Thursday, July 2, 2015

Waters to Caetano: your resolve to perform in Tel Aviv will dissolve in a sea of tears and regret


Dear Caetano, 
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my letter. Dialogue is truly important. I will respond to the points you have raised. I fear you may be viewing Israeli politics through rose tinted spectacles. The fact is that for the many decades, since the Nakba, (catastrophe, dispossession of the Palestinian people) in 1948, Israel’s colonialist and racist policies have devastated the lives of millions of Palestinians. 
The BDS movement, which I am asking you to join, is a global movement that demands Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality. It is growing rapidly because of increased international awareness of the oppression the Palestinians have had to endure these last 67 years. Netanyahu’s current extreme right­wing regime is just the latest government perpetrating cruel acts of injustice and colonization. But this is not just a right wing problem. It was, in fact, the left­wing Labor party that founded the illegal settlement program and also failed to end the occupation of Palestinian land and make peace. 

In your letter you say that Jean­Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir believed in Israel before they died. That maybe so, but that was then and, maybe then, they didn’t know about or understand the brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and subjugation of its people. But, I do know this, the wine and coffee splattered floorboards of the Café Flores and Les Deux Magots would today reverberate with the sound of Jean­Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir turning in their graves to hear their names taken in vain and nailed to the mast of the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people. 
You mention Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, he is among those embracing BDS, as he has observed Israel’s actions and has deep empathy for The Palestinian People. There is, as he noted to you, apartheid in the occupied territories that is just as definite and dehumanizing as it was in apartheid South Africa when the infamous and racist pass laws were in place. As in South Africa, Palestinians and their legal rights are defined by their racial and religious background. Can you imagine such a thing in Brazil or England or the USA or Holland or Chile, or? No. Why not? 

Because it is unacceptable, that’s why not. 

Caetano, if I may pose a question, why would you not reject complicity with such injustice now, just as surely as you would have rejected white racism against South Africa’s black population back in the eighties? Your letter suggests you believe your upcoming gig in Tel Aviv can help change Israeli policy. I would suggest this is a naïve proposition. Sadly, it is not just the Israeli government that needs a change of heart. Polls indicate that a staggering 95% of the Jewish Israeli public supported the 2014 bombing of Gaza,(561 dead children), 75% do not support a Palestinian state based on the long­negotiated ’67 borders, and 47% believe Palestinians citizens of Israel should be stripped of their citizenship. 
No, Caetano, playing a gig in Tel Aviv will not move the Israeli government or the majority of the Israeli people one jot, but it will be seen as you giving tacit approval to the status quo. Your presence there will be used as propaganda by the right and will provide cover and moral support for the Israeli government’s outrageously racist and illegal policies. 
It is a dilemma I know, but, if you really wish to influence the Israeli government, you will join us on the BDS picket line. We are having a powerful effect, as we can see from their reaction, the bullies coming out in full force to try to crush the voices of dissent and silence us. 
We will not be silenced, we are strong, and together we can help free not just the Palestinian people from the yoke of Israeli oppression, but also the Israeli people from the oppression of their own exceptionalism and dogma, which is deadly to both peoples. 
I implore you not to proceed with your engagement in Tel Aviv, instead take the opportunity to visit Gaza and the West Bank and see for yourself what Sartre and de Beauvoir never lived to see. I believe your resolve to perform in Tel Aviv will dissolve in a sea of tears and regret. 
Caetano, I do not know you, we have never met, but, I believe you mean well and I bear you no ill will. If you go to Tel Aviv in spite of our heartfelt entreaties, and if you visit Gaza or the occupied territories, you may well experience an epiphany. If you do, please reach out to us, all of us, not just in the Palestinian and Jewish communities, but all of us in solidarity in Brazil and elsewhere, all of us in BDS all over the world working for justice and equal rights in the Holy Land We will embrace you. 

