Category Archives: culture

STATEMENT ON THE BANNING OF A CONCERT BY GILAD ATZMON

Israeli-born saxophonist Gilad Atzmon has been targeted for intimidation by the Zionist zealots of the North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI), resulting in the cancellation of a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Atzmon’s views have set him at odds with the BDS movement and in particular with its Jewish supporters, but this must not prevent us standing up to acts of censorship by the pro-Israel lobby.
J-BIG founder member Prof Moshe Machover has written the following statement.
Dear Friends,
Regarding this article from the Manchester Evening News:
I know Gilad Atzmon personally and am familiar with the opinions that he spreads, which I find loathsome.
He is not so much anti-Zionist as anti-Jewish. Not so much a holocaust denier as holocaust justifier.*
At the same time I must protest strongly against  banning his appearances, muzzling him, and especially preventing his concerts.
Views, however unacceptable, should be defeated by argument, not by bureaucratic bans.
Moshé Machover

 

HUNDREDS OF UK ARTISTS PLEDGE: ‘We won’t work with Israeli institutions’

Print  

700 UK artist announced on Friday (Feb 13) their pledge not to accept professional invitations to Israel as long as the state continues to deny basic Palestinian rights.

 

Among those who have signed the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, from diverse artistic and cultural backgrounds including many Jews, are:

 

– Writers Tariq Ali, William Dalrymple, Aminatta Forna, Bonnie Greer, Mark Haddon, Hari Kunzru, Liz Lochhead, Jimmy McGovern, China Mieville, Andrew O’Hagan, Laurie Penny, Michael Rosen, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif, Marina Warner, Benjamin Zephaniah

– Film directors Mike Hodges, Asif Kapadia, Peter Kosminsky, Mike Leigh, Phyllida Lloyd, Ken Loach, Roger Michell, Michael Radford, Julien Temple

– Comedians Jeremy Hardy, Alexei Sayle, Mark Thomas

– Musicians Richard Ashcroft, Jarvis Cocker, Brian Eno, Kate Tempest, Roger Waters, Robert Wyatt

– Actors Rizwan Ahmed, Anna Carteret, David Calder, Simon McBurney, Miriam Margolyes

– Theatre writers/directors Caryl Churchill, David Edgar, Dominic Cooke CBE, Sir Jonathan Miller, Mark Ravenhill

– Visual Arts Phyllida Barlow, John Berger, Jeremy Deller, Mona Hatoum

– Architects Peter Ahrends, Will Alsop.

 

The full text of the pledge reads:

 

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.

 

Former English PEN president, writer Gillian Slovo, said in a statement on the Artists for Palestine UK website, ‘As a South African I witnessed the way the cultural boycott of South Africa helped apply pressure on the apartheid government and its supporters. This Artists’ Pledge for Palestine has drawn lessons from that boycott to produce an even more nuanced, non-violent way for us to call for change and for justice for all.’

 

More than one hundred of the pledge signers gave their reasons for signing in an open letter to British artists published in the Guardian. It said Palestinians remained under relentless attack since the war on Gaza last summer. The letter continued:

 

‘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”.’

 

It recalled that musicians opposing apartheid in South Africa pledged not to ‘play Sun City’ – Johannesburg’s playground for the rich. In that tradition, today’s pledge signers are undertaking not to collaborate with Israeli state-funded institutions to ‘play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run master-classes or workshops,’ until Israel ends its apartheid policies towards the Palestinians.

 

The letter invited all those working in the arts in Britain to add their names to the pledge. There is a sign-up form  here.

 

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), which organised the pledge, said artists were incensed that speaking out for Palestine regularly attracted smear campaigns by pro-Israel lobbyists.

Theatre director Hilary Westlake, a member of the organising collective, said APUK’s message to British artists is: ‘You are not alone. Together we can defend our right to decide whose patronage we accept, despite groundless accusations of antisemitism and threats of financial and reputational ruin.’

 

http://artistsforpalestine.org.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtistsforPalestineUK

Twitter: @Art4PalestineUK

Dozens of signatories have written statements which can be found here). Here is a small selection.

 

  • Nobody questions [Israel’s] right to exist, but, sadly, to support Israel’s cultural institutions now is to support hypocrisy, film director Mike Leigh (honoured with a BAFTA Fellowship award last week).

 

  • I have signed up for a cultural boycott of Israel … Signing in support of the Israeli Cultural Boycott is more of a signing of support for Palestinian Artists … a positive rather than a negative.Phyllida Barlow, visual artist

 

  • I signed because I am a human being. All forms of art change people by opening their eyes to humanity in all its suffering and its beauty. I feel it is incumbent on Israel to treat Palestine and its people justly before it can seek to be a patron of the arts overseas. Hanan Al-Shaykh, writer

 

  • As an artist I wish to pursue a moral journey through life and the right and wrongs here are very clear to me. A suffering group has asked for my support; it cannot be withheld. Miriam Margolyes, actor

 

  • So what does it achieve? It sends a message: ‘We will not perform in Israel since we believe that by performing there we will be endorsing the status quo. We don’t support it and we won’t be part of it.’ Brian Eno, composer

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK) exposes Israel’s use of culture as a smokescreen for its violence against Palestinians and its simultaneous attempts to shut down criticism with accusations of antisemitism.

 

 

‘Support for the Pledge grew in response to a smear campaign mobilised by supporters of Israel against the Tricycle theatre in northwest London during Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer’ said theatre director Hilary Westlake, a member of the APUK organising collective.

Tricycle had been vilified as ‘antisemitic’ for asking the UK Jewish Film Festival it has hosted for eight consecutive years to forego Israeli embassy funding.

‘For every one of us who has made a stand for justice by signing the pledge, there are many more musicians, actors, writers, directors, visual artists, architects who are fearful of the slander, bullying and threats they may face if they follow suit,’ Westlake said.

‘APUK’s message is: you are not alone. Together we can defend our right to decide whose patronage we accept, even against groundless accusations of antisemitism and threats of financial and reputational ruin.’

A full list of Pledge signatories, alphabetically and by art form, is available here.

 

PROTEST BRAND ISRAEL THEATRE ‘TERROR SPECIAL’

Sign up here by Tuesday 11th November (10:00 GMT) to protest the participation of European theatres in a Brand Israel exercise led by Israel’s national theatre, Habima. The ‘Terror Special conference’ is part of ‘TERRORisms’, a two-year project by the Union of Theatres of Europe, under the leadership of its current president, Habima’s Artistic Director Ilan Ronen. 

Letter in French here

Dear members* of the Union of Theatres of Europe:

We write as citizens of various countries in Europe, as enthusiastic patrons of independent and challenging theatre, and as people who cannot forget the terror visited on the civilian population of Gaza in July and August this year.

We note with some amazement that the Union of Theatres of Europe is about to hold its general assembly in Israel, a country that is not in Europe. We note with equal surprise that the current president of the Union of Theatres of Europe, Ilan Ronen, is Israeli.

