[News] Musicians and performers call for a cultural boycott of Israel

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 15 12:29:40 EST 2006

John Berger and 93 other authors, film-makers, 
musicians and performers call for a cultural boycott of Israel
Press Release, PACBI, 15 December 2006


Israel solders arrest a Palestinian protester 
during the weekly demonstration against the 
separation wall in the village of Bil'in near the 
West Bank city of Ramallah, December 8, 2006. 
(<http://www.maanimages.com>MaanImages/Fadi Arouri)

PACBI is pleased to announce that in a letter 
that appears in today's Guardian, the 94, 
including the renowned author John Berger; UK 
musicians and song-writers Brian Eno and Leon 
Rosselson; filmmakers Sophie Fiennes, Elia 
Suleiman and Haim Bresheeth; documentary maker 
Jenny Morgan; singer Reem Kelani; writers 
Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, and Eduardo Galeano, 
call on their colleagues not to visit, exhibit or perform in Israel.

letter with the full list of signatories comes 
after the August 2006 statement issued by 
Palestinian filmmakers, artists, writers, and 
other cultural workers calling for a cultural boycott of Israel.

The Berger letter, signed by artists from across 
Europe, North and South America, as well as Palestinians and Israelis, reads:

"There is a fragile ceasefire in Lebanon, albeit 
daily violated by Israeli overflights. Meanwhile 
the day to day brutality of the Israeli army in 
Gaza and the West Bank continues. Ten 
Palestinians are killed for every Israeli death; 
more than 200, many of them children, have been 
killed since the summer. UN resolutions are 
flouted, human rights violated as Palestinian 
land is stolen, houses demolished and crops 
destroyed. For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for 
the Jewish (former ANC military commander 
presently South African minister of security), 
Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians 
is worse than that of black South Africans under 
apartheid. Meantime Western governments refer to 
Israel's 'legitimate right' of self-defence, and continue to supply weaponry.

The challenge of apartheid was fought better. The 
non-violent international response to apartheid 
was a campaign of boycott, divestment, and, 
finally UN imposed sanctions which enabled the 
regime to change without terrible bloodshed. 
Today Palestinians teachers, writers, film-makers 
and non-governmental organisations have called 
for a comparable academic and cultural boycott of 
Israel as offering another path to a just peace. 
This call has been endorsed internationally by 
university teachers in many European countries, 
by film-makers and architects, and by some brave 
Israeli dissidents. It is now time for others to 
join the campaign ¡ as Primo Levi asked: If not now, when?

We call on creative writers and artists to 
support our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues by 
endorsing the boycott call. Read the Palestinian call (www.pacbi.org).

Don't visit, exhibit or perform in Israel!"

To endorse the letter and add your name, contact 
<mailto:info at bricup.org.uk>info at bricup.org.uk

 From John Berger:

I would like to make a few personal remarks about 
this world-wide appeal to teachers, intellectuals 
and artists to join the cultural boycott of the 
state of Israel, as called for by over a hundred 
Palestinian academics and artists, and - very 
importantly - also by a number of Israeli public 
figures, who outspokenly oppose their country's 
illegal occupation of the Palestine territories 
of the West Bank and Gaza. Their call is 
attached, together with my After Guernica 
drawing. I hope you will feel able to add your 
signature, to the attached letter, which we 
intend to publish in national newspapers.

The boycott is an active protest against two 
forms of exclusion which have persisted, despite 
many other forms of protestations, for over sixty 
years -for almost three generations.

During this period the state of Israel has 
consistently excluded itself from any 
international obligation to heed UN resolutions 
or the judgement of any international court. To 
date, it has defied 246 Security Council Resolutions!

As a direct consequence seven million 
Palestinians have been excluded from the right to 
live as they wish on land internationally 
acknowledged to be theirs; and now increasingly, 
with every week that passes, they are being 
excluded from their right to any future at all as a nation.

As Nelson Mandela has pointed out, boycott is not 
a principle, it is a tactic depending upon 
circumstances. A tactic which allows people, as 
distinct from their elected but often craven 
governments, to apply a certain pressure on those 
wielding power in what they, the boycotters, 
consider to be an unjust or immoral way. (In 
white South Africa yesterday and in Israel today, 
the immorality was, or is being, coded into a form of racist apartheid).

Boycott is not a principle. When it becomes one, 
it itself risks to become exclusive and racist. 
No boycott, in our sense of the term, should be 
directed against an individual, a people, or a 
nation as such. A boycott is directed against a 
policy and the institutions which support that 
policy either actively or tacitly. Its aim is not 
to reject, but to bring about change.

How to apply a cultural boycott? A boycott of 
goods is a simpler proposition, but in this case 
it would probably be less effective, and speed is 
of the essence, because the situation is 
deteriorating every month (which is precisely why 
some of the most powerful world political 
leaders, hoping for the worst, keep silent.).

How to apply a boycott? For academics it's 
perhaps a little clearer - a question of 
declining invitations from state institutions and 
explaining why. For invited actors, musicians, 
jugglers or poets it can be more complicated. I'm 
convinced, in any case, that its application 
should not be systematised; it has to come from a 
personal choice based on a personal assessment.

For instance. An important mainstream Israeli 
publisher today is asking to publish three of my 
books. I intend to apply the boycott with an 
explanation. There exist, however, a few small, 
marginal Israeli publishers who expressly work to 
encourage exchanges and bridges between Arabs and 
Israelis, and if one of them should ask to 
publish something of mine, I would unhesitatingly 
agree and furthermore waive aside any question of 
author's royalties. I don't ask other writers 
supporting the boycott to come necessarily to 
exactly the same conclusion. I simply offer an example.

What is important is that we make our chosen 
protests together, and that we speak out, thus 
breaking the silence of connivance maintained by 
those who claim to represent us, and thus 
ourselves representing, briefly by our common 
action, the incalculable number of people who 
have been appalled by recent events but lack the 
opportunity of making their sense of outrage effective.

John Berger

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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