Palestinian artists & cultural organisations call on internationals to cancel engagements in Israel

Palestinian artists and cultural organisations in Gaza and beyond have written an appeal for solidarity from all those who work in the arts internationally. We are proud to publish their letter below.

We members of the Palestinian cultural and artistic community in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip, across historic Palestine and in exile make this heartfelt appeal to our fellow artists from around the world to cancel all scheduled performances, exhibitions and appearances in Israel, or sponsored by the Israeli government or complicit Israeli institutions, whether in-person or online, for as long as Israel’s regime of military occupation and apartheid persists. 

In the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law are proceeding with unprecedented impunity. Even in fighting the pandemic, Israel is revealing its appalling racism, a fact that should trouble people of conscience everywhere.

Israel has dumped Palestinian laborers suspected of having coronavirus at military checkpoints “with no regard for their health or safety,” as video footage shows. It has destroyed a makeshift Palestinian clinic that was planned to care for coronavirus victims in the occupied Jordan Valley. It has also denied COVID-19 testing to entire communities of Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, and irrefutably discriminated in making updated and accurate coronavirus information available in Arabic to the Palestinian community in a timely manner. 

The UN has long said that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020, after thirteen years of Israel’s brutal siege that has confined two million Palestinians, mostly refugees, to a narrow coastal strip. Israel has subjected Gaza to regular bombardments, killing thousands, among them our friends, colleagues and family members, in the last decade alone.

Here we are reaching the end of 2020 as the world faces a global pandemic that Palestinians too, including in Gaza, must somehow survive. UN human rights expert Michael Lynk recently highlighted that Gaza’s health care system had been collapsing even before the first cases of coronavirus were detected, a shameful reality for which Israel bears full responsibility as the occupying power. 

Over five thousand Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, and millions of Palestinians living in crowded refugee camps in and outside of Palestine are at severe risk of COVID-19 outbreak. Palestinian hospitals, especially in Gaza, are devastated by decades of Israeli occupation and siege. A serious lack of essential medical supplies and intensive care hospital beds combined with regular power outages means that the growing outbreak could have potentially devastating consequences for Palestinians in Gaza. 

Hospitals were already stretched to breaking point dealing with countless gunshot wounds from Israeli fire and resultant amputations. Israeli snipers have deliberately shot and maimed thousands of Palestinians in Gaza in the last two years during the peaceful Great March of Return and killed hundreds, including children, medics, journalists, and disabled people.

Israeli snipers have even competed over the number of knees each can claim to have shot to pieces, publicly boasting about their “hits.” UN investigators said these atrocities may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, committed against indigenous people protesting for the right to return to the homes and land from which they were ethnically cleansed. 

Two years ago, just a short drive from apartheid Tel Aviv, Israel destroyed an important cultural centre in Gaza, the Said al-Mishal, with targeted airstrikes. Violations and abuses against Palestinian musicians, poets, actors and other artists are commonplace, including in occupied East Jerusalem. As South African leaders have recognized, Israel has created an even worse apartheid system against Palestinians, with which there should be no business-as-usual. 

At this time of global distress, uncertainty and frightening impunity it is disturbing that some international artists are still scheduled to appear in-person in apartheid Tel Aviv or online at events sponsored by Israel or its complicit cultural institutions. As fellow artists, we urge them to cancel their engagements, to be on the right side of history, and to show meaningful solidarity with the oppressed.”

Signed,

Organizations 

Abna’ona Association for Development

Ajyal Association for Creativity and Development

Al Bayader Theater Group

Al Fordaws Association for Development

Al Harah Theater

Al Karama Complex for Culture and Arts

Al Manal Association for Women Rural Development

Al Rowad Society for Youth Development

Al Sununu Society for Culture and Arts

Al Taghreed Association for Culture, Development

Al-Awda Center for Childhood and Youth

Al-Kamandjati Association

Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society

Amwaj Association for Social Development and Improvement

Asalah Commission for Palestinian Popular Heritage

Ashtar Theater

Association for Culture, Art and Popular Heritage

Baladi Center For Culture and Arts

Bethlehem Academy for Music

Bureij Cultural Forum

Civitas Institute

Cultural Al Maghazi Center

Cultural and Social Deir Al Balah Center

Cultural Forum for Youth

Cultural Unity Association

Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA)