Ronen is the artistic director of Habima, the national theatre of Israel. His name became familiar to a wider public in Europe in 2012, when he argued that Habima could not refuse to perform in Israel’s illegal settlements, including Ariel, in the West Bank: ‘Like other theatre companies and dance companies in Israel, we are state-financed, and financially supported to perform all over the country,’ he told theObserver newspaper in the United Kingdom. ‘This is the law. We have no choice. We have to go, otherwise there is no financial support.’ This is the line Ilan Ronen continues to take.

In the spring of 2014, an open letter was sent to Norway’s National Theatre (NT) asking it to withdraw from the partnership with Habima. The National Theatre responded by asking Habima to stop performing in the illegal settlements, as a pre-condition for continuing their collaboration. However Habima’s director explicitly refused to meet this pre-condition. Then in August came the Israeli assault on Gaza that left 2,000 Palestinians dead – 500 of them children – and over 10,000 injured. A further petition against NT’s collaboration was delivered to them, signed by actors from a range of Norwegian theatre companies. Responding to the controversy the Haifa-based Palestinian theatre, ShiberHur, did decide to withdraw from the project. Nevertheless, and despite Habima’s refusal, the National Theatre dropped its principled pre-condition, and decided to continue its partnership with Habima.

In other countries in recent years, people alleged to have broken international law have been referred to the International Criminal Court – but you, theatres of Europe, appear on the face of it to be willing to endorse Habima’s participation in the Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land and the apartheid practices of the settlers (how many Palestinian villagers whose land was stolen by the settlement of Ariel, for instance, do you think are allowed to attend theatre performances by Habima in Ariel?).

To say we’re surprised is an under-statement. To say we wish you were not holding your general assembly in Tel Aviv – and not participating in a four-day colloquium on the theme of TERRORisms (sic) conceived and organised by Habima – is to put it mildly.

We’ve had a look at the synopsis of God Waits at the Station, the Israeli play which will premiere on the first night of your meeting. It’s about a suicide bombing by a Palestinian woman inside Israel. Such things have happened. But we’ve scoured the rest of what’s publicly available of your programme to see where the terror experienced by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank at the hands of the Israeli army and air force and Israeli settlers might be explored as dramatic material, workshopped for its potential to reach audiences in Norway, Germany, and so on. We can’t find any such thing.

You are using funds from the Culture Programme of the European Union to run a programme that sounds as if it was written by the Israeli foreign ministry: a one-day ‘Terror Special’ conference on the challenge of suicide bombings to democracies; a round-table on cultural boycott that sounds as though it’s already made up its mind: ‘Shouldn’t artists and cultural institutions make every effort to become a “bridge’ in conflict zones’, you say (while you sit in a country whose government uses culture not as a bridge, but as legitimisation for its project of colonisation).

We’re amazed. We think you shouldn’t go. We don’t understand how you’ve got yourselves into this relationship with Habima. Europe had experience of oppressive military occupations not so long ago. Have you forgotten the terror inflicted on those civilian populations?

Signatories (continuously updated until deadline):

Jenny Morgan, film-maker, UK
Miranda Pennell, film-maker, UK
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, UK
Dror Warschawski, researcher, France
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, UK
Eleanor Kilroy, Artists right to say ‘no’, UK
Ofer Neiman, co-editor of The Occupation magazine, Israel
Michel Bühler, singer, writer, Switzerland
Hafid Melhay, bookseller, France
Mohamed Paz, Artistic director of Prana Natyam, France
Caryl Churchill, playwright, UK

* The following theatre companies are listed as participating in the ‘TERRORisms’ project:

Staatsschauspiel Stuttgart, Germany 
National Theatre of Oslo, Norway 
Jugoslovensko Dramsko Pozoriste, Belgrade, Serbia 
Habima – National Theatre of Tel Aviv, Israel 
Young Vic Theatre London, England [an associate member of the project, not attending the Tel Aviv meeting] 
Shiber Hur Company, Palestine [withdrawn] 
Comédie de Reims, France


About the Union of Theatres of Europe (U.T.E.):

U.T.E. was founded by French politician Jack Lang in 1990 and established under the presidency of Giorgio Strehler and the directorship of Israeli director-producer Eli Malka. Jack Lang served as France’s Minister of Culture from 1981 to 1986 and 1988 to 1992. It has been funded by the French Ministry of Culture since its establishment.

Jack Lang continues in the role of U.T.E. ‘member of honour.’ ThisElectronic Intifada article from 2003 offers an important insight into the sympathies of U.T.E’s founder:

…a mere statement by the administrative council of the prestigious University of Paris-VI has caused an uproar in Europe over alleged “boycotts” of Israeli academics. On December 16, the French university’s administrative body approved a motion calling on the European Union to suspend financial support for Israeli universities on the grounds that “The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza renders impossible teaching and research by our Palestinian colleagues.” This decision produced a near hysterical reaction among some of France’s celebrity intellectuals and political figures. Philospher Bernard Henri-Levy declared that “The professors who voted for this motion conducted themselves like the most extremist of extremist Palestinians,” and went on to compare the motion to the 1933 Nazi laws against Jews. The leftist Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, called the resolution a “shocking act and a tragic error,” while former French culture minister, Jack Lang, opined that “Israeli universities are oases of tolerance,” and calls for a boycott “encourage fanaticism.” http://electronicintifada.net/content/israels-academic-freedom-defended-while-palestines-destroyed/4325

See also an article in Aftenposten (Norwegian for ‘The Evening Post’), Norway’s largest newspaper: ‘It is the artist’s right to say no


TIME FOR ARTISTS TO DEFY PRO-ISRAEL CENSORSHIP

Novellist Kamila Shamsie (left) chaired a panel discussion with Tanika Gupta, Antony Lerman, Ofer Neiman and April De Angelis

Novellist Kamila Shamsie (left) chaired a panel discussion with Tanika Gupta, Antony Lerman, Ofer Neiman and April De Angelis

A groundbreaking panel discussion at Amnesty International on October 7 proved to be a most heartening display of determination from many artists, especially theatre people, not to allow Palestine to become a no-go area as a result of threats and libellous attacks from Zionists. The whole discussion can be seen and heard  here:

– The UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport boasts of collusion with a foreign ambassador to interfere in the governance of an independent arts institution.
– A small community theatre is pilloried as antisemitic in the national media for querying Israeli embassy funding.
– Behind-the-scenes threats bully a leading London theatre into censoring its own website.
– Sponsors of a Palestinian film festival are individually targeted with demands they withdraw support.

These were some of the instances of limits on artistic freedom exposed during a public discussion at Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre on Tuesday October 7, chaired by novelist Kamila Shamsie, a former trustee of Free Word and English PEN.
With two playwrights on the panel and an audience populated by actors, writers and other artists, evidence of false charges of antisemitism being used to threaten artists and arts organisations generated anger and a determination to fight back.

