Leading artists condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian cultural centres & call for sanctions

Photo: Edward Said National Conservatory of Music by Ahdaf Soueif for PalFest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

  • Massive Attack, Steve Coogan, Peter Gabriel, Maxine Peake, Philip Pullman and Benjamin Zephaniah are among 60+ cultural figures to put their names to an open letter condemning attacks on key Palestinian cultural centres.
  • The letter says the attacks are ‘part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions’ by the Israeli government. 
  • Brian Eno: ‘These raids … seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture ’
  • The artists call for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’ against Israel.

Signatories to the letter include:

  • Musicians Massive Attack, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Matthew Herbert, Jonathan Ofir, Jocelyn Pook, Benjamin Zephaniah
  • Filmmakers, actors David Calder, Julie Christie, Steve Coogan, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Maxine Peake, Leila Sansour, Harriet Walter
  • Writers Carmen Callil, William Dalrymple, Inua Ellams, A.L. Kennedy, Sabrina Mahfouz, Ruth Padel, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Rose, Thomas Sleigh, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif 
  • 2019 Turner Prize winning artists Lawrence Abu Hamdam and Tai Shani

In an open letter published today (copied below) more than sixty musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers say that the ransacking of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), the Yabous Cultural Centre and the Shafaq Cultural Network in occupied East Jerusalem, and the arrest of their respective directors, ‘threaten to extinguish cultural life for thousands of artists, students and people in wider society’. (1)

The British Consulate in Jerusalem expressed its concern over the raids, via Twitter. (2) However, the artists say that expressions of concern are not enough. 

The letter says that the raids are linked to Israel’s ongoing annexation of Palestinian land. It calls on the British government to take action to halt Israel’s latest round of aggression towards Palestinians . The signatories say: ‘Palestinian civil society organisations are calling for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’, that relate to trade, arms sales and security co-operation. Britain should support them.’ 

Composer Jocelyn Pook, best known for scores for films such as Eyes Wide Shut, The Merchant of Venice and The Wife, said: ‘These raids strike a blow against music and a blow against education. No government which cared about culture would inflict them. No person who cares about culture should tolerate them.’

Pioneering musician Brian Eno argued: ‘These raids are part of a new series of assaults on Palestinian lives and livelihoods and seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture. It is essential that our government ends its silence, condemns Israeli actions and takes practical steps to stop the raids.’

Ahdaf Soueif, novelist and founder of the Palestinial Festival of Literature said: ‘Israel is using the familiar tactics of an authoritarian state – night-time raids, trumped-up charges, arbitrary arrests – to kill the cultural institutions that Palestinians have created. Western governments have the power to stop this intolerable use of force. They should use it.’

The British Council said on social media that the Council is  ‘a long standing partner’ of all three cultural centres, which support ‘music and culture for young people’, and preserve ‘Palestinian cultural identity & community in Jerusalem’. (3)

Composer Suhail Khoury, the director of the National Conservatory of Music, who was arrested during the raids, issued a statement urging friends of Palestinian cultural institutions in Jerusalem to ‘demand the Israeli authorities lift their foot off our necks so that we can sing in freedom’. (4)

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

The open letter in full:

On 22 July in occupied East Jerusalem Israeli police raided the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) and the Yabous Cultural Centre, two of the most important cultural centres in Palestine. The buildings were ransacked and their directors arrested. SHAFAQ, the network which links the major Palestinian arts institutions in East Jerusalem, also saw its director arrested, after his home was invaded by police.  

These attacks threaten to extinguish cultural life for thousands of artists, students and people in wider society. They are part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions of indigenous Palestinians by the Israeli government.  

This campaign is linked to Israel’s plans to annex large areas of Palestinian territory, which UN human rights experts have described as a ‘vision for a 21st century apartheid’. 

We note that the British Consulate General in Jerusalem has expressed its ‘concern’ about the raids. It must go further than this.  Israel’s policies must be brought to a halt.

We call on the British government to condemn the raids and to take action to stop Israel’s ongoing annexation. Palestinian civil society organisations are calling for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’, that relate to trade, arms sales and security co-operation. Britain should support them. 

Signed:

Full list of 60+ signatories:

Lawrence Abu Hamdam, artist

Nicholas Blincoe, writer

Victoria Brittain, playwright, journalist

David Calder, actor

Carmen Callil, publisher

Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, producer, performance-maker

Julie Christie, actor

Steve Coogan, actor, comedian

Selma Dabbagh, writer

William Dalrymple, author

Andy De La Tour, actor

Tam Dean Burn, actor

Raymond Deane, composer, author

Robert Del Naja, Massive Attack

Laurence Dreyfus, musician

Thomas Eisner, violinist

Omar El Khairy, writer

Nancy Elan, violinist

Inua Ellams, poet, playwright

Brian Eno, musician

Kodwo Eshun, writer, filmmaker

Gareth Evans, writer, curator

Adam Foulds, writer

Peter Gabriel, musician

Judy Granville, musician

Trevor Griffiths, playwright

Rahila Gupta, playwright

Omar Robert Hamilton, writer

Rachel Holmes, writer

Tom Hammond, conductor

Matthew Herbert, musician

Gemma Jackson, production designer

Vanessa Jackson, artist

Brigid Keenan, writer

Peter Kennard, artist

A. L. Kennedy, writer

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Paul Laverty, screenwriter

Mike Leigh, screenwriter, director

Ken Loach, film director

Sabrina Mahfouz, playwright

Jamal Mahjoub, writer

Kika Markham, actor

Grant Marshall, Massive Attack

Pauline Melville, writer, actor

Roy Mowatt, violinist

Courttia Newland, writer

Jonathan Ofir, conductor, violinist

Nii A Parkes, writer

Ruth Padel, poet

Maxine Peake, actor

Joceyn Pook, composer

Phillip Pullman, author

Siobhan Redmond, actor

David Roger, production designer

Bruce Robbins, writer

Jacqueline Rose, writer

Leila Sansour, filmmaker

Tai Shani, artist

Thomas Sleigh, poet, writer

Gillian Slovo, writer

Ahdaf Soueif, writer

Sarah Streatfeild, violinist

Tom Suarez, violinist

Jacques Testard, publisher

Harriet Walter, actor

Hilary Westlake, performance director

Penny  Woolcock, screenwriter, director

Benjamin Zephaniah, writer, dub poet

 

 

 

2. British Consulate in Jerusalem expresses ‘concern’

3. The British Council said the council are ‘a long standing partner’ of all three cultural centres, which support ‘music and culture for young people’, and preserve ‘Palestinian cultural identity & community in Jerusalem’. 

