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