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Alsop and Ahrends among 700 UK names pledging to a cultural boycott of Israel

  • 16 Comments

A group of 700 artists and architects, including Peter Ahrends and Will Alsop, have signed a pledge not to work in Israel while the state continues to ‘deny basic Palestinian rights’

The group, which also includes writers Benjamin Zephaniah and Michael Rosen, film director Mike Leigh, and musician Jarvis Cocker, has said it will no longer accept professional invitations to Israel or funding from any institution linked to its government.

It said the pledge – organised by Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) - was a response to a call from Palestinian artists and cultural workers who had requested that Israel be boycotted.

The full text of the pledge 

‘We support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. In response to the call from Palestinian artists and cultural workers for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.’

In an open letter to other British artists, the group, said: ‘Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of “Brand Israel”.’

Explaining why he had signed up to the pledge, architect Peter Ahrends said: ‘Artists are well known for their progressive views and ideas and, as Jennie Lee had it, they should occupy a central position in society. How significant, then, that we have signed this cultural boycott pledge in protest against Israel’s longstanding repression of Palestine.

‘As an architect I’m drawn to Brecht’s statement that ‘The gesture precedes the word’ and found, when I chaired UK Architects Against Apartheid, that among our other fronts, effective action could be taken for a cultural and academic boycott with that thought in mind. Now, in words and as a gesture, I hope that many will be moved to support and join this pledge; a clear contribution towards the liberation of Palestine.’

Other architects to sign up include members of the campaign group Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine Abe Hayeem, Kelvin Bland, Malcolm Hecks, and Andrew McAvoy.

The open letter

Along with almost 600 fellow artists, we are announcing today that we will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel. We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government.

Since the summer war on Gaza, Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence. ‘2014,’ says the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, was ‘one of the cruellest and deadliest in the history of the occupation.’ The Palestinian catastrophe goes on.

Israel’s wars are fought on the cultural front too. Its army targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers. Its own theatre companies perform to settler audiences on the West Bank – and those same companies tour the globe as cultural diplomats, in support of ‘Brand Israel’.

In the bad old days of South African apartheid, musicians announced they weren’t going to ‘play Sun City’. Today we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run master-classes or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.

We invite all those working in the arts in Britain to join us at artistsforpalestine.org.uk.

  • 16 Comments

Readers' comments (16)

  • Ctulu,
    We had this discussion covered-up top to bottom already on the previous hate campaign.
    Israel already offered the Palestine’s the disputed territories.
    First it was Rabin, then it Peres, then in was Ehud Barak and then by Olmert.
    Every time they came to an agreement and it was signing-up time suddenly the PA leaders vanished…

    So what now, who should Israel talk with regards to any future agreements? In one hand Hamas’s agenda is the destruction of Israel and on the other hand they have Abas that refuse to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, deny the holocaust and continue worldwide propaganda against Israel.
    Israel never attacked unless provoked and this is the situation. And since the Palestinians chose terror organizations to lead them, they are where they are.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking, are you also preparing boycott against Russia? China over Tibet? Qatar, which was built by slave labour and sponsor worldwide terror? How about Jordan for their recent bombing in Iraq and Syria which killed 7000 people…? (Let me guess when Jordan bomb, all the dead are IS militants but when Israel bomb it is all children and woman, right?)
    How about turkey? For the occupation of Hatay province and Cyprus? What about the entire Middle East region that have zero respect to human right laws and treat woman as objects? Where is your protest? Where is your boycott?

    You are singling out one country and targeting Israel, because it is easy, it is fashionable, it is free marketing, old fashioned hatred or maybe just have nothing else to do.

    This group is completely insignificant to be honest. I am not sure what is more pathetic, this boycott or the time I am actually spending on responding.

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  • Lior Brosh -why do you always divert the argument to your confused and thoroughly twisted and propagandised view of the Israel/Palestine conflict that it is at complete odds with international law and the well documented war crimes, especially in housing and building that do not conform with Israel's vaunted democracy.

    Why are you always citing other countries and regimes which are already being sanctioned and dealt with by the West, while Israel is let off with impunity with the protection of the US and UK. That is why Israel singles itself out. Why don't you raise a campaign for all these cases you suggest if you are so concerned about them?

    Your is the project of hate. Hatred of the possibility that justice needs to be done in this long running and sadistic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Hatred that sanctions are a peaceful and non-violent method of bringing about change using civil society and international law, where the big powers refuse to act, and instead combine with Israel's violence and participation in the arms industry and using the Palestinians to test these illegal and lethal weaponry and security equipment. It is Israel that has launched every war since 1948, to 1967, right upto the recent murderous slaughters and destruction in Gaza in 2006, 2008/9, 2012, 2014 -except for 1973. It is Israel that uses violence in its occupation, suppression of peaceful protest, its arrests of hundreds including children, its ongoing house demolitions, enforced removal of Bedouin and its land grabbing and intensification of illegal settlements in occupied, not disputed territory.

    Sorry to disappoint you, but decent people everywhere, (Jewish and non-Jewish) and especially the academic and cultural world, and people of the highest esteem are joining together to call Israel to account, and instead of deriding them, you should spend time to examine your own conscience, protestations and distorted facts. Get acquainted with the facts -we can't say now that we did not know, with all the evidence availlable!

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  • Lior, I suggest you read Abe's comments. He hit the nail on the head. I also suggest you read up on the subject and come back with a different response to the tired and recycled propaganda we always hear when someone even thinks of questioning Israel. The balance of power is so skewed towards Israel and the USA, the Palestinians really have no solutions and so all they can do is resist the worse than apartheid conditions they are put under.

    Therefore the onus is on Israel and the USA to offer the solution if they truly want to stabilise the region. The continual stealing of territory, displacement of people and murder committed by Netanyahu and his cronies however, suggests that they have absolutely no desire for this to happen.

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  • The reality is that this pledge will go unnoticed and will not achieve its goals. First of all the timing is wrong. There are elections in Israel next month and I think that whether Jarvis Cocker will preform or not is the last thing on people's mind at the moment. The other issue is the list. With all due respect to my fellow architects, It is rather dull. The reason why the campaign 'sun city' was a success was that it was a global pledge with very well known artists. I myself bought the record that came out. The other reason is that you can not escape the labelling of antisemitic or self hating Jew when you criticise Israel. I can't explain why it is such but that's the fundamental reason why it will fail. No successful artist will want to be labeled as such. Only direct dialogue with support from the global community will bring everlasting peace to the region. If Netanyahu wins again we can all kiss this wish goodbye.

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  • See what I mean? To say this issue is polarising is a vast understatement. This is not a suitable subject for a professional body. No win scenario.

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  • But Abe, I did answer.
    I said that the Palestinians had a way out with 4 Israeli Prime Ministers offered them the disputed land but they didn’t take it.

    Let’s simplify the situation shell we - We have two nations at the same spot. One chose to move on, forget about the past, build, create progress and look into the future. The other chose hate and revenge. That is why the Jewish people formed Israel and the Palestinians formed nothing!

    And you are no difference, instead of embrace the Israelis that against the occupation you are gathering worldwide haters to punish them all.

    Cthulu, you clearly didn't read my response and you are hiding your full name so like this boycott, you are irrelevant. Good bye.

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