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.