Cultural boycott against Israeli apartheid

Cultural Boycott

Historical context

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.

In July 2004, the Campaign issued a statement of principles, addressed to our colleagues in the international community urging them to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid. This statement was met with widespread support, and has to date been endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian academic, cultural and other civil society federations, unions, and organizations, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees and the Palestinian NGO Network in the West Bank. The campaign has also established an advisory committee comprised of well-known public figures and intellectuals.

PACBI call

What is the Institutional Cultural Boycott?

In this context, in August 2006, over 100 Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural workers have called on filmmakers and artists worldwide to, among other things:

– Cancel art exhibitions planned in Israel
– Boycott Israeli film festivals, ّIsraeli cultural venues
– End all cooperation with Israeli art, film and cultural organizations and institutions sponsored by the Israeli government
– Refrain from participation in any form of cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions
– Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions
– Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international institutions
– Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by cultural associations and organizations
– Support Palestinian cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support

How about Individual Cultural Boycott?

The Palestinian call for cultural boycott, as other Palestinian boycott campaigns, is an institutional boycott and it does not target individual Israeli artists, as long as they are clearly detached from institutions that are either Israeli, zionist or related to the Israeli government.

This is a conscient decision to make it a “soft” boycott, unlike the boycott of South-Africa in the eighties where even individual south-african artists would be boycotted. The step further towards a harder boycott, both institutional and individual, is up to Palestinians to decide in the future.

An individual Israeli piece of art can be supportive of the Palestinian oppression or not. But if it is financed by Israeli or Zionist institutions, then it is no longer a purely cultural event. If it pretends to be neutral or apolitical, by default it supports the oppression. Palestinian artists don’t have the luxury to make purely cultural pieces.

If progressive Israeli artists denounce the Palestinian oppression, they should comply with the boycott. Yes, the boycott hurts the Palestinian artists and the progressive Israeli artists, which is why it was a long thought process to come up with such a decision. But now that the decision was made, progressive Israeli artists should, together with their Palestinian collegues, refuse to appear in Israeli cultural events such as festivals or international exhibitions.

First calls by artists

Roger Waters (April 2006)
Haim Bresheeth (May 2006)
Ken Loach (August 2006)
John Berger, Brian Eno, Sophie Fiennes, Eduardo Galeano, Reem Kelani, Leon Rosselson, Reem Kelani, Steven Rose, Ahdaf Soueif, Arundhati Roy, Elia Suleiman and 85 others (December 2006)

Examples in Montreal:

In early June 2007, Tadamon and CAIA Montreal have organised a boycott of the Israeli Film Festival by picketting in front of Cinéma du Parc and organising an alternative counter festival with Palestinian movies screened in the street. The Israeli consulate had chosen this date for the festival to draw the attention of the public towards Israeli culture rather than towards the commemoration of 40 years of illegal occupation of Jerusalem, the west bank, the Gaza strip and the Golan heights.

In November 2007, the same people have launched the first Palestinian Film Festival of Montreal, at the Cinéma du Parc, hoping to make it a regular event to celebrate the Palestinian culture and resistance. For more information, click here.

In Februrary 2008, Malcolm Guy, Filmmaker and Producer, has withdrawn as a member of the jury for the 2008 Prize of the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Foundation for the Promotion of Tolerance through Cinema (2008 Prix annuel de la Fondation Alex et Ruth Dworkin pour la promotion de la tolérance à travers le cinéma) at the Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québecois. His letter of withdrawal has been published on the Tadamon website because it is a fine example of an individual taking part in the cultural boycott of the Israeli apartheid. For more details, click here.

In May 2008, the first International Writers Festival was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem, just three days after Israel’s official celebrations of 60 years of independence. Substantially financed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, this festival must necessarily be seen in the context of the Israeli government’s wider public relations campaign to bring international artistic, cultural and political figures to brighten the state’s image on the international stage. Tadamon has written to Erri de Luca and Nadine Gordimer, encouraging them to boycott the event. For more details, click here.

In June 2008, Jean-Luc Godard, the famous swiss movie director decided not to attend the Tel-Aviv Film Festival. In July 2008, Tadamon wrote a congratulation letter.

For Background Information:

Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel Campaign
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (Toronto)
Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
As a subset of the cultural boycott of Israel, one can add the Sports Boycott
Boycott sportif (in french)


It is great to read the update on this campaign.
Ps At we’re running a survey on the most boycotted companies in the UK. There is also a question about countries you boycott. Non-UK people are welcome to participate and their answers will be used to structure our next (USA-based) survey.

Comment by Pamela — May 3rd, 2008 @ 3:17 AM

I have attempted to stop the University of Toronto, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education , the Ontario English Catholic Teacher’s Association , and the Ontario College of Teachers from legitimizing ISRAEL by promoting, in their various ways a course on RELIGION in ISRAEL (Summer, 2009).

Comment by Gary D'Orazio — January 6th, 2009 @ 1:33 PM

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