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SAY NO TO COMPLICITY & JOIN BDS

Join the BDS movement, and say no to partnerships and collaborations with complicit cultural organisations.

09

A BRIEF CONTEXT 

"A collective Palestinian voice, an absolute majority, asking democratic citizens worldwide to join us, in pressuring city councils, churches, trade unions, companies, and ultimately governments to stop its links of complicity with Israel"

OMAR BARGHOUTI
CO-FOUNDER B.D.S

BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT & SANCTIONS

      Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society. It is now a vibrant global movement.

CULTURAL BOYCOTT

      Cultural institutions are part of the ideological scaffolding of Israeli occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.  Whether through silence or direct participation in the government-led “Brand Israel” propaganda campaigns, Israeli cultural institutions actively help the systematic denial of Palestinian human rights.

            The Cultural Boycott is one aspect of BDS urges all to reject funding from the Israeli government, refuse to perform in Israel and reject collaborations involving Israel, its lobby groups or its cultural institutions. The majority of all Palestinian artists and cultural organisations including the Palestinian Performing Arts Network, upholds BDS and the Cultural Boycott. 

 

COMPLICIT NOT IDENTITY

      The cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa was a key inspiration for the Cultural Boycott.  However, one difference is that BDS targets complicity, not identity. There is a growing number of anti-colonial Israelis, including artists, writers and filmmakers, who support BDS and the cultural boycott of Israel. The cultural boycott of Israel conforms to the definition of freedom of expression as stipulated in the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). BDS rejects censorship and upholds the universal right to freedom of expression. 

TARGETING OF BDS

      Since 2014, the success of the BDS movement led Israel to start to consider it a strategic threat. In 2015 Israel committed $25 million to a new anti-BDS task force and a further $31 million in 2022. This pushed the conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism spreading misinformation that often led BDS supporters to be accused of anti-semitism. The repercussions include the German parliament voting in 2019 to condemn BDS as antisemitic and numerous cancellations and slander of Palestinian artists and their allies in Europe, the UK and the USA. Author Kamila Shamsie, artist Walid Raad, philosopher Achille Mbembe, poet Mohammed el-Kurd, and former director of the Jewish Museum Berlin, Peter Schäfer are all among those targeted.

 

      In 2016, Co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti was threatened with “civil assassination” by the Israeli Minister of Intelligence at a public conference in front of two hundred people and the world's media.

 

     In 2017 Amendment No. 28 was made in Israeli Law prohibiting the entry into Israel of any foreigner who makes a "public call for boycotting Israel" or "any area under its control" – a reference to the Israeli settlements. This also affects entry to Palestine as you must go through Israeli borders.

     In 2023 the ‘anti-boycott bill’ was passed in the UK House of Commons. It states that public bodies such as local authorities, universities and some pension funds can show no “regard to a territorial consideration” when making financial decisions, in a way that indicates “political or moral disapproval of foreign state conduct”. Clause 4(1) means that any representative could, face fines or imprisonment if they express support of BDS.

KEY AREAS OF THE CULTURAL BOYCOTT

International artists are asked not to perform or exhibit in Israel. This is because performances in Israel help to create the impression that Israel is a “normal country”, thus whitewashing its violations of Palestinian human rights. Israel considers performances in Tel Aviv as endorsement of its policies. Palestinians reject the idea that the damage done by an artist performing or exhibiting their work in Israel can in some way be compensated for by a parallel performance or exhibition in occupied Palestinian territory. This attempt at “balance” undermines Palestinian rights.

As a general overriding rule, Israeli cultural institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights. Israeli cultural institutions provide support to Israel’s crimes whether through their silence or actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. Israeli cultural institutions include music bands, orchestras, dance troupes, theatre companies, film production companies, film festivals, museums, etc.