“When we defend people against charges of antisemitism we should be angrier at the libellous accusations and keep the main focus where it belongs – on Israel’s racism and illegal actions,” said playwright Caryl Churchill, who was in the audience.

Kamila and Tanika After Tric

At the start of the meeting Shamsie read out a letter from the Department of Culture Media and Sport to a member of the public, about Culture Secretary Sajid Javid’s stance when the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn came under sustained attack over the summer.  The theatre had asked that, while Israeli forces were pounding Gaza and killing Palestinians in large numbers, the annual UK Jewish Film Festival it was due to host for the eighth time should not take funds from the Israeli Embassy. The Tricycle was subjected to pickets alleging discrimination against British Jews. Javid – a member of Conservative Friends of Israel – publicly rebuked the theatre. Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham faced racist abuse and calls for her dismissal, even after the Tricycle board had backed down and said it would accept Israeli embassy funding in future.

The Department letter showed that far from defending the theatre’s right to choose its funding sources, Javid actively participated in harassing it – seemingly at the behest of the Israeli government.

“The Department has kept closely in touch with the Israeli Ambassador during this unfortunate chain of events,” wrote Arts and Broadcasting policy officer Dempster Marples. He said Javid would be attending the gala opening of the festival in its alternative venue “in order to demonstrate his support.”

The letter concluded, without any evident sense of irony: “The Department shall continue to challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, and to champion freedom of cultural expression at every opportunity.”

Panellist Antony Lerman, a former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and a founding member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights, condemned the DCMS letter for condoning false antisemitism accusations against the Tricycle Theatre.
Lerman told the meeting it was perfectly legitimate for an arts institution to choose to decline funding.
“The Tricycle’s actions showed no signs of antisemitism of any kind, nor did they represent any form of attack on freedom of expression,” he said. “And yet the official pro-Israel organisations said the Tricycle had banned a Jewish film festival. They fell back on their default position, alleging boycott and equating it with antisemitism.”

Another speaker, playwright Tanika Gupta, said she had been one of hundreds of theatrical colleagues who had rallied to support the Tricycle’s Rubasingham.

Their letter, published in the Guardian on August 15, said: ‘Punishing a small theatre for standing up for its principles is a big step backwards for anyone concerned with challenging prejudice or promoting freedom of speech. Anyone who truly wants to stand against antisemitism needs to stand with the Tricycle theatre and challenge those who are accusing it in a disproportionate, unjust and ill-informed way.’
“Antisemitism, Islamaphobia and other forms of race prejudice are on the rise,” said Gupta. “Labelling the Tricycle antisemitic bleeds significance from the term.”
This position was well-understood by many leading theatrical figures who expressed their support for the Tricycle behind the scenes. “In future they need to act faster and in public,” said Gupta. “We need to get organised!”

The meeting also heard from writer Rachel Holmes, former head of literature at the South Bank. In a message read out by Shamsie, Holmes explained her disappointment at the decision of the Donmar Warehouse to censor a podcast of an event she programmed concerning Britain and the Middle East at the Donmar in March and April of this year.

To accompany Peter Gill’s production of his play Versailles, the Donmar presented a series of events with leading political and cultural commentators exploring the legacy of World War I.

Podcasts were to be available on the Warehouse website. However there is no podcast corresponding to the last of the five, Mr Balfour’s Letter to Lord Rothschild: How the Great War Remapped the World.

“On 1st April,” said Holmes, “24 hours prior to the discussion taking place, the Donmar Warehouse received its first complaint from a funder claiming that the event was an attack on the state of Israel, an ‘anti-Israel rally’ and antisemitic.”

This was accompanied by threats to withdraw funds and to raise grievances with public funders, including publically funded cultural institutions in which Holmes works and/or sits on the boards. The intimidation worked. Donmar did not post the offending podcast.

Another example was described by audience member Bill McAllister, former Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He said that during his tenure (1977–1990), the ICA was directly threatened with blacklisting by the Board of Deputies of British Jews for hosting the first UK Palestinian Film Festival. The BoD attempted to implement its threat by writing to every sponsor demanding that they should pull out. Attempts at face-to-face discussion collapsed with the BoD spokesman “flying into a rage,” McAlister said. In this instance the ICA stood firm. But the audience at the panel discussion was left wondering how many more cases of successful bullying and intimidation there have been over the years.

Judith Knight of ArtsAdmin said that institutions should develop clear ethical funding policies and make them public. “Yes, it may mean that we have to cope with less money, but we are less likely to be caught out if we make decisions that enrage powerful interests.”

Equity activist Doug Holton said the question of Zionist interference in the arts must not be “a no-go area” within democratic structures such as unions and guilds representing cultural professionals.

“We need to be ready to confront Zionist racists calling us racists,” Holton said. “Without politics art is mere entertainment. We must defend the arts against political manipulation.”

Les Levidow, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, supported calls for artists to organise against Zionist bullying.
“Throw back the accusation of anti-Semitism as the racist stereotype it is. Do not buy into the lie that all Jews are bound to the State of Israel,” he said.

Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine was encouraged by the way theatres came together in defence of the Tricycle theatre. “Soon people will have to explain why they are NOT boycotting,” said Rosenhead.

Poet Seni Seneviratne argued passionately for artists to try to make a difference in a situation of injustice. “I will take a moral decision on any invitation from an oppressive regime, and in the case of Palestine I’m supporting a boycott call from within, from Palestinians themselves,” she said. “Not to boycott would be crossing a picket line and I am not a scab!”

Dramatist April De Angelis, another member of the panel, pointed out that there were several current and historical instances of boycotts challenging dubious sponsorship of the arts – a process she called “culture-washing”.

She pointed to the stand taken by the Writers Guild of the UK and Actors’ Equity in supporting the boycott campaign targeting Apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and beyond, and noted that today, the Art not Oil coalition “campaigns against sponsorship by criminally negligent corporations.”
Having worked with young Palestinians in play-writing workshops De Angelis had decided to reject Israeli “culture-washing” and join the cultural boycott. “Those kids would not have had access to my work if performed in Israel,” she told the meeting.
The final member of the panel, Ofer Neiman, an active member of the Israeli group Boycott from Within, explained culture-washing in more detail.

He quoted a special department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs describing its own responsibilities as “attaining prominence and high exposure abroad for Israel’s cultural and scientific activity, as an important tool for the promotion of its political interests.”

The term Hasbara (“explaining” in Hebrew) is frequently used to describe the way presenting positive messages about Israel serves to “drown out the growing criticism of its appalling human rights violations,” said Neiman.

He cited Nissim Ben-Shitrit, former deputy director general at the foreign affairs ministry: “We regard culture as a hasbara tool of the highest order, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture”.

Efforts to bring about change in the actions of the Israeli government need to be based on the understanding that culture cannot be separated from politics.

