Leading artists demand accountability for Israel’s killing of Palestinian journalist

Pedro Almodovar, Susan Sarandon, Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo, Eric Cantona, Miriam Margolyes, Jim Jarmusch, Naomi Klein and Peter Gabriel call for “meaningful measures to ensure accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and all other Palestinian civilians.”

*photo of Shireen Abu Akleh by AFP

More than a hundred artists, including Hollywood stars, acclaimed authors and prominent musicians, have condemned Israel’s killing of esteemed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Actors Susan Sarandon, Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo, Kathryn Hahn and Steve Coogan are among the signatories to an open letter calling for “full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it”. 

Abu Akleh, well-known across the Arab world for her reporting on Israel’s occupation and apartheid system, was shot dead last week while wearing a press vest. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has refuted attempts by Israeli leaders to deflect responsibility.

In a joint statement, film directors Pedro Almodovar, Carol Morley, Boots Riley, Asif Kapadia and Michael Winterbottom join musicians Tom Morello, Massive Attack, Ben UFO and Seun Kuti in supporting calls from Palestinian human rights groups for “proportional, targeted measures to hold Israel to account for its crimes, and to end its impunity”. 

Susan Sarandon added, “I am saddened and angered by the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh and by the appalling attack on her funeral. I now know more than ever that without serious accountability and serious measures by our governments, apartheid and occupation will not end soon”.

The artists and public figures criticised a “pattern of violence, harassment, and intimidation against Palestinian journalists who are shining a light on what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israel’s leading human rights organization, B’Tselem, have described as a system of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people”.

Citing the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, authors Colm Tóibín, Kamila Shamsie, Arundhati Roy, Philip Pullman and Monica Ali called on Western governments to “end their hypocrisy and to act with consistency in the application of international law and human rights”.

The signatories, who include actor and former footballer Eric Cantona, author Naomi Klein, DJ Marea Stamper (The Blessed Madonna) and author and economist Yanis Varoufakis, concluded: “There must be no double standards when it comes to the basic human right to freedom from persecution and oppression and the right to life and to dignity”.

Letter in full

We are deeply disturbed by the Israeli occupation forces’ killing of the highly respected Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as she arrived, wearing a clearly marked press vest, to report on an Israeli incursion in the occupied city of Jenin last Wednesday. As we grieve her loss, we call for full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it.

The attack by heavily armed Israeli forces on Palestinian mourners further dismayed and horrified us. Soldiers beat and kicked mourners and pallbearers in the grounds of the St. Joseph Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem, to prevent them from carrying Abu Akleh’s coffin and marching to the church for the planned funeral service

What are we to make of the brazenness and cruelty of this attack on human dignity?  

The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh is a grave breach of international humanitarian law and an attack on journalism and freedom of expression. UN and international human rights experts have said that it may constitute a war crime and should be subject to an independent, transparent international investigation. Yet, it is far from being an isolated event. 

Israeli forces have killed 45 journalists since 2000, injuring many more, simply for doing their job. These crimes are part of a pattern of violence, harassment, and intimidation against Palestinian journalists who are shining a light on what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israel’s leading human rights organization, B’Tselem, have described as a system of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people.  

For many years Palestinian human rights and civil society groups have been calling on the international community to take proportional, targeted measures to hold Israel to account for its crimes, and to end its impunity. We fully support this call. 

When Israel’s policies blatantly violate international laws and norms, it is because Western powers have consistently provided diplomatic cover for it to do so. It has not gone unnoticed that while our governments have rushed to impose blanket boycotts and sanctions in response to Russia’s illegal invasion of the Ukraine and the cruelty of its attacks on a civilian population, the same governments continue to fund and shield Israel’s decades-long occupation and grave human rights violations against Palestinians. 

Meanwhile, our governments are taking anti-democratic measures to repress their own citizens’ nonviolent campaigns of pressure aimed at holding Israel, and the companies and institutions that are complicit in its system of oppression, to account.

We call on our governments to end their hypocrisy and to act with consistency in the application of international law and human rights. We call on them to take meaningful measures to ensure accountability for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and all other Palestinian civilians. There must be no double standards when it comes to the basic human right to freedom from persecution and oppression and the right to life and to dignity. 

Signed:

