Just as South African anti-apartheid activists had called on international artists, writers and cultural institutions to culturally boycott South Africa, PACBI urges international cultural workers and cultural organizations, including unions and associations, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israel, its lobby groups or its cultural institutions. International venues and festivals are asked to reject funding and any form of sponsorship from the Israeli government.
Thousands of artists across the world now refuse to perform in Israel, including a host of global superstars such as Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, Lauryn Hill and Chuck D.
The case for a cultural boycott of Israel
The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs provides funding to Israeli artists and writers with the condition that they as “service providers” should “promote the policy interests” of Israel.
Many Israeli artists act as “cultural ambassadors” for the state.
When international artists perform at Israeli cultural venues and institutions, they help to create the false impression that Israel is a “normal” country like any other.
The absolute majority of Palestinian writers, artists and cultural centers have endorsed the cultural boycott of Israel, and there is a growing number of anti-colonial Israelis who support BDS, including the cultural boycott of Israel.
In response to PACBI, and to distract from and whitewash its crimes against the Palestinians, Israel launched the “Brand Israel” campaign in 2005.
Following its 2009 massacre in Gaza, for example, an Israeli official announced a plan to “send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits” to “show Israel’s prettier face”.
Israeli artists who receive state funding to perform overseas often sign a contract pledging “to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel,” thus forfeiting any claim to artistic freedom.
Some international venues are increasingly reluctant to accept Israeli government funding or host artists/writers funded by the Israeli government.
When international artists perform at Israeli cultural venues and institutions, they help to create the impression that Israel is a normal country like any other.
Israel celebrates visits by international artists as a sign of support for its policies. For example, when Alicia Keys violated the boycott and performed in Tel Aviv in 2013, her visit was proudly tweeted at least eight times by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A growing number of artists, including superstars like Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, Lauryn Hill and Chuck D, now refuse to perform in Israel. Many others exercise a “silent boycott” by refusing to schedule cultural events in Tel Aviv without publicly supporting BDS.
As part of its ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, Israel has pursued a policy of deliberately targeting Palestinian culture. To give just a few examples:
During the 1948 Nakba (Zionist ethnic cleansing of most of the indigenous Palestinians), Zionist militias and later Israel plundered and/or destroyed tens of thousands of Palestinian books.
In 2009, the Arab League and UNESCO designated Jerusalem as Capital of Arab Culture for that year. Israel banned the celebrations and its police broke up cultural gatherings in venues across occupied East Jerusalem.
During Israel’s military invasion of Ramallah in 2002, soldiers ransacked cultural centers and destroyed original manuscripts belonging to Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
For more examples see: The Case for a Cultural Boycott of Israel (Artists for Palestine UK).
Israel’s regime of oppression against the Palestinian people may be a special cocktail of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid. But some leading South African figures, like Mandela government minister Ronnie Kasrils and Christian leaders who fought apartheid, have argued that Israel is a more sophisticated, evolved and brutal form of apartheid than its South African predecessor.
Those who are now hesitant to support an institutional cultural boycott of Israel while having in the past endorsed a blanket cultural boycott against apartheid South Africa are hard pressed to explain this inconsistency.
In 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a collective of Palestinian academics, artists and cultural workers, issued a call for a cultural boycott of Israel.
The call urges international artists, cultural workers and cultural organisations to boycott and work towards the cancellation of and activities that involve Israel, its lobby groups and complicit institutions or that whitewash Israel’s human rights violations.
Find out more by reading the full call or the cultural boycott guidelines.
Support for the cultural boycott and cancellations of performances receive very significant media exposure in Israel, showing ordinary Israelis that there is increasing opposition to Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights.
Thousands of artists from across the world now support the cultural boycott
Distinguished cultural figures who have endorsed the cultural boycott of Israel include the late Stéphane Hessel, Holocaust survivor and contributor to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Chuck D (pictured left), Roger Waters (pictured above spray painting apartheid wall), Talib Kweli, John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Iain Banks, Judith Butler, Junot Diaz, Naomi Klein, Ken Loach, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Mira Nair, Mike Leigh and many others.
Many high profile artists have cancelled events in Israel
Despite offering large sums of money to international artists to defy the cultural boycott, Israeli promoters complain that it is becoming increasingly hard for them to attract famous artists.
Cultural institutions reject Israeli state funding
In 2014, the prestigious São Paulo Biennial festival ended an Israeli sponsorship deal following calls to do so by a vast majority of the participating artists.
The message that BDS targets Israel’s regime of oppression and its cultural ambassadors is getting through to Israeli artists.
Artists have an especially important role to play. If you’re an artist, please show your support for the cultural boycott of Israel and persuade your fellow artists to do the same.
Spread the Word Title
Join the cultural boycott of Israel!
Refraining from participating in cultural events in Israel or in Israel-funded activities around the world is the most important expression of support the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel. If you’re in the US, South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Switzerland or France there are public pledges in support of the cultural boycott that you can add your name to.
Let your favourite artists know about the cultural boycott
Whoever your favourite artists are, make sure they know about the fact that Palestinian artists are calling for a cultural boycott of Israel. Experience shows that polite, fact-based and logical letters, tweets and messages to artists work best to convince them to heed or endorse the cultural boycott as an effective way to support Palestinian rights.
Tell people about your support for the cultural boycott!
Join an international campaign against a big name artist
Organise a statement of support from artists in your country or field
Bring artists and cultural workers together to discuss the cultural boycott
Make sure your local cultural venue is “occupation free”
Cultural Boycott guidelines - a summary
This is a boycott of Israeli cultural institutions not Israeli individuals. BDS targets complicit, not identity.
The cultural boycott of Israel should continue until Israel meets the three demands of the BDS call.
Israeli cultural institutions can avoid being targeted by the boycott if they meet the three demands of the BDS call and end all forms of support for Israeli violations of international law.
Common sense boycotts
Yes! Many factors point to the success of the cultural boycott of Israel.
Highlighting her commitment to “justice and peace,” the iconic US R&B singer Lauryn Hill cancelled a scheduled performance in Tel Aviv in 2015, after appeals from Palestinian, Israeli, and international BDS activists.
Distinguished artists, writers and public intellectuals who have endorsed or heeded the cultural boycott include the late Stéphane Hessel, Holocaust survivor and contributor to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; John Berger; Arundhati Roy; Judith Butler; Naomi Klein; Ken Loach; Alice Walker; Angela Davis; Mira Nair; Roger Waters; Snoop Dogg; Brian Eno; Jean Luc Godard; Elvis Costello; Gil Scott Heron; Faithless; Zakir Hussain; Mike Leigh and many others.