Neiman said Israeli dissidents were too few to bring about change by themselves, from within.

“Artists, in the UK and elsewhere, can play an important role in the collective effort to stop the Israeli regime’s crimes, simply by saying no to the use of culture for Israeli state propaganda. Those who do so may face smearing and bullying, but they will find supporters all over the world, including Israeli citizens who will stand with them.”

  • The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), which first drew the Tricycle Theatre’s attention to the Israeli Embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival in 2013, has set up an initiative under the rubric No Israeli Funding for the Arts. It is calling on all of the venues hosting the film festival following its rift with the Tricycle theatre to pull out of the screenings because of the Embassy link.
  • Full details follow.
NO ISRAELI FUNDING OF THE ARTS

IJAN is centrally involved in the No Israeli Funding of the Arts initiative – we want everyone we are in touch with to know that the Israeli-funded UKJFF (UK Jewish Film Festival) is taking place this year (6-23 November) in cinemas in Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester and Nottingham.

We have written to all the cinemas – see our letter below – and we are asking that you contact your local (or even a distant) cinema by phone, email, website, leaflet or street protest, and let them know what you think of them hosting an Israeli-funded event. (All cinema contact details are at end of this email.) Call or write to the local press or call-in radio to tell them what you think of their not caring for the Jewish films, only for the Israeli rebranding (see below).

Check the UKJFF calendar to find when each cinema is hosting UKJFF films. The opening gala night is at the London BFI on 6 November – we are planning to protest their collaboration with the slaughterers of the Gazan people.

Note: IJAN workshop, From Gaza to Ferguson @ Anarchist Bookfair, 18 Oct, 3-4pm

NO ISRAELI FUNDING OF THE ARTS

LETTER TO CINEMAS HOSTING THE UK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

We are writing to you as one of the cinemas hosting the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) 6-23 November, 2014, to ask that you reconsider.

 

Who we are
We are a diverse group, including Israeli and other Jewish people, most of us local to, and often in the audience of, the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, northwest London. In 2012 local residents leafleted the cinema to oppose its hosting of the Israeli-sponsored UKJFF; in 2013 we protested outside the Tricycle when it again hosted the UKJFF. (The protests were called by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.)

 

Tricycle / UKJFF
This year, many including ourselves, welcomed the Tricycle’s stand against the festival’s funding by the Israeli Embassy during Israel’s 50-day slaughter on Gaza.

The Tricycle had offered the organisers of the UKJFF replacement funding so that the film festival could go ahead at the Tricycle.  But the UKJFF refused their offer and to dissociate itself from the Israeli government – the priority was Israeli sponsorship, rather than the film festival.  Is the UKJFF merely a means to a political end, to give Israel a humanist image?

 

Who attacked the Tricycle
The Government’s Chief Whip, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Israeli Ambassador, each publicly attacked the Tricycle for having refused Israeli sponsorship.  They slandered the Tricycle by accusing it of antisemitism; as did donors and local councillors who threatened to withdraw funds and involve the Charity Commission.

 

Who defended the Tricycle
Support came from National Theatre director, Nicholas Hytner, acclaimed director Lenny Abrahamson; over 500 artists, including prominent theatre directors and playwrights, some of whom affirmed “We artists have a right to boycott” (letter to the Stage); and note the artists’ solidarity page: “The Tricycle Theatre is Not Anti-Semitic.

 

In July, Scottish artists, including National Poet Liz Lochhead, signed an open letter in The Herald protesting an Israeli-funded theatre company at the Edinburgh Fringe. After vociferous public protest, the show closed after one performance.

 

Following the Tricycle’s refusal of Israeli funding, the Encounters Film Festival in Bristol and artists from the 31st Sao Paulo Art Biennial in Brazil also refused Israeli funding.

 

What Israel’s apologists did
While crying antisemitism, Israel’s apologists used their attack on the Tricycle to try to distract the public from Gaza: from seeing Israeli politicians, religious authorities, journalists and the public, calling for mass rape, mass murder, even genocide of Palestinians; from the bloodied tanks, F16s, drones, bunker busters, sea-to-land missiles, remote-controlled machine guns, that blasted schools, hospitals, mosques, blocks of flats, children playing football; and from the 2,200 Gazans killed — over 500 children, and half a million displaced.

 

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine found evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.

 

What happened to the Tricycle
Even while Gaza was being destroyed, the Tricycle was forced to retreat.  But actress Maureen Lipman, advocating for the UKJFF admitted that they knew the depth of the community’s support for the theatre’s stand, announcing that the festival was unlikely to go back to the Tricycle any time soon.

 

That stand reaffirmed that the arts are social and political.  It was welcomed by anti-racists everywhere. And please note: both the local council and the Arts Council ruled out loss of funding.

 

What we want you to do
The assistant manager of the Everyman cinema insisted that “refusing to host any arts festival on political grounds will cause more harm than good.” (Email, 10 September 2014.) The Everyman’s is not a principled position – it is complicity and appeasement.  It is the argument of those who refused to boycott South African apartheid.

 

Who knows better than Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a proponent of cultural boycott, who said, “We in South Africa know about oppression and occupation and know about the power of BDS” (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions)?

 

We ask that you take direction from the anti-racist, non-violent, Palestinian-led BDS movement.

 

We ask that you refuse to host the UKJFF – not because it is Jewish, of course, but because it is funded by the Israeli Embassy.  The embassy’s job, especially in London (the boycott “hub”) is to promote what it calls Brand Israel – state-sponsored propaganda, designed to camouflage Israeli brutality within a smokescreen of culture, including film festivals.

 

We ask that you side with the victims and survivors of the assault on Gaza – not be part of the cover-up of war crimes being committed against them.

NoIsraeliFundingOfTheArts@gmail.com

 

CINEMAS HOSTING THE UKJFF

Glasgow

Venue              CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts)

Address           350 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3JD

Email               gen@cca-glasgow.com

Telephone       0141 352 4900

 

Venue              Glasgow Film Theatre

Address           12 Rose St, Glasgow, Lanarkshire G3 6RB

Email               jaki.mcdougall@glasgowfilm.org (Chief Executive)

Telephone       0141 332 6535

Leeds

Venue              MAZCC

Address           311 Stonegate Road, Leeds LS17 6AZ

Email:              enquiries@ljwb.co.uk

Telephone       0113 268 4211

 

Venue              Seven Arts Centre

Address           31(a) Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, LS7 3PD

Email               info@sevenleeds.co.uk

Telephone       0113 26 26 777

 

London

Venue              Arthouse Crouch End

Address:          159A Tottenham Lane, N8 9BT

Email               info@arthousecrouchend.co.uk

Contact form   http://www.arthousecrouchend.co.uk/contact/

Telephone       020 8245 3099

 

Venue              BAFTA British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Address           195 Piccadilly, W1J 9LN

Email               info@bafta.org

Contact form   http://www.bafta.org/contact-us.html

Telephone       020 7734 0022

 