Khalid Abdalla, actor

Sama Abdulhadi, DJ

Hany Abu Assad, film director

Tunde Adebimpe, musician

Ahsan Akbar, poet

Yasmine Al Massri, actor

Omar Al Qattan, film director

Monica Ali, author

Candace Allen, writer

Pedro  Almodovar, film director

Anthony Anaxagorou, poet

Ramin Bahrani, film director

Adam Bakri, actor

Saleh Bakri, actor

Clio Barnard, film director

Joslyn Barnes, producer

David Barsamian, author

Roy Battersby, TV director

Sarah Beddington, filmmaker, artist

Ronan Bennett, author, screenwriter

Frances Black, singer

Nicholas Blincoe, author

Iciar Bollain, film director

Juan Diego Botto, actor

Haim Bresheeth, filmmaker, scholar

Victoria Brittain, writer

Adam Broomberg, artist

David Calder, actor

Carmen Callil, publisher, writer

Eric Cantona, actor

Iggor Cavalera, musician 

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, choreographer

Julie Christie, actor

Isabel Coixet, film director

Steve Coogan, actor, comedian

Mark Cousins, writer, director

Liam Cunningham, actor

Selma Dabbagh, writer

Cherien Dabis, film director

William Dalrymple, author

Angela Davis, author

Andy de la Tour, actor

Jeremy Deller, artist

Stephen Dillane, actor

Sara Driver, film director

Ben Ehrenreich, author

Brian Eno, musician

Jodie Evans, producer

Shepard Fairey, artist

David Farr, writer, director

Bella Freud, designer

Peter Gabriel, musician

Costa-Gavras, film director

Michèle Ray Gavras, film producer

Trevor Griffiths, playwright, screenwriter

Kathryn Hahn, actor

Charles Hayward, musican

M Imhotep, musician

Nicolás Jaar, musician 

Gemma Jackson, production designer

Jim Jarmusch, film director

Asif Kapadia, film director

Aki Kaurismaki, film director

John Keane, artist

Brigid Keenan,  author

Patrick Keiller, filmmaker

Peter Kennard, artist

AL Kennedy, author

Jennine Khalik,  journalist

Shaka King, film director

Naomi Klein, author, activist

Peter Kosminsky, screenwriter, director

Jan Kounen, film director

Nancy Kricorian, author

Hari Kunzru, author

Seun Kuti, musician

Lankum, band

Paul Laverty, screenwriter

Mike Leigh, film director

Laima Leyton musician, artist

Jim Loach, film director

Ken Loach, film director

Dónal Lunny, musician

Mahmood Mamdani, author

Miriam Margolyes, actor

Kika Markham, actor

Yann Martel, author

Emer Martin, author

Mai Masri, film director

Massive Attack, band

Rakan Mayası, film director

Kleber Mendonça Filho, film director

Christy Moore, musician

Thurston Moore, musician

Tom Morello, musician

Carol Morley, film director

Laura Mulvey, film scholar

Karthika Nair, poet

Mira Nair, film director

Courttia Newland, author, screenwriter

Pratibha Parmar, film director

Maxine Peake, actor

Aubrey Powell, designer

Philip Pullman, author

Stephen Rea,  actor

Boots Riley, screenwriter, director

Bruce Robbins, author, literary scholar

Olga Rodriguez, author

Jacqueline Rose, author, scholar

Arundhati Roy, author

Mark Ruffalo, actor

Alberto San Juan, actor

Susan Sarandon, actor

Alexei Sayle, comedian, author

James Schamus, screenwriter, producer

Nick Seymour, musician

Kamila Shamsie,author

Tai Shani, artist

Alia Shawkat, actor

Marea Stamper, DJ

Juliet Stevenson, actor

Tilda Swinton, actor

Colm Tóibín, author

Ricky Tomlinson, actor

Ben UFO, DJ

V (formerly Eve Ensler), author, playwright 

Yanis Varoufakis, author

Mirza Waheed, author

Harriet Walter, actor

Roger Waters, musician

Irvine Welsh,  author

Monique Wilson, actor, activist

Jane Wilson, artist

Louise Wilson, artist

Michael Winterbottom, film director

Penny Woolcock, screenwriter, director

Susan Wooldridge, actor

Robert Wyatt, musician

Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo, and Gael García Bernal among those supporting Emma Watson’s Palestine solidarity post  

They’re joined by Jim Jarmusch, Peter Capaldi, Harriet Walter, Viggo Mortensen, Maxine Peake, Asif Kapadia and many others.

Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo, Gael García Bernal, Jim Jarmusch, Peter Capaldi, Maxine Peake, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Coogan, Charles Dance and Harriet Walter are among the film professionals speaking out in support of Harry Potter actor Emma Watson.

Last week, Watson shared a post with the words ‘solidarity is a verb’ over an image that featured Palestinian flags. Widely praised, this message of solidarity also provoked the fury of Israeli officials. 

Now, more than forty figures from the world of film – including multi award-winning screenwriter and producer James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Oscar-nominated directors Asif Kapadia (Amy), Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay) and writer/producer Oren Moverman (The Messenger) – have endorsed Watson’s message. 

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ARTISTS’ VERDICT – CULTURAL BRIDGES WITH ISRAEL LEAD NOWHERE

Like the staircases at Hogwarts, Israel's cultural bridges can lead interminably to nowhere

Like the staircases at Hogwarts, Israel’s cultural bridges can lead interminably to nowhere

The appearance last week of some famous UK cultural names on a statement defending Israel against boycott has sparked a wave of incredulity and outrage from fellow artists.

Artists, actors, writers, editors, musicians and filmmakers are among those queuing up to defend the boycott tactic after JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel and historian Simon Schama joined well-known pro-Israel lobbyists in attacking it. Rowling and co urged cultural ‘coexistence’ and ‘dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians’ and called the Palestinian boycott campaign “divisive and discriminatory”.

