long history of opposing any form of hatred including racism and anti-semitism and we support the principle of a peaceful solution that allows Palestinians the right to return to a safe homeland and that allows Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths (and none) to live together in peace. This is a very tiny act on our behalf in the grand scale of things but one we still believe is worth it.”

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Cancellation of my participation at POP-KULTUR Festival

Annie Goh is is the 6th artist to withdraw from Berlin’s Pop-Kutur over sponsorship by Israel. She issued the following statement via Facebook today, which we reproduce below. Aside from making clear the reasons for her cancellation, she criticises the misinformation put out by Pop-Kultur’s organisers regarding BDS,  and describes as ‘despicable’ smears against the four Arab artists who withdrew from the festival (their principled statements are reproduced in part on our blog here).

Like Goh, we at Artists for Palestine UK have been particularly appalled at the attacks on the Arab artists whose statements to the festival could not have been clearer or more humane in articulating the reason and the object of their protest.

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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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Don’t play Berlin Pop-Kultur under Israeli Embassy sponsorship!

AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL UK MUSICIANS  SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN BERLIN AUGUST 23 – 25, 2017

‘Art goes beyond a single act on a stage; it’s against all that is regressive and discriminatory in this world’
Mohammad Abu Hajar, Syrian rapper

Dear colleagues:

When you signed up to play Berlin Pop-Kultur, you possibly didn’t know that the Israeli Embassy in Germany was a sponsor.   Maybe you also don’t know that Palestinian civil society, living under Israeli military occupation or in exile, is appealing to artists not to take part in events sponsored by the state of Israel, in solidarity with the Palestinians’ long struggle for rights and freedom.

But now that you do know, will you follow the example of the musicians who have withdrawn from Pop-Kultur in the past few days?

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