I thank you again for joining this conversation. Please go and see things for yourself, but without performing there, without crossing the Palestinian boycott picket line. Maybe UNWRA can help, they certainly helped me when I was looking for the reality. Go and see for yourself, you will not have to use your imagination. The reality is devastating beyond anything you could possibly imagine. Obrigado, 
Your colleague, 
Roger Waters


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Elvis Costello: His Support for Cultural Boycott of Israel Reaffirmed


Roger Waters reaffirmed Elvis Costello's continued support for the cultural boycott of Israel in his recent article in Salon.com.  Waters asks Robbie Williams, UNICEF’s UK ambassador and a declared supporter of its Children in Danger campaign, not to violate the BDS call by playing in Tel Aviv.  Willams might do well to read Elvis Costello's letter from 2010.  Nearly five years ago Costello cancelled his planned gig in apartheid Israel, and wrote the acclaimed "It is After Considerable Contemplation..." statement on his "Yellow Press" 
blog (1). 
Costello led the way for many other artists to also say YES to the call for a cultural boycott of Israel.  Here's the well-known letter:
It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.
One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.
Elvis Costello:  Boycotts Israel 
Then 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.
I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.
Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.
I offer my sincere apologies for any disappointment to the advance ticket holders as well as to the organizers.
My thanks also go to the members of the Israeli media with whom I had most rewarding and illuminating conversations.  They may regard these exchanges as a waste of their time but they were of great value and help to me in gaining an appreciation of the cultural scene.
I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.
It is a matter of instinct and conscience.
It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.
I have come to the following conclusions.
One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.
With the hope for peace and understanding.


(1).  Elvis Costello's statement was published on his Web site on 15 May 2010; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Juliette Greco, for the sake of justice, please refuse to whitewash apartheid.

Dear Juliette Greco,

You are an artist who has stood the test of time and whose songs and life story are known to all. With your songs you convey the values of justice and the love of freedom. On many occasions you have carried out acts of resistance, as you did when you bravely sang anti-militarist songs at your concert in Pinochet's Chile.
In the name of those values, we are writing to you today regarding your concert planned for 4 May in Tel Aviv.
Boycott Israel,  Juliette Greco
Israel openly admits that it uses international artists like yourself in an attempt to improve its image. So we sincerely hope that, as you prepare to retire from the stage, you will consider the implications of your appearance in that country and instead choose not to join in the whitewashing and normalisation of Israeli occupation, colonisation and apartheid policies.
Please remember that Israel refuses to respect international law and persists in violating numerous United Nations resolutions, among which are three examples:
- Resolution 194 granting Palestinian refugees their Right of Return
- Resolution 242 demanding that Israel withdraw its army from the Palestinian territories it is occupying.
- Resolution 3236 reaffirming the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.
Israel continues to deprive the Palestinian people of their most elementary human rights. In the West Bank, there are still 150 Israeli colonies and the segregation wall is still standing, despite the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice which denounced its illegality and called for it to be dismantled. Hundreds of military checkpoints and an apartheid-like pass system prevent Palestinians from going to work, children from going to school, farmers from harvesting their crops, pregnant women and the critically ill from reaching hospital. In Gaza, after Israel directed its criminal bombing at the entire civilian population last summer (during which over 2,200 Palestinians were murdered, including 500 children, according to United Nations figures), the Israeli government is still maintaining its blockade and the population goes on suffering enormously.
In East Jerusalem, over 2,000 houses have been demolished by the Israeli authorities; those same authorities have refused to register more than 5,000 children who are therefore prevented from attending school, and tens of thousands of Palestinians have no homes any more, any rebuilding being banned by Israel.
Faced with Israel's impunity, Palestinian civil society, supported by the most progressive fringe of Israeli citizens, launched in 2005 the BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) campaign. This international non-violent campaign was inspired by the similar campaign against South Africa in the apartheid era. It does not target individuals, it targets a political regime and its institutions.
Juliette Greco, you recently stated, when speaking about your final round of appearances, that you wanted to make a beautiful exit. To make that beautiful exit a reality, we appeal to you to hear the call for a cultural boycott of Israel, made by an oppressed people to the world's artists of whom you are one, asking them not to perform there.
We are asking you today not to support these countless violations of universal human rights and to join the personalities who have chosen not to appear in Israel as long as that State refuses to respect international law.
Among the artists who have refused to participate in the whitewashing of Israel's crimes are:Cassandra Wilson, Natacha Atlas, Cat Power, Gilles Vigneault, Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, Annie Lennox, Vanessa Paradis, Llasa, Gil Scott-Heron, Jello Biafra, Massive Attack, as well as Peter Brook, Susan Sarandon, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh....
We are of course at your disposal to provide you with any further information you might
wish to have.