Venue              Barbican

Address           Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS

Email               film@barbican.org.uk

Feedback        https://www.barbican.org.uk/general/online-feedback-form.asp

Telephone       020 7638 4141

 

Venue              BFI Southbank

Address           Belvedere Road, South Bank, SE1 8XT

Email               director@bfi.org.uk

Contact form   http://www.bfi.org.uk/form/contact-bfi-southbank

Telephone       020 7255 1444

 

Venue              Ciné Lumière

Address           17 Queensberry Place, SW7 2DT

Email               box.office@institutfrancais.org.uk

Telephone       020 7871 3515

 

Venue              Curzon Mayfair

Address           38 Curzon Street, W1J 7TY

Email               manager.mayfair@curzon.com

Contact form   http://www.curzoncinemas.com/contact_us/

 

Venue              Odeon Muswell Hill

Address           Fortis Green Road, N10 3HP

Contact form   http://www.odeon.co.uk/contactus/

Telephone       0207 321 6237 (conferencing & events)

 

Venue              Everyman Maida Vale

Address           215 Sutherland Avenue, W9 1RU

Email               maidavale.manager@everymancinema.com

Contact form   http://www.everymancinema.com/contact-us/

Telephone       0871 906 9060

 

Venue              Everyman Hampstead

Address           5 Holly Bush Vale, NW3 6TX

Email               hampstead.manager@everymancinema.com

Contact form   http://www.everymancinema.com/contact-us/

Telephone       0871 906 9060

 

Venue              JW3

Address           341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET

Email               info@jw3.org.uk

Telephone       020 7433 8988

 

Venue              LJCC (London Jewish Cultural Centre)

Address           Ivy House, 94-96 North End Road, NW11 7SX

Email               admin@ljcc.org.uk

Contact form   http://www.ljcc.org.uk/contact/

Telephone       020 8457 5000

 

Venue              Odeon South Woodford

Address           60/64 High Road, South Woodford, E18 2QL

Contact form   http://www.odeon.co.uk/contactus/

Telephone       0207 321 6237 (conferencing & events)

 

Venue              Odeon Swiss Cottage

Address           96 Finchley Rd, NW3 5EL

Contact form   http://www.odeon.co.uk/contactus/

Telephone       0207 321 6237 (conferencing & events)

 

Venue              Phoenix Cinema

Address           52 High Road, East Finchley, N2 9PJ

Email               management@phoenixcinema.co.uk

Telephone       020 8444 6789

 

Manchester

Venue              Cornerhouse

Address           70 Oxford St, Manchester M1 5NH

Email               info@cornerhouse.org

Telephone       0161 228 7621

 

Venue              Cineworld Didsbury

Address           Parrs Wood Entertainment Centre, Wilmslow Rd, Manchester M20 5PG

Contact form   https://www.cineworld.co.uk/contact  (250 words max.)

Telephone       0208 742 4010

 

Venue              Menorah

Address           198 Altrincham Rd, Wythenshawe, Manchester M22 4RZ

Email               filmclub@menorah.org.uk

Contact form   https://menorah.org.uk/contact-us/

Telephone       0161 428 7746

 

Nottingham

Venue              Broadway Cinema

Address           14–18 Broad St, Nottingham NG1 3AL

Email               info@broadway.org.uk

Contact form   http://www.broadway.org.uk/contact/steve (Chief Executive)

Telephone       0115 9526 611

 

PLOT THICKENS ON ZIONIST BULLYING OF TRICYCLE THEATRE

A bullying smear campaign which succeeded in pushing London community theatre the Tricycle into withdrawing its refusal of Israeli Embassy funding for a Jewish film festival reveals the lengths to which Israel’s supporters will go to destroy any small signs of independent thinking in the arts.

Intense pressure on Tricycle director Indru Rubasingham and her board included public denunciation from Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub and British Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, a Conservative Friend of Israel. The Jewish Chronicle could hardly suppress its delight at the success of the Zionist campaign of blackmail and threats, including withdrawal of sponsorship funds and calls for Rubasingham to be sacked.

Blogger Mark Elf, analysing the affair in forensic detail, saw evidence that the the Arts Council may have been leaned on to threaten the Tricycle with loss of its main source of funds.

The Tricycle Theatre buckled to threats made by either the Israeli ambassador, Daniel Taub, the UK Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid or both.  And, given the courage involved in their original stance, what threat would mean anything to them?

My guess is that the Arts Council threatened to close the theatre down by withdrawing its £760+k contribution.  Now should an Israeli ambassador or even a UK culture minister be in a position to influence that for the sake of their own politics?  I think not but I think that’s precisely what happened. 

Thankfully for the many courageous people working in the arts in the UK, growing awareness of the legitimacy of cultural boycott as a means of acting in solidarity with Palestinians has prompted a generous, collective response from the theatre world.

A letter signed by more than 500 theatre professionals appeared in the Guardian on August 15 saying:

Punishing a small theatre for standing up for its principles is a big step backwards for anyone concerned with challenging prejudice or promoting freedom of speech.

Anyone who truly wants to stand against antisemitism needs to stand with the Tricycle theatre and challenge those who are accusing it in a disproportionate, unjust and ill-informed way.

 

 

 

IRISH APPEAL TO CHRIS DE BURGH – GIVE HOPE TO THE CHILDREN OF WAR

chris de burghJ-BIG actively supports a wide range of cultural boycott campaigns, one of the most important of which works to persuade well-known artists not to endorse Israeli Apartheid by performing or allowing their work to be exhibited or performed in Israel.
Plans by singer Chris de Burgh to perform in Tel Aviv on March 29 has provoked an eloquent letter from Dr Raymond Deane of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
We reproduce Raymond’s letter below.
______________________________________________________________
Dear Chris de Burgh,
 
In your song Lebanese Nights you wrote:
                                All over the world, the gift from before,
                                Nothing is left for the children of war…
 
Since the year 2000 more than 1400 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers and illegal colonial settlers. Defence for Children International estimates that “since the year 2000, around 8,000 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted in the system…. The majority of these children are charged with throwing stones.”
In a report last month (February 2014), Amnesty International declared that Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity…”
These children are indeed “children of war”, but is there really nothing left for them except “the gift from before”? Do we not owe them our solidarity, particularly in view of the failure of the international community to end Israel’s “near total impunity”?
Almost a decade ago, in July 2004, dozens of Palestinian federations, associations, and civil society organizations “call[ed] upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid…”, and in particular to “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions” (note that this call is not directed against individuals).
 
One year later a more comprehensive call came from some 170 Palestinian civil society organisations for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state “until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law.” A year later again, over 100 Palestinian Filmmakers, Artists and Cultural Workers called for a cultural boycott in similar terms. These calls from the oppressed constitute a strong mandate.
Recently such famous musicians as Roger Waters (who declared his “solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine, but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s racist and colonial policies, by joining a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel…”) and Elvis Costello (“there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent… “) have refused to perform in Israel.
 
