John Berger and 93 other authors, film-makers, musicians and performers call for a cultural boycott of Israel

Israel solders arrest a Palestinian protester during the weekly demonstration against the separation wall in the village of Bil’in near the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 8, 2006. (MaanImages/Fadi Arouri)


PACBI is pleased to announce that in a letter that appears in today’s Guardian, the 94, including the renowned author John Berger; UK musicians and song-writers Brian Eno and Leon Rosselson; filmmakers Sophie Fiennes, Elia Suleiman and Haim Bresheeth; documentary maker Jenny Morgan; singer Reem Kelani; writers Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, and Eduardo Galeano, call on their colleagues not to visit, exhibit or perform in Israel.

The letter comes after the August 2006 statement issued by Palestinian filmmakers, artists, writers, and other cultural workers calling for a cultural boycott of Israel.

The Berger letter, signed by artists from across Europe, North and South America, as well as Palestinians and Israelis, reads:

“There is a fragile ceasefire in Lebanon, albeit daily violated by Israeli overflights. Meanwhile the day to day brutality of the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank continues. Ten Palestinians are killed for every Israeli death; more than 200, many of them children, have been killed since the summer. UN resolutions are flouted, human rights violated as Palestinian land is stolen, houses demolished and crops destroyed. For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for the Jewish (former ANC military commander presently South African minister of security), Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid. Meantime Western governments refer to Israel’s ‘legitimate right’ of self-defence, and continue to supply weaponry.

The challenge of apartheid was fought better. The non-violent international response to apartheid was a campaign of boycott, divestment, and, finally UN imposed sanctions which enabled the regime to change without terrible bloodshed. Today Palestinians teachers, writers, film-makers and non-governmental organisations have called for a comparable academic and cultural boycott of Israel as offering another path to a just peace. This call has been endorsed internationally by university teachers in many European countries, by film-makers and architects, and by some brave Israeli dissidents. It is now time for others to join the campaign ¡ as Primo Levi asked: If not now, when?

We call on creative writers and artists to support our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues by endorsing the boycott call. Read the Palestinian call (www.pacbi.org).

Don’t visit, exhibit or perform in Israel!”

To endorse the letter and add your name, contact info@bricup.org.uk

An introductory letter from John Berger follows the full list of signatories below:

Full list of signatures as of 13th December:

Aguirre, Carmen, (dramatist)
Al Bayati, Hana (film-maker)
Alcalay, Ammiel, (poet)
Alkadhi, Rheim (artist)
Aziz, Sylvat (artist)
Benner, Ron (artist)
Berger, John (writer and artist)
Beverley, John (writer)
Bove, Paul (editor and writer)
Bresheeth, Haim (film-maker)
Brittain, Victoria (writer)
Budney, Jen (curator)
Cameron, Lindsley (author)
Carew, Keggie (artist)
Casana, Manuel Molins (dramatist)
Chanan, Michael (writer and film-maker)
Chirot, David-Baptiste (artist/writer)
Chrysakis,. Thanos (composer)
Courtney, Andrew (artist)
Cox, Molly Hankwitz (artist and writer)
Creativity commons collective
D’Agostino, Ornella (choreographer)
Davis, Matt (musician)
Deane, Raymond (musician)
Deutsch, Stephen (composer)
Dibb, Mike (film maker)
Donoghue, Ben (film maker)
Eno, Brian (musician)
Erfanian, Eshrat (artist)
Fiennes, Sophie (film-maker)
Fisher, Jean (writer)
Frere, Jane (video artist)
Fried, Klaus (film maker)
Galeano, Eduardo (writer)
Ghaibah, Anas (TV director)
Ghossein, Mirene (writer and editor)
Gill, Rajdeep Singh (curator)
Gordon, Avery (writer)
Greyson, John (film-maker)
Guillen, Maria Munoz (dancer)
Halama, Henry (artist)
Hamka, Nada (artist)
Hashemi, Gita (artist)
Hassan, Jamelie (artist)
Huleileh, Serene (dancer/choreographer)
Humm, Maggie (writer)
Hussien, Reham (translator)
James, Rob (writer)
Jenik, Adriene (media artist)
Jimeno, Dolores (writer)
Joly, Magdalene (dancer and musician)
Kelani, Reem (singer)
Karabelia, Vassia (art historian)
Kauff, Tarak (writer)
Kaya, Mircan (musician)
Knupp, Rainer (movement artist)
Kukovec, Dunja (art historian)
Kumar, Vinod (writer)
Lane, Joel (poet)
Levidow, Les (writer and musician)
Loshitzky, Yosefa (writer)
Lozano, Rian (curator)
Malinowitz, Harriet (writer)
Marlat, Daphne (writer)
Masri, Hala (theatre coordinator)
Matelli, Federica (curator)
McCaughey, Peter (artist)
Metcalfe, Rohelia Hamilton (Film-maker)
Miyoshi, Masao (writer)
Montagnino, Carlo (artist)
Morgan, Jenny (film-maker)
Muntadas, Antoni (artist0
Naguib, Fabiola Nabil (curator)
Neufeldt, Brigitte (artist)
Nunez, Alejandra Perez (sound artist)
Ostrow, Saul (critic/curator)
Pangbourne, Annabelle (composer)
Parker, Cornelia (artist)
Pennell, Miranda (film-maker)
Radhakrishnan, R (writer)
Rosselson, Leon (song writer and author)
Roy, Arundhati (novelist)
Rubin, Andrew (writer)
Salloum, Jayce (artist)
Sampaio, Miriam (artist)
Samuel, Julian (novelist)
Sances, Jos (artist)
Saraste, Leena (photographer)
Sarlin, Paige (film-maker)
Scorda, Cinzia (performer)
Serra, Toni /Abu Ali (videomaker)
Shammas, Anton (novelist and film-maker)
Shibli, Ahlam (artist)
Shiri, Keith (curator)
Simons, Patrick (composer)
Smith, John (artist-film-maker)
Solt, John (poet)
Somes-Charlton, Chris (director)
Soueif, Ahdaf (novelist)
Staikou, Evi (artist)
Suleiman, Elia (film maker)
Sureda, Joseph Ramis (dancer)
Szpakowski, Michael (composer)
Tres (artist)
Tudela, Ana Navarrete (artist)
Valldosera, Eulalia (artist)
Van Zwanenberg, Roger (publisher)
Walkley, Ron (architect)
Ward, David (composer)
Younghusband, Gene (media theorist)
Zangana, Haifa (novelist)

