Cultural boycott

(this came my way via China Miéville, and I add my far less noteworthy support to this letter as well)

Israeli Apartheid is not Fiction!
Cancel the special tribute to Israel in the London Sci-Fi Festival!

Open letter to the organizers and attendees of Sci-Fi-London International
Festival 2009

Ramallah, 29 April 2009

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
(PACBI) is writing to the organizers of the Sci-Fi-London International
Festival of Science Fiction and Fantasy Film to urge you to cancel the
special “Focus on: Israel” in your festival in London from 29 April – 4
May. We also urge the attendees of this festival, if its organizers insist
on the special tribute to Israel, to protest the inclusion of this session
and to boycott the focus on Israel. Honoring Israel in any field right
after its massacre in Gaza shows either apathetic disregard for the lives
and rights of the Palestinian people or, worse, complicity in Israel’s
grave violations of international law and human rights principles.

We understand that the focus on Israel is organized in cooperation with
the British Council of Arts in Israel as part of the British Israeli Arts
Training Scheme, BI-ARTS, which is funded by Israel’s Ministry of Science,
Culture and Sports and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The latter, it is
worth noting, is currently headed by the ultra-right racist Israeli
politician, Avigdor Lieberman, who in response to the struggle of
Palestinian citizens of Israel for equality and full citizenship rights
has continuously advocated their ethnic cleansing, notoriously stating
that “minorities are the biggest problem in the world.” By organizing this
session celebrating Israel’s contributions to the field, you will be
effectively welcoming into your highly esteemed international forum a
state that maintains the world’s longest regime of occupation and
colonization as well as the only surviving apartheid.

On the festival’s website it states that the focus on Israel aims to
examine the sci-fi “what if’s” being explored in other countries. Yet, we
wonder if you are aware of Israel’s over 60-year old colonial history of
brutally subjugating the Palestinian people. Israel’s recent war on Gaza
is the latest chapter in this history of colonial oppression. In this
brutal military campaign, Israel killed over 1,440 Palestinians, of whom
431 were children, and injured another 5380 [1]. Israel subjected the
besieged population of Gaza to three weeks of unrelenting state terror.
Israeli warplanes targeted and bombed densely populated civilian areas,
using illegal munitions, such as white phosphorous, and reduced whole
neighbourhoods and vital civilian infrastructure to rubble, not to mention
its wilful mass destruction of agricultural land. In addition to this,
Israel also partially destroyed Gaza’s leading university and scores of
schools, including several run by the UN and used as civilian shelters
during the war of aggression. The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights
in the occupied Palestinian territory has described the Israeli attack on
Gaza as “a war crime of the gravest magnitude under international law.”

Israel’s war on Gaza was not an anomaly but an integral part of the
systematic policies of ethnic cleansing and colonial oppression that
Israel has carried out against the Palestinian people. The state of Israel
was established in 1948 by forcibly expelling the overwhelming majority of
Palestine’s indigenous Arab population. For 60 years now, Israel has
continued to deny the millions of displaced Palestinian refugees their
UN-sanctioned rights to return to their homes of origin. For the last 41
years, Israel has maintained a repressive military occupation over the
West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, violating Palestinians’
most fundamental human rights with impunity. Israel extra-judicially kills
Palestinian activists and leaders; subjects Palestinians to daily military
violence; routinely demolishes Palestinian homes and illegally confiscates
Palestinian land. Israeli continues to expand illegal Jewish colonies on
occupied Palestinian land, linking them to an apartheid system of
Jewish-only roads, and the Wall that was declared illegal by the
International Court of Justice in 2004. Israel’s policies of repression
systematically target all aspects of Palestinian life and are designed to
crush the Palestinian will, creativity and human spirit. Since the early
1970’s Israel has targeted and routinely closed Palestinian universities
and cultural centres in the West Bank and Gaza, and imposed a repressive
system of censorship, banning scores of books – effectively imposing a
stranglehold designed to prevent Palestinian cultural expression. From
1979 to 1992, Birzeit University was closed 60% of the time by Israeli
military orders [2].

The injustice and the violent suppression of the Palestinian struggle for
freedom have lasted too long. To bring an end to this oppression,
Palestinian civil society has called on people of conscience throughout
the world to take a stand and support our struggle for freedom by adopting
boycott, divestments and sanctions, BDS, against Israel until it fully
complies with international law and recognizes our inalienable rights [3].
This BDS call has received resounding international support, and has been
endorsed by a number of prominent international cultural figures and
Israeli artists, including Aharon Shabtai, John Berger, Ken Loach,
Arundhati Roy, Roger Waters, John Williams and others. Other high profile
artists have also heeded our call by cancelling gigs in Israel; these
included Bono, Bjork, Snoop Dogg and Jean Luc Goddard.

In calling on artists to support the cultural boycott of Israel, John
Berger urged artists to adopt the boycott as a mechanism of protest and a
means to end the silence surrounding the impunity with which Israel
violates international law and denies Palestinian their basic human rights
[4]. In endorsing the boycott, the prominent Israeli poet, Aharon Shabtai,

“A State which maintains an occupation and commits daily crimes against
civilians does not deserve to be invited to whichever cultural week. We
cannot accept to be part of that. Israel is not a democratic State but an
apartheid State. We cannot support that State at all” [5].

To claim the cultural field is “neutral” in the face of systematic and
persistent injustice is to effectively side with the oppressor.
International solidarity and support for the boycott of South African
played a pivotal role in helping bring down the apartheid regime.
Similarly, we sincerely hope you will take a moral stand and cancel your
tribute to Israel, until it meets its obligations under international law
and recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to live in freedom and
equality in their homeland.

Yours truly,

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Apartheid State of Israel: a Jew is sentenced to death for selling land to the Palestinians and the world is silent.