Israeli artists that receive state funding often sign a contract promising to be a good ambassador for Israel and its policies. Any resultant cultural product or event is clearly boycottable. All non-Israeli (e.g., international, Palestinian) cultural products that are funded by official Israeli bodies or international “brand Israel” organizations are politically motivated and should be subject to boycott. Israeli cultural products that receive state funding as part of the individual cultural worker’s entitlement as a tax-paying citizen, without her/him being bound to serve the state’s political and propaganda interests, are not boycottable.

The general principle is that any cultural activity or event carried out under the sponsorship of or in cooperation with an official Israeli body, Israeli lobby group or a complicit institution constitutes complicity and therefore is deserving of boycott. The same may apply to support or sponsorship from non-Israeli institutions that serve Israel’s branding/propaganda purposes. Events and activities include art exhibits, film screenings, festival, plays, conferences, performances (music, dance, etc.), tours, among other activities.

In the Palestinian context, normalization refers to any activity that creates the impression that Israel is a state like any other and that Palestinians, the oppressed, and Israel, the oppressor, are both equally responsible for “the conflict”. Far from challenging the unjust status quo, such projects contribute to its endurance, are intellectually dishonest and should be boycotted. An example of a boycottable normalization project would be a joint event that is designed explicitly to bring together Palestinians/Arabs and Israelis so they can present their respective narratives or perspectives, or to work toward reconciliation without addressing the root causes of injustice. However, a joint project is not boycottable if: (a) the Israeli party in the project recognizes the comprehensive Palestinian rights under international law (corresponding to the 3 rights in the BDS call); and (b) the project/activity is one of “co-resistance” to oppression rather than “co-existence” under oppression.

Fact finding missions that are sponsored by Israel, Israeli institutions or lobby groups are boycottable.

EXAMPLES OF ACTION TO INSPIRE YOUR OWN

The numbers below give an example for each of the six key areas of cultural boycott.

1.

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Lauryn Hill, the American singer famous for her cover of Killing Me Softly, cancelled a concert in Israel at three days notice after pressure from groups calling for a cultural boycott of Israel.

4.

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More than 20 acts have pulled out of the 2022 Sydney festival, just 48 hours before opening night, boycotting the festival over a sponsorship deal with the Israeli embassy.

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2.
 

Queer|Art publically declared its refusal to collaborate with or receive funding from any institutions that continue to contribute to this cruel system of apartheid that steals both life and land from Palestinian families.

5.

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Fellows end their association with TED after no longer wanting to be associated with an organisation that platforms and honours vocal supporters of Israel’s genocide of Palestinians.

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3.
 

The composer and producer Brian Eno has denied permission for one of Israel’s most critically acclaimed dance companies to continue using his music for a series of performances in Italy after he discovered that the Israeli embassy was sponsoring the event.

6.

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Israel offered all-expenses-paid trips to 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock and 25 top nominees. The Israeli tourism ministry organized the trip with hopes that the superstars would use their platforms to show Israel in a positive light, countering worldwide outrage over Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Not one celeb took up the offer.

CREATE AN APARTHEID FREE
CULTURAL SPACE

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The Apartheid Free Zones campaign promotes the creation of spaces of proactive solidarity with the Palestinian people. Inspired by the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the Apartheid Free Zones (AFZ) campaign seeks to cut links of complicity in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, especially those related to the UN-defined crime of apartheid.

READ TESTIMONIES FROM THE REVOLUTION'S PROMISE

The Revolution's Promise is a collection of testimonies from Palestinian artists under attack. They are available to read, perform and share in multiple languages at public events, protests, Universities and in your local community or groups. There is also a full-length script of 1hr, put together from some of the stories.

READ ALL THE TESTIMONIES >>

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE REVOLUTION'S PROMISE >>

Below are testimonies in English specific to Cultural Boycott.

OMAR BARGHOUTI

ON BDS, CULTURAL BOYCOTT & THREATS TO HIS LIFE, 2005 - 2020

Omar Barghouti speaks about BDS, including the Cultural Boycott, and the consequences he as faced as the co-founder

BIOGRAPHY >>

BDS & THE CULTURAL BOYCOTT

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