Five hundred Montreal artists speak out against Israeli apartheid

26 February 2010

The following statement was issued on 25 February 2010:

Today, a broad spectrum of Montreal artists are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and supporting the growing international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state. Last winter, the Israeli state launched a violent military assault on the Palestinian people of the Gaza Strip, leaving over 1,400 Palestinians dead, including over 300 children. Despite the official end of military operations, the blockade continues to this day, with devastating consequences for Gaza’s residents.

Over 60 years from the beginning of the ongoing Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from historic Palestine through Israel’s creation, Montreal artists are united in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

Montreal artists are now joining this international campaign to concretely protest the Israeli state’s ongoing denial of the inalienable rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in and protected by international law, as well as Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza, which also constitutes a violation of international law and multiple United Nations resolutions.

Palestinian citizens face an entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation, resembling the defeated apartheid system in South Africa. A matrix of Israeli-only roads, electrified fences, and over 500 military checkpoints and roadblocks erase freedom of movement for Palestinians. Israel’s apartheid wall, which was condemned by the International Court of Justice in 2004, cuts through Palestinian lands, further annexing Palestinian territory and surrounding Palestinian communities with electrified barbed wire fences and a concrete barrier soaring eight meters high.

Gaza remains under siege. Israel continues to impose collective punishment on the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza, who still face chronic shortages of electricity, fuel, food and basic necessities as the campaign of military violence executed by the apartheid state of Israel endures. UN officials recently observed that the “situation has deteriorated into a full-fledged emergency because of the cut-off of vital supplies for Palestinians.” As a result of Israeli actions, Gaza has become a giant prison.

The global movement against Israeli apartheid, supported by a large majority of Palestinian civil society, is not targeted at individual Israelis but at Israeli institutions that are complicit in maintaining the multi-tiered Israeli system of oppression against the Palestinian people.

In fact, the Palestinian civil society BDS call, launched by over 170 Palestinian organizations in 2005, explicitly appeals to conscientious Israelis, urging them to support international efforts to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law and fundamental human rights, essential elements for a justice-based peace in the region. The present appeal is also rooted in an active engagement with many progressive Israeli artists and activists who are working on a daily basis for peace and justice while supporting the growing global movement in opposition to Israeli apartheid.

During the first and second intifadas, Israel invaded, ransacked and even closed down cinemas, theatres and cultural centers in the occupied territories. These deliberate attempts to stifle the Palestinian cultural voice have failed and will continue to fail. Around the world, the call for BDS is growing and is strongly rooted in the historic international solidarity movement against apartheid in South Africa.

In keeping with Nelson Mandela’s declaration that “our freedom [in South Africa] is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” we believe that international solidarity is critical to liberating Palestinians from Israeli colonialism and apartheid. This struggle will continue until all Palestinians are granted their basic human rights, including the right of return for all Palestinian refugees living in the Diaspora.

Today, a diverse array of artists in Montreal, from filmmakers, musicians and dancers to poets, authors and painters, are joining the international movement against Israeli apartheid. On the streets, in concert halls, in words and in song, we commit to fighting against apartheid and call upon all artists and cultural producers across the country and around the world to adopt a similar position in this global struggle.

View the signatories to this statement