Yours sincerely,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tricky: Cancel your apartheid Israel Gig, recognize BDS!

Dear Tricky (Adrian Thaws),
We recently heard you and your band plan to play in Israel on 26 February this year.  Your planned gig comes a few months after Israel embarked on a murderous 50 day attack on the Palestinian people living in Gaza.  Israel’s misleadingly termed ‘Operation Protective Edge’ killed over 2,200 people (including over 510 children) and maimed 10,000 more, left thousands homeless and caused the obliteration of 89 entire families.   The devastation in Gaza is catastrophic and, as this is the third major assault on the Strip in just six years, has left the people there deeply traumatised. Israel also regularly kills Palestinians in the West Bank, imprisons thousands, including children, and carries out illegal home demolition as well as settlement building. There are more than 50 laws which discriminate against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, while those in the West Bank live under occupation, those in Gaza live under siege and constant attack, and the huge refugee population, spread all over the world, lives with the pain of exile and dispossession.
Would you perform for the oppressors in any state? Would you have performed in Sun City during the era of South African apartheid?  From EBONY magazine regarding Dream Defenders, formed in the aftermath of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s killing last year:
“Dream Defenders unanimously passed a resolution to support the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in this interval [1].”
On 15 January, Dream Defenders visited Occupied Palestine and did a solidarity demonstration in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005 [2].
While you may be told that music is a way to build bridges, in fact your very presence will be used as an endorsement, whether given or not, of Israel’s policies. Indeed its official state social media sites regularly post about artists who breach the boycott, linking them to state policy – do you really want this?
Award winning author and BDS supporter David Sheen writes about Israel:
“Another type of racist assault that has become increasingly common in Israel is attacks on Africans. Incitement against the 50,000 non-Jewish Africans who have sought asylum in Israel in recent years, including top government officials comparing them to cancer and Ebola, has made them a popular target for racist ruffians in Tel Aviv. Locals report it is not uncommon for Israeli youths to throw dog feces at African mothers nursing their babies. In January, an Israeli man stabbed a one-year-old African baby in the head and later explained to police that he did it because “they said that a black baby, blacks in general, are terrorists [3].”

Tricky, we appeal to you to join many other artists of conscience, and respect the Palestinian-led call for a cultural boycott of Israel, to stand with the principle that justice -contingent on freedom and equality- must be present before peace is possible.
Please know that you will not be playing to a free audience in Israel, you will be playing to a segregated audience, one which Palestinians cannot be part of. Your audience enjoys its privilege at the expense of millions of incarcerated, occupied Indigenous Palestinian people, and also African refugees who are imprisoned in camps in Israel.
Israel is an apartheid state engaged in extreme discrimination against the Palestinian people. With so many years occupying and dehumanising the Palestinian people, Israel is an extremely racist society in which marches are common against the indigenous people and also immigrants seeking asylum.
Inspired by this Palestinian led struggle which has huge international support, many artists have refused to play in Israel, including over 500 Irish artists who have all signed a pledge to respect the boycott. [4] The choice to join them is yours, please do the right thing.
DPAI (Don’t Play Apartheid Israel)
We are a group, of over 1700, representing many countries around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.
NOTES
[4] http://www.ipsc.ie/press-releases/irish-artists-pledge-to-boycott-israel-reaches-500-signatures 



Monday, January 19, 2015

Kelis: The Cultural Boycott of Israel is the Right Thing

Hey Kelis,
We recently heard you and your band plan to return to Israel on 6 and 7 February, this year.  Your planned gigs are scheduled just 6 months after Israel embarked on a violent attack on the people living in Gaza, who have suffered collectively under a brutal, illegal siege since 2006.  Israel’s misleadingly termed “Operation Protective Edge” eventually killed over 2,200 people, including over 510 children, maiming many thousands more.  The overwhelming consensus amongst people of conscience, is that it is time for BDS.
Kelis:  The Cultural Boycott
of Israel is the Right Thing
BDS - boycott, divest and sanctions - includes a cultural boycott of Israel, because acts such as yours are used by Israel in a vigorous but futile effort to “re-Brand Israel,” (especially Tel Aviv) as a gay-friendly, artistic beacon of “freedom” in the Middle East.
First, Tel Aviv is not gay-friendly, not in the sense of acceptance of all people, encompassing human rights and advocacy for all oppressed people.  