“It is Israeli policies towards Palestinians which are divisive and discriminatory,” said actress Miriam Margolyes, one of more than 1000 UK artists who have signed a commitment not to cooperate with Israeli state-funded cultural institutions as long as Palestinian rights are denied.
“Artists used the tactic of boycott against apartheid in South Africa and we are doing it again in support of Palestine– because no one else is holding Israel to account,” she said.

Composer Brian Eno, one of a number whose letters were published in the Guardian on October 27, said he appreciated the desire for dialogue, “but what kind of dialogue is realistically possible between a largely unarmed and imprisoned people whose land is disappearing before its eyes, and the heavily weaponised State that’s in the process of taking it.”  Continue reading

“Make Apartheid History” connects Palestine, South Africa and US civil rights

Artists for Palestine UK is proud to be a partner in this new initiative .

It’s time to ‘Make Apartheid History’ starting Mandela Day, Sat 18th July, 2015

Make Apartheid History, the follow-up to Bethlehem Unwrapped, launched online on Saturday 18th July, and we held our first event at London’s Southbank with a programme of poetry and prose linking civil rights, anti-apartheid, and Palestinian solidarity movements.Edited highlights of performances by Paterson Joseph, Miriam Margolyes, Kika Markham, Leila Sansour, Jeremy Hardy and Sam West are here.

Make Apartheid History is an international project that brings together creative individuals, organisations and networks from around the world – starting with Palestine and the UK; South Africa and USA – for a programme of popular events commencing summer 2015 and culminating Mandela Day, summer 2016. Our short introductory video is here. Continue reading

NEWS RELEASE – Actors, writers and directors denounce demonisation of Palestinian theatre

Let audiences be the judge of Palestinian theatre on UK tour
(NB this original text differs slightly from the version published by the Daily Mail on May 8)

As theatre practitioners in Britain, we are alarmed that the Daily Mail is attacking the Arts Council and the British Council for supporting a UK tour by a Palestinian theatre company.

Your piece, with its inflammatory title UK taxpayers fund ‘pro-terrorist’ play, cites “concerns” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, an organisation with a shocking record of acting to suppress both cultural and academic events which explore the bitter reality of Palestinian existence. Only last month the University of Southampton succumbed to demonisation and threats and banned an academic conference on the legal status of Israel.

Neither the Daily Mail nor the Board of Deputies has seen Freedom Theatre’s play The Siege, yet both somehow feel qualified to suggest that it is “promoting terrorism”. Not for the first time, Palestinian voices are in danger of being drowned out by a vociferous pro-Israel lobby that smears all Palestinians as terrorists and antisemites. This lobby wants us to believe that theatre-goers in the UK cannot be trusted to hear these voices and make their own judgements.

The Palestinian West Bank, where the Freedom Theatre is based, has been under illegal Israeli military occupation since 1967. We endorse the words of British playwright Howard Brenton, an honorary director of the Freedom Theatre, who writes of the forthcoming tour:

“This is real political theatre, performed out of the both terrible and inspiring experience of a struggle for freedom and justice. [The Freedom Theatre] are living proof that telling stories and entertaining audiences are powerful acts of resistance to oppression. Do go and see them, they have news for us.”

Caryl Churchill
Dominic Cooke
April De Angelis
David Edgar
Lucy Kirkwood
David Lan
Miriam Margolyes
Paul Mayersberg
Maxine Peake
Mark Rylance
Jennie Stoller
Mark Thomas
Samuel West Continue reading

Steffen Zillig’s diatribe in Das Kunstmagazin is wide of the mark

Earlier this month, a piece by artist and critic, Steffen Zillig appeared in the German Magazine, art – Das Kunstmagazine (‘The Art magazine’), where he is also editor. Zillig attacks the artists who in February signed a Pledge for Palestine. His piece contains no new charges worth refuting; however, the familiar antisemitism smear – delivered in a particularly aggressive tone – was given two further platforms, and unwarranted credibility, in the UK arts press: in Artlyst and Artnet, both of which failed to offer any analysis or counter-argument. That has been left to us. There is an English translation of the German article below our response to Zillig.

Zillig attributes various qualities to the signatories:

– They are not serious political activists: signing the Pledge is just the latest, clueless form of a fashion for art-activism. The signatories are assuming a role in a drama of their own making: David against Goliath, the dissident artist against the Leviathan state.
– They are ignorant of history, and simplify and moralise conflicts that are in reality complex and many-sided.
– They lack empathy for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by states which have spurned every opportunity for peace.
– Unless and until all oppressive states are boycotted, a boycott of Israel is a signifier of antisemitism. (Deplorably, Zillig does not hesitate to impute antisemitic motives to individual artists.)

Zillig has constructed his polemic without, it seems, taking the trouble to read the ways in which the artists who have signed the pledge explain why they have done so.  Continue reading