Not least, at time of writing some 260 Irish creative and performing artists have signed a pledge undertaking not to accept invitations to Israel. Musicians constitute the largest single group of signatories, including Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, Peadar Ó Riada, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Damien Dempsey, Sharon Shannon, and many others from the fields of popular, traditional, jazz and classical music.
 
In view of these manifestations of solidarity and concern, your decision to perform in Tel Aviv on 29th March has been noted with deep disappointment.
 
It is because our governments refuse to take action to curb Israel’s crimes, even when enjoined to do so by the International Criminal Court or indeed by their own statutes (e.g. article 2 of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement), that civil society is obliged to call for such harsh tactics as cultural, sporting and academic boycotts. Such tactics are aimed at bringing to an end the circumstances that called them into being – in this case, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, its siege of Gaza (declared illegal by an independent UN panel), and its policies of apartheid and colonisation.
 
You may argue that music is “above politics”, but this hardly stands up in view of a statement by Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, now Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that Israel “see[s] culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and… do[es] not differentiate between propaganda and culture.” (Ha’aretz, 21/09/05). This means that any artist(e) visiting Israel will be exploited by that state’s very active propagandists to normalise it and to whitewash its crimes. By cancelling your projected concert in Tel Aviv you will be joining the likes of Stevie WonderAnnie Lennox, Roger Waters, Elvis Costello and other conscientious musicians in refusing to be “propaganda tools” for the Israeli state.
But most importantly, by not crossing the picket line you will be showing the persecuted Palestinians that something is indeed left for the children of war – hope.
Yours sincerely –
Dr Raymond Deane
Cultural Liaison
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Jewish Anti-Zionist protesters target Israeli-sponsored film festival

On Saturday evening 2 November, protesters gathered outside a popular northwest London theatre to protest at its hosting of events in an Israeli-sponsored Jewish film festival.

 

The lively and colourful protest was called by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), in response to the Israeli Embassy’s sponsorship of this year’s festival at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. 

Photo and report from IJAN

People from different faiths and none, including an Israeli activist, Palestinian solidarity activists, and  campaigners from the Kentish Town-based Global Women’s Strike, came together to remind the Tricycle that at the very same time that they hosted the festival last year, Israel was bombing Gaza, killing 158 Palestinians; including 30 children.

Protesters, who have valued the Tricycle for decades through its vitally informative and entertaining plays about Afghanistan, Ireland’s Bloody Sunday, US Guantanamo, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, and more, are appalled at the Tricycle hosting a film festival sponsored by a government that whose major industry is repression, not only of Palestinians but around the world.

With placards and a loudspeaker they highlighted that Israel had broken the international boycott of apartheid South Africa – supplying it with military hardware and training, and helping build its nuclear industry; had armed the Argentinean junta even as it killed thousands, including many Jews; had helped arm and train the Rwandan military and Hutu militia which committed genocide against the Tutsis; and helped arm the Sri Lankan government with warfare technology, including  drones, enabling it to massacre tens of thousands of Tamils.*

Protestors were shocked that the Tricycle was not only using security guards who refused to identify themselves, but also that a vanload of police had been called on an entirely peaceful protest.   The protestors, who are mainly local residents and the Tricycle’s most loyal audience, have written to the new artistic director of the Tricycle, Indhu Rubasingham, to say: “Given that Israeli apartheid is not loved, especially in multi-racial Kilburn . . . Is this who the Tricycle wants to be associated with?”.

They also ask that the Tricycle to do what it says it does: bringing unheard voices into the mainstream.  That is, to take a stand for justice and peace and against repression.  They see the Tricycle’s association with Israel as a betrayal of this standard and are set to do another protest on the evening of 13 Nov – when a film sponsored by the Zionist Federation about Herzl (the founder of modern Zionism) will be shown.

 

Israel’s Worldwide Role in Repression http://israelglobalrepression.wordpress.com


Letter to the Artistic Director of the Tricycle, 6 November 2013

 Dear Indhu Rubasingham,

We say “No” to the Israeli sponsored film festival

We want to let you know why we are protesting outside the Tricycle during the Jewish Film Festival 2014 of which the Israeli Embassy is a sponsor.

First, may we remind you that last year as the Jewish Film Festival was showing in your cinema, the Israeli state was bombing Gaza. 158 Palestinians were killed; 30 were children.  That attack began when Israel murdered Ahmed Jabari, who only hours before had received a draft of, and was expected to respond positively to, a permanent truce agreement between Hamas and Israel.

You say on your website that the Tricycle “views the world through varied lenses, bringing unheard voices into the mainstream . . . [It] is a local venue with an international vision.” What you are enabling by welcoming the Israeli Embassy sponsorship does not fit these criteria.  Welcoming Israel by definition censors the voices of Palestinians, those whose country the Israelis occupy, whom they imprison, torture and bomb at will.

The Tricycle has informed us about Afghanistan, Ireland’s Bloody Sunday, US’s Guantanamo, England’s Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, and more.  It would not have hosted a film festival sponsored by the South African apartheid state especially at the time of the Sharpeville massacre, or the Argentinean junta while it disappeared and tortured tens of thousands, or the Rwandan state when it was committing genocide, or the Sri Lankan state as it was killing tens of thousands of Tamils.

Yet the Tricycle welcomes as a sponsor a state that broke the international boycott of apartheid South Africa – supplying machine guns, missiles, tanks and training, and helped build its nuclear industry; that armed the Argentinean junta even as it killed thousands, including many Jews; that helped arm and train the Rwandan military and Hutu militia which committed genocide against the Tutsis; and armed the Sri Lankan government with patrol boats, aircraft, drones, other warfare technology and training in order to massacre tens of thousands of the Tamil population – war crimes that are currently in the news.

How can the Tricycle ignore that Palestinians are forced into bantustans, complete with pass laws, segregation and other apartheid violence?  Or the ongoing siege of Gaza, undermining the long-term health of its inhabitants, particularly ensuring malnutrition among children and alarming levels of anaemia among babies and pregnant women?

Has the Tricycle forgotten the 2008-9 bombing of Gaza designed to terrorize and humiliate the civilian population, with the systematically reckless use of white phosphorus, forcing civilians to be human shields, the wanton destruction of infrastructure: food production, medical facilities, water, power and sewerage facilities, schools and kindergartens? 1,417 Palestinians were killed, including 313 children, and over 5,000 were wounded.

We protest that our Tricycle is associating itself  with a government which regularly kills, maims, persecutes, imprisons even little children and humiliates Palestinians of every age; whose major industry is assisting and even spearheading repression round the world.*   Your association with Israel misleads, distracts from and normalises its murderous past and present.

Although the security guards outside the Tricycle refused to identify themselves, they appeared to be from the Community Security Trust (CST).  The CST says it provides security for Jewish events – in fact our experience is that it is only for Zionist events.