"This pinkwashing of Israel not only plays on a variety of racist and Islamophobic tropes but also impedes a thorough and nuanced analysis of queer and feminist liberation. It refuses to acknowledge that Palestinian queers are among those who are harassed, brutalised, displaced, bombed, and incarcerated. Whatever liberties might be extended to Jewish queers in Israel, being queer does not save Palestinians from the constant and brutal assault that forms the conditions of their lives. The Israeli army does not give a 'free pass' to queer Palestinians; in fact, its soldiers target LGBTQ Palestinians."


Second, Tel Aviv is not progressive.  Progressive, forward thinking comes from a mindset of human rights, equality, and the desire to stop such injustices as the new Jim Crow in the USA, Israel’s land theft wall, administrative detention, and siege and attack on Gaza.


Third, it is not commensurate with liberated artistic values  to play for a segregated audience, while Palestinians under Israeli control are not allowed to leave the bantustans within which they are imprisoned.  Not only may Palestinians not visit to listen to music -  neither are they free to avail themselves of a hospital for childbirth!


EBONY magazine in the USA recently published “Why Black people Must Stand With Palestine”, drawing parallels to injustices;  “similar to the Palestinians’ call for people of conscience to boycott and divest from companies that support their oppression, we might call on people abroad to pressure an end to "the New Jim Crow"---mass incarceration [1].”


Kelis, would you have the courage to cancel your gig in Israel, before tickets are sold, before Israel jails another child, bombs another home in Gaza, and stand with other artists of principle, like Talib Kweli, Stanley Jordan, Cassandra Wilson and many more to respect the cultural boycott today?


We are a group, of over 1,700 members, representing many countries around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.



Thursday, January 8, 2015

An Appeal to Dusty Kid to Adhere to the campaign for a Cultural Boycott of Israel

Dear Dusty Kid,

We recently learned that January 23, 2014 you will be returning to play in Tel Aviv. [1]

We're writing to ask you not to play in the apartheid state called Israel and to condemn Israeli violations of international law and human rights against the Palestinian people.
Will Dusty Kid add his name
to artists of conscience and
boycott Israel?

Israel operates in blatant violation of basic human rights and international law by forcing the Palestinians to live under the oppression of a cruel system of racial discrimination and apartheid. [2]

For this reason, in 2005, over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until the latter does not respect human rights and international law [3].

The Palestinian call for BDS, inspired by the successful boycott that contributed to the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, has the support of artists, academics, trade unions, churches, student groups, organizations and people of conscience all over the world. In particular, the call for cultural boycott is aimed at all the artists of mondo chiedendo them not to perform in Israel and not to participate in events that aim to normalize the dramatic situation in the placing on the same level the occupier and the occupied, the 'oppressor and the oppressed. [4]

Performing in Israel today would be like performing for the South African regime during the apartheid years.

There are numerous international artists and intellectuals [5] who have decided to respect the Palestinian call and to oppose Israel's cynical use of the arts to hide apartheid, ethnic cleansing and military occupation [6], including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Pulitzer Prize Alice Walker, Andreas Öberg, Angela Davis, Arundhati Roy, August Burns Red, Bono, Carlo Mombelli, Carlos Santana, Cassandra Wilson, Cat Power, Coldplay, Danny Glover, Devandra Banhart, Elvis Costello, Faithless, Gil Scott-Heron, Gorillaz Sound System, Jean Luc Godard, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo school of Medicine, John Berger, Judith Butler, Stephen Hawking, Ken Loach, Lenny Kravitz, Mike Leigh, Mira Nair, Mireille Mathieu Naomi Klein, Natacha Altas, Oumou Sangare, Portico Quartet, Roger Waters, Snoop Dogg, Stanley Jordan, Stevie Wonder, The Pixies, Vanessa Paradis, Zakir Hussain

In a situation of injustice does not take a position equivalent to take a stand for the oppressor.

