Artists for Palestine UK Respond to JJ Charlesworth’s Criticism of the Cultural Boycott of Israel

Published at artnet News, Monday, March 2, 2015

In answering JJ Charlesworth’s broadside (See: The Cultural Boycott of Israel Isn’t Solidarity, It’s Condescension) against the Artists Pledge for Palestine, now signed by over 1000 British artists, we should start by recalling what the pledge actually says.

Those thousand artists, and more coming in all the time, say they will not accept professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to Israel’s government. This is not an act of “moral condescension by the self-righteous and self-regarding,” as Charlesworth alleges. It is a response to a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) from across the whole of Palestinian civil society, including both individual artists and their representative organisations.

In an article that raises many common arguments against cultural boycott, but fails on nearly all counts to understand the position he is attacking, JJ. Charlesworth presents an unsustainable caricature of the motives and actions of artists and cultural workers who’ve signed the pledge. He makes some points that are serious and deserve serious answers. But there is a morass of soft thinking and loose argument to clear out of the way first. Continue reading