And why was a vanload of police, in addition to the CST, called to our peaceful protest? Given that Israeli apartheid is not loved, especially in multi-racial Kilburn, they know they are not welcome but are accustomed to shutting down opposition and getting their way.  Is this who the Tricycle wants to be associated with?

Most of us protesting are your neighbours, local residents, and all of us have valued the Tricycle for all the decades of its existence.  The Tricycle’s association with Israel is a betrayal of the standards it claims to uphold: for justice and against state violence.  We, your loyal supporters, your audience, ask that you respond wholeheartedly to the Palestinian call for boycott – beginning with the Tricycle refusing to host an Israeli sponsored film festival.

Yours,
Michael Kalmanovitz
for IJAN UK


 

Sound and fury at the Proms over “apartheid” remark

This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the BRICUP Newsletter, http://www.bricup.org.uk
Proms collaboration between Kennedy and the young musicians from Palestine Strings.  Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Proms collaboration between Kennedy and the young musicians from Palestine Strings.
Credit: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Violinist Nigel Kennedy sent Israel’s apologists into a mighty spin during a Promenade concert in London on August 8 when he used the word “apartheid” to refer to the life circumstances of the young Palestinian musicians with whom he was sharing the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Kennedy, addressing an overwhelmingly supportive audience for his innovative performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Royal Albert Hall, “ it’s a bit facile to say it, but we all know from experiencing this night of music tonight, that given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen.”
Kennedy, an enfant terrible of the classical music world , had not played at the Proms for years but took advantage of a radical mix of programmes this time to revisit the Four Seasons with a number of jazz musicians, his own largely Polish Orchestra of Life and 17 players from the Palestine Strings wearing trademark keffiyehs. Aged between 12 and 23, these protégées of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music demonstrated considerable artistry in one of the world’s greatest performance spaces. No wonder the Zionist reaction to their mentor’s solidarity comment was so swift and strong.
Within days the Jewish Chronicle announced with satisfaction  that the BBC intended deleting Kennedy’s remark from its edited TV broadcast of the concert. Baroness Ruth Deech, a prominent Zionist and former BBC governor, had pronounced his words “offensive and untrue” and unfit to be heard during a Prom concert. The BBC, saying they did not“fall within the editorial remit of the proms as a classical music festival,” duly obliged. The critically-acclaimed concert went out on BBC4 on August 23 without the offending comments.  
In the interim BRICUP chairman Jonathan Rosenhead had joined supporters of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, among them actress Miriam Margolyes and writer/comedian Alexei Sayle, in signing a letter contesting the BBC censorship decision. It was published on August 22 in the Daily Telegraph (scroll down through the other letters to find it here) along with a fair-minded article by the paper’s Religious Affairs editor John Bingham.
The Jewish Chronicle named BRICUP and Rosenhead in its coverage.
The issue was taken up by wider activist circles with writers’ organisation PEN and Index on Censorship weighing in in Kennedy’s defence. Rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was moved to issue a long-awaited statement calling on fellow musicians to back the boycott.
petition calling on the BBC to revoke its censorship decision  quickly garnered more than 1,200 signatures.
Music commentator Norman Lebrecht, himself deeply pro-Israel, picked up the story, calling into question the provenance of a statement in which Kennedy described his comments as “purely descriptive and not political whatsoever” anddenounced the BBC’s “imperial lack of impartiality”. The flighty genius does not own a computer or use any new-fangled digital media so the statement was issued via a musician friend’s Facebook page. As a matter of interest, Lebrecht later posted YouTube footage of the concert, generating serious and largely favourable discussion on his blog.
Matters were complicated by Kennedy’s own manager Terri Robson – presumably with an eye to her charge’s potentially lucrative future bookings – publicly suggesting that the BBC was within its rights to censor him.
Thanks to links with pro-Palestinian classical musicians who are in contact with Kennedy – he does at least own a mobile phone – we were primed and ready when he once again re-iterated his pro-Palestinian stance in an open letter to the Palestine Strings.
He observed that his comment would surely not “have been censored if it had been referring to the benefits of the demise of the apartheid in South Africa when playing with an African ensemble”.
 
Kennedy’s letter suggested that the Palestine Strings had been detained for 12 hours on their return to Palestine. This turned out to be a misunderstanding. The players were not detained but Edward Said National Conservatory of Music’s Orchestras Manager, Tim Pottier, was held for 12 hours at the Allenby Bridge. An official at the conservatory explained in a private email, “Tim is now sadly used to long interrogations and waiting at the Bridge, although the return from the Prom established a record. The occupying authorities who control all entries to Palestine know him far too well and, I suspect, do not like what he does.”
This incident, naturally enough, was not deemed newsworthy by mainstream media. Indeed, although the Telegraph’s Bingham refers to “a bitter row over alleged censorship”, others showed zero interest in the BBC censorship story.
One late entry into the fray was pundit Dominic Lawson who chose to use his valedictory column in the Independent on September 2 to slag off Kennedy and Waters as part of a sinister army of antisemites holding Israel responsible for all the evils of the world.
His attack highlights the care supporters of BDS need to take in the terminology they use. Waters has defended himself expertly when challenged, but drawing attention to Baroness Deech’s Jewish-sounding maiden name (“nee Fraenkel”) rather than referencing her vociferous Zionism, and shooting down a pig-shaped zeppelin emblazoned with a Star of David (albeit alongside other symbols of oppression), has handed ammunition to the enemies of BDS. A call from a small group of German Jews to boycott a forthcoming concert by Waters has won mainstream coverage denied to the injustice done to Kennedy.
It remains to be seen, at the time of writing, if any further controversy will follow Kennedy’s planned appearance at the Last Night of the Proms on September 7.
As he himself noted when news of the BBC’s censorship plan became known:
“ . . . the BBC has created . . . a huge platform for the discussion of its own impartiality, its respect (or lack of it) for free speech and for the discussion of the miserable apartheid forced on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government supported by so many governments from the outside world.”

CALL FROM GAZA TO TOM JONES – SING FOR FREEDOM AND JUSTICE, NOT ISRAELI APARTHEID

Palestinian musicians from Gaza have issued an eloquent plea to Sir Tom Jones, who supported the South African anti-apartheid movement and recent anti-poverty initiatives, to cancel a planned performance in Tel Aviv in October.

“Sing for Freedom and Justice, Not Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing”, the letter says. See full text below and here.

Let’s hope Sir Tom will join Afropop star Salif Keita in cancelling an Israel gig and violinist Nigel Kennedy in denouncing Israeli apartheid.