So we urge you to cancel your concert in Israel and to refrain from program other concerts in Israel until Israel does not respect international law and human rights of the Palestinian people.

Sharing the Palestinian call for boycott, as an artist of international fame can play a vital role in influencing change, in raising awareness and providing a contribution to the nonviolent Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination and equality.

Waiting for a your reply, Best regards,

Sardinia Palestine Friendship Association
BDS Sardinia

Notes:

[1] http://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/dustykid/dates?yr=2015&ctry=8  https://www.facebook.com/events/1460420734234086/
[2] http://lawcenter.birzeit.edu/iol/en/project/outputfile/6/986afcc6c9.pdf
[3] http://bdsitalia.org/index.php/campagna-bds/77-appello-bds
[4] http://bdsitalia.org/index.php/campagna-bac/317-appello-pacbi
[5] http://www.bdsmovement.net/activecamps/cultural-boycott
[6] http://mondoweiss.net/2009/03/ny-times-offers-the-rationale-for-the-cultural-boycott-of-israel.html

  Source: BDS Sardinia

Laure Provost, Turner Prize Winner, respects the Cultural Boycott of Israel

(Haaretz Israeli Press, Jan 8, 2015) For most Israelis, the cultural boycott of the country is felt mainly when a famous singer or a movie star decides not to come here to perform or attend a film festival. But the boycott, which has been in place officially since 2005 as part of the wider campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, also exists in the field of art, and Israeli artists and art institutions are strongly affected by it. It is practiced overtly as well as covertly, officially and unofficially, and by a variety of groups within the art world.SOURCE:
The quiet boycott: When Israeli art is out
A conference in Tel Aviv will explore the impact of the BDS movement on the country’s contemporary art scene.
The boycott includes the refusal of Arab and Palestinian artists to take part in exhibitions abroad that include the works of Israeli artists and the refusal of foreign artists to show their work in Israel. The purpose of the boycott is to raise awareness about the Israeli occupation and Israeli violations of human rights.
On Thursday, a conference, organized by seven curators working in Israel, will be held at Tel Aviv’s Leyvik House, titled Dalut Hacherem: The Cultural Boycott of Israel and What It Means for Israeli Contemporary Art. The organizers — Chen Tamir, Leah Abir, Hila Cohen-Schneiderman, Joshua Simon, Omer Krieger, Udi Edelman and Avi Lubin — will discuss the manifestations of the cultural boycott as it relates to Israel’s contemporary art scene.
In a report summing up her year-long study of the issue, Tamir notes that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the main organization behind the effort, focuses mainly on artists, curators and institutions abroad that deal with the Foreign Ministry and other official bodies and much less on what happens within Israel. PACBI, as the organization is called, “recognizes that Israeli artists, Jews and Arabs alike, are allowed to receive funding from the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the same way they are allowed to receive water if they pay taxes,” Tamir says, adding, “They don’t want to do PR for Israel. That is why the boycott is directed outward, and attempts to recruit actors from outside to put pressure on Israel.”
Tamir, who was born in Israel and raised in Canada, holds a Master’s Degree in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College; a B.F.A. in Visual Art; and a B.A. in Anthropology from York University in Toronto. She returned to Israel two and a half years ago and is the curator of the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. She also works with Artis, a nonprofit organization based in New York that supports and promotes artists from Israel internationally. She says that when she meets people in her field abroad, the issue of the cultural boycott against Israel always comes up.
Tamir’s report began as an internal document for Artis, and only later was a decision made to organize a conference around it.
“Many people in the field asked me about it, so I realized that people need to know more about it. That is also the purpose of the conference, since it’s something that greatly affects the art world but it doesn’t have a lot of visibility,” Tamir says.
That lack of visibility stems in part from the fact that artists who choose not to cooperate with Israel do not always admit this openly. Sometimes they simply fail to respond to emails or cite other reasons not to show their work in Israel. Because there is no active protest in such cases, says Tamir, “It’s very difficult to concretize because it’s actually the absence of something.” For the same reason it is difficult to determine how many Israeli artists have not been invited to events abroad as a result of the boycott.
