Excerpt from our published booklet, ‘The Case for a Cultural Boycott of Israel’
Decades of business-as-usual cultural exchange with Israeli state-supported institutions have not yielded any progress towards rights and justice for the Palestinians, as the besieged people of Gaza can testify.
Culture, in the context of Israel’s occupation, has not served to ‘build bridges’, but has acted as a cover for the state’s crimes. Cultural import and export are a crucial part of the ‘Brand Israel’ programme, a strategy aimed at overlaying the brutality of ethnic cleansing and settler colonialism with a veneer of civilised sophistication.
Challenges to this strategy of cultural whitewashing have an important effect.
Refusals by British cultural figures like Iain Banks, musicians Elvis Costello and Nigel Kennedy and the physicist and author Stephen Hawking, have generated not only column inches in Israel, but also high-level debates within Israeli intelligence, government and business circles, about how to counter what they see as a serious challenge to the credibility of Israel’s narrative abroad. For Israel, culture is never unpolitical.