From John Berger:

I would like to make a few personal remarks about this world-wide appeal to teachers, intellectuals and artists to join the cultural boycott of the state of Israel, as called for by over a hundred Palestinian academics and artists, and - very importantly - also by a number of Israeli public figures, who outspokenly oppose their country’s illegal occupation of the Palestine territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Their call is attached, together with my After Guernica drawing. I hope you will feel able to add your signature, to the attached letter, which we intend to publish in national newspapers.

The boycott is an active protest against two forms of exclusion which have persisted, despite many other forms of protestations, for over sixty years -for almost three generations.

During this period the state of Israel has consistently excluded itself from any international obligation to heed UN resolutions or the judgement of any international court. To date, it has defied 246 Security Council Resolutions!

As a direct consequence seven million Palestinians have been excluded from the right to live as they wish on land internationally acknowledged to be theirs; and now increasingly, with every week that passes, they are being excluded from their right to any future at all as a nation.

As Nelson Mandela has pointed out, boycott is not a principle, it is a tactic depending upon circumstances. A tactic which allows people, as distinct from their elected but often craven governments, to apply a certain pressure on those wielding power in what they, the boycotters, consider to be an unjust or immoral way. (In white South Africa yesterday and in Israel today, the immorality was, or is being, coded into a form of racist apartheid).

Boycott is not a principle. When it becomes one, it itself risks to become exclusive and racist. No boycott, in our sense of the term, should be directed against an individual, a people, or a nation as such. A boycott is directed against a policy and the institutions which support that policy either actively or tacitly. Its aim is not to reject, but to bring about change.

How to apply a cultural boycott? A boycott of goods is a simpler proposition, but in this case it would probably be less effective, and speed is of the essence, because the situation is deteriorating every month (which is precisely why some of the most powerful world political leaders, hoping for the worst, keep silent.).

How to apply a boycott? For academics it’s perhaps a little clearer - a question of declining invitations from state institutions and explaining why. For invited actors, musicians, jugglers or poets it can be more complicated. I’m convinced, in any case, that its application should not be systematised; it has to come from a personal choice based on a personal assessment.

For instance. An important mainstream Israeli publisher today is asking to publish three of my books. I intend to apply the boycott with an explanation. There exist, however, a few small, marginal Israeli publishers who expressly work to encourage exchanges and bridges between Arabs and Israelis, and if one of them should ask to publish something of mine, I would unhesitatingly agree and furthermore waive aside any question of author’s royalties. I don’t ask other writers supporting the boycott to come necessarily to exactly the same conclusion. I simply offer an example.

What is important is that we make our chosen protests together, and that we speak out, thus breaking the silence of connivance maintained by those who claim to represent us, and thus ourselves representing, briefly by our common action, the incalculable number of people who have been appalled by recent events but lack the opportunity of making their sense of outrage effective.

John Berger

Related Links

  • The Palestinian statement calling for academic and cultural boycott
  • Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
  • BY TOPIC: Cultural Boycott