Culture Association For Protection Heritage

Culture, Arts and Heritage Association

Dar Elshabab for Culture & Development

El Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe

Freedom Theater

Gaza Center for Culture and Arts

General Union of Cultural Centres (GUCC)

Jerusalemite Youth Cultural Forum

Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center

Milad Centre for Youth Abilities Development

Nawa for Culture and Arts Association

Palestinian Al Najada Association

Palestinian Circus School

Popular Art Centre

Sareyyet Ramallah

Siwar Association for Culture and Arts

Tawasul for Youth and Culture

The Cultural Forum Centre

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music

The Palestinian Association for Heritage’s Development and Protection

Theatre Day Productions

Theatre for All

Yes Theatre

Youth and Environment Association

Individuals 

Ismail Abu Ali, nai player

Khalil Abu Ghazal, singer

Abdulaziz Abu Sharkh, qanun player

Abdulfattah Abu Srour, director

Shahd Abusalama, dancer

Yousri Al-Ghoul, writer, artist

Nai Barghouti, singer

Haidar Eid, musician

Hanin Ejla, singer

Samir Eskanda, musician

Ibrahim Ghunaim, rapper

Mohammed Jerjes, singer

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Alaa Khatib, painter

Ahmed Masoud, author, playwright

Malak Matar, painter

Mahmoud Modallal, singer, musician

ِِِArab M. Moghanni, Snonou Institution for Culture

Mona Mosaddar, poet

Emad Mudallal, singer

Abdulkarim Mudallal, singer

May Odeh, Director, producer

Mohammed Qraeqea, painter

Malek Qraeqea, painter

Fahmy Saqqa, keyboard player, composer

Ghada Shuman, singer

Ahmed Tafeish, singer

Le Trio Joubran, band

Leading artists urge end to Israel’s siege of Gaza amid coronavirus crisis

Philip Pullman, Alia Shawkat, Peter Gabriel and 200* others back Amnesty International’s call for a military embargo on Israel “until it fully complies with its obligations under international law”

Photo: AFP

  • UPDATE: 500+ artists have now signed!


Philip Pullman, Naomi Klein, Peter Gabriel, Alia Shawkat, Vic Mensa and Viggo Mortensen Jr. are among more than two hundred musicians, actors, filmmakers, authors and others calling for an end to Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip amid the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter published on Wednesday, they write, “Gaza’s almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world’s largest open-air prison.” 

The first cases of coronavirus in blockaded Gaza were reported in March. Palestinian, Israeli and international humanitarian and human rights organisations have called for the lifting of Israel’s siege so that Gaza can address its severe shortages of medical equipment.

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Palestinian and Israeli Artists Urge Aurora: Don’t Play Israel!

Norwegian pop star Aurora is booked to play Tel Aviv on November 14th and 15th. Palestinian artists, and Israeli artists, have each launched appeals to the singer. 

Artists for Palestine UK is pleased to host both letters below.

Palestinian artists to Aurora

Dear Aurora 

It is with great regret we have become aware of your planned performance in Tel Aviv in November. You have quickly become one of the great new names in the international popular music scene, including among Palestinians and other Arabs. Regardless of your intentions, your decision to perform in Tel Aviv will be seen as endorsing Israel’s whitewash of its occupation and denial of human rights to Palestinians. 

Israel is intensifying its decades-old regime of oppression against Palestinians, especially its theft of Palestinian land and resources to build more illegal settlements and apartheid walls. UN investigators have concluded that Israeli occupation forces’ intentional targeting of journalists, medics, children and disabled people with sniper fire in Gaza “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Moreover, Israel’s 12-year-old siege of Gaza has reduced it into an “unliveable” territory, according to the UN. Israel’s military occupation counts per-capita calories allowed into Gaza to keep the two million Palestinians there on the verge of starvation.

Given this reality, many celebrities, including Lana del Rey, Lorde and Natalie Portman, have cancelled scheduled events or performances  in Israel. As during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, such expressions of solidarity by artists sends the right message that they will not lend their names to covering up Israel’s oppression and that they stand with the oppressed Palestinians, including artists, who are not allowed to travel freely to share our art and culture.   Continue reading

Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Pratibha Parmar, Ken Loach and others say UK cinemas should boycott Israeli film festival Seret

In our letter published in the Guardian yesterday and copied below, 20 British filmmakers and writers including Mike Leigh, Leila Sansour, Ken Loach and Prahitbha Parmar criticise the hosting of an Israeli government sponsored film festival in the UK. 

