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


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.


Readers' comments (16)

  • Israel's actions may not be without reproach, but the fact remains that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. I am at a loss as to understand the logic of this pledge, in the context of the numerous cultural figures who seem very willing to engage with Israel's neighbouring countries, most of whom have dismal human rights records and relative despots at their helm. Why is Israel being singled out?

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  • ohh, good morning Europe. what do you know, its 2015 with 1939 mentality.

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  • The reason Israel seems to be singled out by architectural profession is because of the illegal settlements which are a major contributing factor to why the area is so unstable. Architects choosing not to accept these projects is a good way of opposing them. You are right though Gayle, from the industry's point of view there should be more opposition to modern slave labour in Dubai, workers safety on the Qatar stadiums, and all the other dubious practices people engage in! I don't think the seemingly lack of opposition to these other issues in the press is a reason to not 'sanction' Israel in this way, as the situation there is at boiling point and something really needs to be done quickly.

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  • The fact that a country is a democracy seems to be widely considered as justification for what's done in the name of that country. Not only is this a dubious proposition, it's dangerous - as everyone in a democracy can be considered responsible for what's being done in their name, when in fact many people object strongly to their democratically elected government's actions.

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  • It is a courageous move on the part of UK professionals to sign this pledge in the light of the threats, slurs and intimidatory insults with which Angela Brady, George Oldham and other supporters of the March '14 resolution were pursued. Israel continues with its racist, apartheid policies of land theft, particularly targeting historic records of Palestinian culture and buildings. The latest of these abuses is the Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Silvan Shalom banned water connection to the new West Bank Palestinian city of Rawabi, which is to house around 40,000 Palestinian families,

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  • I admire the commitment and passion being expressed by these souls. But I have a very uncomfortable feeling that RIBA is getting itself involved with an issue that has taxed some of the most intelligent people on the planet to little effect in the last 60 odd years.
    I'm also not sure the vast majority of members would feel this is something they want to be drawn into.
    I cannot see any way this can end well. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
    It is unbearably sad, complex and distressing for all the inhabitants of the region.

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  • The pledge is an affirmation by the cultural and artists' community not to participate with or perform in Israel as an answer to the boycott call by Palestinian civil society against Israel's apartheid oppression that has lasted for decades with world governments sitting idly by.
    Sorry, Gayle, it is well documented that Israel is no democracy, with over 50 racist laws against its Palestinian citizens especially in housing, development and land ownership, and its serial breaches of over 65 UN Resolutions and humanitarian law in the occupied territories.
    It thus singles itself out and is ripe for action to be taken, as was courageously attempted by the 19 March 2014 vote by the RIBA Council to suspend the Israeli architects' association from the UIA. Sadly this was scuppered no less by the RIBA President, and vice-President at the UIA General Assembly in Durban last August, under pressure from a persistent Israel lobby, as documented by the AJ and BD.
    Now is every architects' chance to sign this artists' pledge, and also to call the RIBA to account to reverse its action in rescinding the excellent 19 March Resolution, and make an impact to end the gross ethical misconduct of the architectural participation in building illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem involving land expropriation and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes, against international law and UIA Resolutions and Articles.

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  • I wonder if the boycott could extend to Israel's sugar daddy, the USA. Until the supply of weapons, money and political support stops, not too much can change. Most importantly, they need to stop vetoing any and all resolutions regarding human rights abuses at the UN

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  • The truth of the matter is that Europe has a sick obsession with the Jewish state. That really what it is all about!

    The reason your campaigns always fail it that because it fuelled with hate, lies and empty comments. This is no different from the attacks on Jewish communities we see every single day. You are no different - You use and abuse every stage for your own personal hate agenda.
    It is nothing to do with justice or the Palestinians because somehow you always manage NOT to condemn REAL atrocities and injustice around the world.

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  • How can you say that Lior? What isn't REAL about these atrocities?

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