But for some cultural events overseas the boycott’s impact is tangible. That was the case for the 2014 Sao Paulo biennial. “It was right after the [Gaza] war in the summer, relations between Israel and Brazil were tense,” explains Tamir. “The biennial is one of the biggest art events in the world, and [last] year it was curated by a group that included two Israeli curators, Galit Eilat and Oren Sagiv. The biennial requested support from the Israeli Embassy in Brazil, along with all the other embassies, and Israel gave money. A few days before the opening, objections were raised. A compromise was reached, according to which the money from the Israeli Foreign Ministry would be used only by Israeli artists taking part in the biennial. That way the foreign artists would ostensibly not be benefiting from money that came from Israel, Tamir says.
Another example of the cultural boycott at the height of Operation Protective Edge was the cancellation of Belu-Simion Fainaru’s participation in the International Canakkale Biennial, in Turkey. In a letter to the Israeli sculptor, the artistic director of the biennial, Beral Madra, explained that given the cultural-political-social situation in Turkey Fainaru’s presence or the display of his work at the event would be inappropriate. She noted that even though the message of his work was pro-peace, it related to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, and that the organizers of this biennial were determined to avoid the inclusion of any work containing national or religious symbolism.
Noam Segal, who in the past several years has curated a number of exhibitions that have included artists from abroad, says the refusal to show in Israel can take many forms. “I wanted to invite Laure Provost,
the winner of the 2013 Turner Prize, to participate in an exhibition I’m working on, but she is a signatory to the boycott and won’t come. The same goes for Mark Leckey, who said it in a different way. Other artists have not officially signed on to the boycott but don’t respond to the invitation and it’s clear they don’t want to come. In September an exhibition I curated opened in Los Angeles and most of the artists were Israeli. There were a few journalists who wrote me to say they were impressed by the exbibition, but due to the current situation they preferred not to write reviews of exhibitions that were identified as Israeli.”
One of the goals of Thursday’s conference is to raise awareness about the existence of the boycott. “It’s a very sensitive subject that gets people fired up, for good and for ill,” says Tamir. “Within our group, some people support the boycott and some oppose it, and there are those who are aware of the contradiction, since it’s difficult to boycott yourself. We ask ourselves how is it possible to work in the field of art, that tries to be international, and at the same time to deal with a boycott from outside.”
Tamir draws a connection between the boycott and the threats to freedom of expression within Israel. “Israel is already a kind of an island. On the other hand, within Israel there is more hostility toward freedom of expression. What the war in the summer showed us was very scary. A boycott is a type of freedom of expression. Whether or not you agree with it, people have the right to practice it and to call for it. To discuss the issue of whether it’s justified or not is a different matter, but even if people have controversial views they have a right to express them.
“It’s very difficult for someone who supports both freedom of expression and freedom of action. There’s a contradiction. That’s the main issue of the boycott. If we remain completely alone here, with only our own voices and no international artist agrees to exhibit here, what would that tell us?”
One of the speakers at the conference, Hila Cohen-Schneiderman, a curator at the Petah Tikva Museum of Art who also works independently, plans to offer a proposal she calls “utopian.” She argues that Israel is already disconnected from the Arab world, preferring to “think that we belong to Europe or the United States.” The Arab boycott only reinforces this tendency. Instead she proposes that “if Arab artists were to exhibit here and make us see the place we belong to, it would be much more effective.” In that spirit she wanted to include in an upcoming exhibition a piece by Rabia Mroue,a Lebanese artist, about the civil war in Syria.
“I asked him for permission to show the work and never got an answer. In the end I came to understand in a roundabout way that the answer was negative. I see it as vital for the Israeli audience to see what is happening in Syria. If an artist like James Turrell were to boycott Israel but an artist like Rabia Mroue were to show his works here, we would benefit much more.”
Udi Edelman, a curator at the Israeli Center for Digital Art who also works independently and is one of the conference organizers, says he finds it difficult to either support fully or reject fully the idea of the boycott.
“Going all the way with it means deciding that we will no longer invite international artists, but that is a very difficult think and it isn’t necessarily the right decision. On the other hand, it would be interesting to have international artists consider these questions more deeply. If they boycott, they should do it openly or go deeper into the questions of our existence here.”