The campaign details can be found on this facebook page

 To Tom Jones from Gaza: Sing for Freedom and Justice, Not Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing

 28/08/13

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Dear Sir Tom

We are a group of Palestinian musicians, academics and students from the besieged Gaza Strip in Palestine. Despite Israel’s blockade of our land, air and sea borders we have continued to enjoy the soul, vibrancy and passion of your songs. Israel has deprived us of our homes, our olive groves, our families and communities, our freedom to travel and even our musical instruments. It is for this, from the crowded streets of Gaza’s refugee camps, we are calling on you to cancel your performance in Tel Aviv, the Sun City of the Middle East, this October. We ask you to honour the global call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli apartheid regime, in the same way you and other famous, principled artists refused to entertain apartheid South Africa.

After the United Nations approved cultural boycott was imposed on apartheid-ruled South Africa in 1980, you pledged not to perform there again. It is to your credit that you were persuaded “without much difficulty not to go back to South Africa” by the Welsh anti-apartheid movement.[1] It is in this tradition of refusing to entertain apartheid and racist subjugation that we are asking you to heed the call to boycott Israel until they stop denying us Palestinians our most basic human rights.

 

What Israel is imposing on us has been described by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as, “tantamount to Apartheid”.[2] Israel has violated more United Nations Resolutions than any other country, and a recent report from the UN Human Rights Council recommended sanctions until Israel adheres to international law.[3]

After visiting the West Bank, Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated that Palestinians are “being oppressed more than the apartheid ide­o­logues could ever dream about in South Africa.”[4] After their long experience in the fight against inequality and racism, is it not enough that Archbishop Tutu and other anti-apartheid heroes are calling for a boycott of the Israeli apartheid system?

If you perform in Israel, be aware that most of your audience will have served or are serving in the Israeli army. For those of us in Gaza, no matter who we are, we are denied the chance to see you perform by armed Israeli soldiers, Merkava Tanks, Drones, and F16s. We are punished because we belong to this land and hold its identity. Due to these restrictions the vast majority of us have never left the Gaza Strip. The area of Gaza is fifty times smaller than your homeland Wales. Yet our population is half the size, meaning that we are trapped in one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

In the horrific and destructive bombings over eight days last November, Israeli forces killed over 170 people (including 33 children) and injured over 1700.[5] Their crime? Being born Palestinian.

Can you accept 1.7 million of us in Gaza, over half of whom are children, are being collectively punished in what major Human Rights Organizations call, “the world’s largest open air prison?”. Can you accept that Palestinians make up the largest community of refugees in the world, ethnically cleansed from their land but denied the legal right to return home? Can you accept that Israeli policy included banning the entry of musical instruments, such that so many splendid voices of our young could never be heard by the outside world?

 

In June this year in the agit8 concert you joined the call to end poverty, singing “lord help the poor and needy” and “go help the motherless children.”[6] These are worthy aims, and we ask you to join our call to not entertain the country that systematically inflicts abject poverty on our people in Gaza and routinely makes orphans of our children. The 2005 call for the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel is endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society organizations,[7] and has been heeded by a large number of artists and singers around the world such as Roger Waters, Annie Lennox, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Vanessa Paradis, The Pixies, Faithless and Carlos Santana.[8]

 

What we are asking for is based on international law, endless United Nations resolutions and an expectation to live with the same basic freedoms as anyone else in the world. We demand an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and full equality granted for Palestinian citizens living inside Israel. This is not utopia; it is a call for equality that has been denied to us since Israel was founded on the ruins of Palestinian refugees.

 

When asked, you drew a line on apartheid South Africa. We ask you now to maintain the pressure already set by an increasing number of musicians refusing to perform in Israel until Palestinians get the same human rights and dignity as anybody else would expect. From the Gaza Ghetto, we ask you to heed the calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions and to cancel your concert this October 26th in Tel Aviv, the Sun City of the Middle East.

 

Jafra of Gaza Band
Mohammed J Akkila (Singer)
Ismail Harazine (Flute Player)
Rami Abu Shabaan (Musician)
Ahmed Irshi (Singer)
Bashor Bseiso (Musician)
Iyad Abu Lilah (Drummer)
Mohammed Said el-Susi (Rapper)
Osama Said El Susi
Iyad Zumlut (Musician)
Haidar Eid

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP)

One Democratic State Group

 

References

[1] http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/wales-role-ending-apartheid-recorded-4803372

[2] http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5588/un-committee-2012-session-concludes-israeli-system

[3] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/un-inquiry-calls-for-sanctions-against-israel-over-west-bank-settlements.premium-1.500565

[4] http://www.rabbisletter.org/endorsement-by-south-african-archbishop-demond-tutu/

[5] http://www.dci-palestine.org/documents/dci-concludes-investigations-%E2%80%93-children-make-approximately-23-percent-fatalities-gaza

[6] http://www.one.org/us/2013/06/14/jessie-j-tom-jones-and-baaba-maal-amplify-the-call-to-end-extreme-poverty-at-agit8-in-london/

[7] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

[8] http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/roger-waters-calls-for-boycott-of-israel-20130320

 

NIGEL KENNEDY LOOKS FORWARD TO END OF “ZIONIST APARTHEID”

Violinist Nigel Kennedy, whose remark about the “apartheid” conditions faced by Palestinians was censored from a BBC Prom concert broadcast, has vigorously defended his comment, adding more fuel to the row about the BBC’s decision. See the Jewish Chronicle’s coverage here and here.

In an open letter to young  musicians of the Palestine Strings with whom he shared the stage to spectacular effect on August 8, Kennedy, who is billed to play at the Last Night of the Proms on September 7, wrote:

Your performance at the Royal Albert Hall was something to be proud of and demonstrated the benefits of people being treated equally as opposed to being decimated and robbed by an apartheid system.

As you have seen, there is huge support for stopping the abuse of your human rights. My short comment [about apartheid] was purely observational and humanist. It surely wouldn’t have been censored if it had been referring to the benefits of the demise of the apartheid in South Africa when playing with an African ensemble. Many thanks however to [everyone] for giving a world platform to the important discussion concerning Zionist apartheid.

I hope life is treating you ok. We all miss you over here. I’m sorry to hear that the “normal” treatment of Palestinian people by the Israeli authorities led to you being detained for twelve hours. I am looking forward to playing with you again soon and to the days when we can play on a level playing field in Palestine and throughout the world.

No further information is available at the time of writing about the detention of the young musicians Kennedy refers to.

The BBC has insisted that Kennedy’s “apartheid” remark was cut for purely editorial reasons. But an article in the Jewish Chronicle before the TV broadcast on August 23 referred approvingly to lobbying efforts by Zionists, among them Baroness Deech, a well-known pro-Israel advocate and former BBC governor.

The decision to censor has provoked serious online discussion in musical and activist circles, with writers’ organisation PEN and Index on Censorship weighing in in Kennedy’s defence. The Daily Telegraph published a letter signed by 32 Jews opposed to the BBC’s decision, among them actress Miriam Margolyes and writer/comedian Alexei Sayle.

An online petition – Don’t Censor the Palestine Prom – has gathered more than 1,100 signatures and remains open.