4. Full statement by composer Suhail Khoury, director of the National Conservatory of Music, 29th July 2020

5.Joint statement by the boards of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and the Yabous Cultural Centre, 28thJuly 2020

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music

 

 

Speak out to stop annexation now

Mercury award-winning band Wolf Alice, Peter Gabriel, authors Philip Pullman, Irvine Welsh, Colm Tóibín, and Selma Dabbagh, actors Harriet Walter and Julie Christie are among cultural figures joining many MPs, trade unions and human rights organisations to call on the UK government and political parties to: “support the call of Palestinian civil society organisations for effective measures by all States to stop Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied West Bank”.

Artists for Palestine UK is proud to partner on the launch of this vital call to action, the text of which is reproduced below. The campaign launches with this letter in the Guardian.


Starting in July, the new Israeli Government has said that it intends to illegally annex large swathes of Palestinian land in the West Bank, which was militarily occupied in 1967. This would be the culmination of years of appropriation of land – through the forced displacement of Palestinians and the illegal settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. By annexing the West Bank, Israel would take over occupied Palestinian territory and make it an integral part of the Israeli state. 

Palestinian civil society has made a global call for ‘effective measures’ to be taken to stop this annexation happening. If the measures are to be effective, the UK should now, at the very least, be adhering to an ethical policy on all the UK’s trade with Israel , in particular by applying international law on settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians. 

In the midst of the Covid pandemic a number of organisations are cooperating to try to respond to the call from Palestine by making annexation a live issue on the current political agenda. Israel’s timetable is to annex land quickly with Trump’s support – this means we cannot wait.

If you agree with this and want to support the Palestinian call for action, please indicate your agreement with the following statement:

SPEAK OUT TO STOP ANNEXATION NOW

I am speaking out now in order to stop the threatened annexation of Palestinian land by Israel in July and I call on the UK Government and all UK political parties to support the call of Palestinian civil society organisations for effective measures by all States to stop Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Signatories: 

Organisations:

Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Amos Trust

Artists for Palestine UK

British Palestinian Policy Council,

Jews for Justice for Palestinians

Labour and Palestine

Liberal  Democrats Friends of Palestine

Labour Friends of Palestine and Middle East

SNP Friends of Palestine

Palestinian Return Centre

War on Want

Parliamentarians  

Apsana Begum MP

Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Baroness Christine Blower

Alan Brown MP

Baroness Pauline Bryan

Richard Burgon MP

Ian Byrne MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Bob Doris MSP

James Dornan MSP

Lord Hugh Dykes

John Finnie MSP

Lord Peter Hain

Neale Hanvey MP

Lord John Hendy

Rachel Hopkins MP

Stephen Kinnock MP

Ian Lavery MP

Caroline Lucas MP

Kenny MacAskill MP

John McDonnell MP

Ivan McKee MSP

Grahame Morris MP

Brendan O’Hara MP

Kate Osborne MP

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Tommy Sheppard MP

Andy Slaughter MP

Zarah Sultana MP

Jon Trickett MP

Claudia Webbe MP

Sandra White MSP

Mick Whitley MP

Leanne Wood MS

Trade Unions :

Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary NEU

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary TSSA

FBU

Jo Grady, General Secretary UCU

Len McCluskey, General Secretary Unite the Union

John Phillips, Acting General Secretary GMB

Barbara Plant, President GMB

RMT

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary PCS

Sarah Woolley, General Secretary, BFAWU

Mick Whelan, General Secretary ASLEF

Individuals :

Dr Hafiz Alkarmi  (Chair- Palestinian Forum in Britain)

Omar Al-Qattan

Salman Abu Sitta

John Austin

Zaher Barawi Chair Europal Forum)

Sarah Beddington

Tamara Ben Halim

Geoffrey Bindman

Victoria Brittain

Julie Christie

Chipo Chung

Caryl Churchill

Selma Dabbagh

William Dalrymple

Izzat Darwazeh

Brian Eno

Shepard Fairey

David Farr

Peter Gabriel

Arthur Goodman

Professor Kamel  Hawwash ( Chair PSC),

Canon Garth Hewitt

Nadia Hijab

Kate Hudson (Gen Secretary CND)

Betty Hunter

Ben Jamal (Director PSC)

Ghada Karmi

A.L.Kennedy

Sara Husseini

Hugh Lanning

Mike Leigh

Ken Loach

Dr. Dina Matar ( Chair, Centre for Palestine Studies, SOAS)

Kika Marlham

Yann Martel

Jenny Morgan

Professor Karma Nabulsi

Maxine Peake

John Pilger

Philip Pullman

Hilary Rose

Steven Rose

Atallah Said, OBE ( Chair, British Arab Association; Honorary Chair, British Palestinian Policy Council)

Zac Sammour,

Aimee Shalan

Alexei  Sayle

Clare Short

David Thompson

Colm Tóibín

Harriet Walter

Irvine Welsh

Wolf Alice