700 BRITISH artists have signed a pledge to boycott Israel as long as it ‘continues to deny basic Palestinian rights’.
The group, Artists for Palestine UK, which organised the pledge stated yesterday: ‘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.’
It added: ‘We support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.’
As did the vote in the House of Commons urging the government to recognise the state of Palestine, the pledge’s supporters include many British citizens of Jewish heritage, including prominent actress Miriam Margolyes.
She said: ‘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.
‘My support for the Palestinian cause is fiercer because I am Jewish and I honour the strengths of that religion and the suffering my people have experienced through the years.
‘My visits to Palestine showed me at first hand how the people there are treated by Israeli forces. Their lack of humanity disgusts me – I want no part of it,’ she said in a statement.
She added: ‘I realise we were fed a lie about the foundation of the State of Israel, a lie forged certainly out of desperate need to help the dispossessed millions devastated by the horror of the Nazi regime. But to force people from their homes, from their ancestral lands – that is no answer.’
Director and screenwriter Michael Radford’s sentiment is that: ‘As the son of a Jewish refugee, the anger and despair I feel can only faintly echo that of the people of Gaza.
‘Art is a celebration of humanity, and the symbolic gesture of refusing any artistic collaboration with a state which values its own contribution to the arts so highly is the least we can do to protest against the horrifying inhumanity of its actions.’
Former head of the English PEN writers’ union, Gillian Slovo, compared his support to the boycott of Israel to the boycott of South Africa in a statement.
‘As a South African I witnessed the way the cultural boycott of South Africa helped apply pressure on the apartheid government and its supporters.
‘Now we are saying, in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashkelon or Ariel, we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.
‘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.’
One hundred of the artists who signed the pledge also published a letter in the Guardian newspaper on Friday explaining their decision.
‘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”,’ the letter noted.
‘We invite all those working in the arts in Britain to join us.’
This pledge and letter will have the support of many millions of workers in the UK, who will be seeking ways to support the ‘pledge’.
One way is through the trade unions which provide the main body of support to the Labour Party now fighting to win the next general election on May 7th.
The trade unions, which finance the Labour Party must insist that Labour supports the artists’ pledge and that the Labour Party’s general election manifesto must state this, and that a Labour government will recognise the State of Palestine, and give it every aid and assistance to aid its foundation, and that it will halt the UK’s arming of Israel, which was one of the ways that the UK contributed to the recent 50-day Gaza massacre of the Palestinian people.