The letter cites the findings of the recent UN report on Israel’s violence against Palestinians in Gaza.  It compares celebrity and business protests against Brunei over its new anti-LGBT law, with those against Israel over its violence against the Palestinians.

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Brian Eno: Israel must not be allowed to use Eurovision as a propaganda tool

Brian Eno’s op-ed is published in today’s Guardian, and copied below.

“Those of us who make art and culture for a living thrive on free and open communication. So what should we do when we see culture becoming part of a political agenda? “Music unites,” says UK Eurovision entrant Michael Rice. What happens when a powerful state uses art as propaganda, to distract from its immoral and illegal behaviour? Everybody involved in the Eurovision song contest this year should understand that this is what is happening.

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Leading artists stand with Lorde

More than 100 artists including leading lights in film, theatre, literature, and music  have come together to sign a statement of support for the singer, songwriter and record producer Lorde. While signatories to the letter, which is published on the Guardian’s letter page, may hold a range of positions on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), they are united in their defence of the right to freedom of conscience. We are happy to publish the letter and the FULL list of signatories, below.
[Photo: Perou for the Guardian]

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Nick Cave, who is being silenced ?

Artists for Palestine UK statement.

Nick Cave has used the opportunity of a press conference in Israel to speak out about ‘silencing’. People around the world will be surprised to read that Cave has chosen not to speak out about the trial of the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour or the targeting of journalist Makbula Nasser in Israel; nor the indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial of Palestinian artists, journalists and human rights defenders in the occupied West Bank; nor of the denial of permits for Palestinians musicians or of cancer patients seeking to exit Gaza.

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Open letter to Nick Cave: ‘Don’t go – not while apartheid remains.’

October 30th, 2017, London.

Dear Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds,

You are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on 19th & 20th November. Please don’t go.

In the words of a recent UN report, ‘Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people’.

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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

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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Israeli cultural whitewash fails to impress at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

For the second August in a row, advocates for Israel have used Edinburgh’s huge annual cultural gathering as cover for an attempt to whitewash the state’s decades of oppression and racist discrimination against Palestinians.

Under the rubric of coexistence and cultural cooperation, this year’s International Shalom Festival, staged over three days at a community secondary school, sought to avoid the opprobrium heaped upon its blatantly propagandistic 2016 incarnation.

Last year the event’s organisers, known for working with the Israeli Embassy to undermine and oppose campaigning work in support of Palestinian rights, proudly proclaimed it as a major “Israel advocacy” initiative. This year the same groups – the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (COFIS) and StandWithUs – have tried to entice audiences with a vision of Israel as a haven of tolerance and harmony offering “real examples of coexistence”.

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Israeli historian Ilan Pappe to Radiohead: ‘It would be immoral to perform in such circumstances’

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has issued the following statement regarding Radiohead’s decision to appear on stage in Israel tomorrow, disregarding appeals from Palestinians and their supporters around the world.

Via Artists for Palestine UK, London, July 18th

‘The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has not ceased for one day in the last 50 years. This oppression includes daily violations of Palestinian human and civil rights and does not spare children, pregnant mothers, old people, disabled persons and ordinary men and women. The so called peace process has failed to end this oppression and each failure of its various stages has produced more oppression and despair for the millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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Mike Leigh slams Radiohead for ignoring Palestinians

Artists for Palestine UK statement
London, July 17

Film writer and director Mike Leigh has criticised Thom Yorke and Radiohead for ignoring Palestinian suffering, two days ahead of their controversial Israel gig.

Last week Radiohead front-man Yorke defended the band’s decision to play in Israel and ignore the Palestinian picket-line, arguing that music was about ‘crossing borders’ and ‘shared humanity’.

Today, Oscar nominated Leigh, who is in production for his forthcoming feature film ‘Peterloo’, issued the following statement via Artists for Palestine UK – Continue reading

Thom Yorke’s words about art ‘crossing borders’ ring hollow in Israel-Palestine

Artists for Palestine UK published an Open Letter to Radiohead signed by 47 leading cultural figures back in April.  Today, we issue the following statement in response to frontman Thom Yorke’s comments via Twitter directed at Ken Loach (copied below).

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AN OPEN LETTER TO RADIOHEAD

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. 
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Artswatch Palestine: February-March 2017

Introduction
‘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
RELATED:  
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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‘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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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”.

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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.

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