As South African Artists and Cultural Workers who have lived under, survived, and in many cases resisted apartheid, we acknowledge the value of international solidarity in our own struggle. It is in this context that we respond to the call by Palestinians, and their Israeli allies, for such solidarity.
As artists of conscience we say no to apartheid - anywhere. We respond to the call for international solidarity and undertake not to avail any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel. Nor will we accept funding from institutions linked to the government of Israel. This is our position until such time as Israel, in the least, complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. Until then, we too unite with international colleagues under the banner of “Artists Against Apartheid.”
Apartheid and Collaborating with it
Collaborating with institutions linked to the state of Israel cannot be regarded as a neutral act in the name of cultural exchange.
In an official report commissioned by the South African government in 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel, by its policies and practices, is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Numerous others, including South Africans who have a deep familiarity with racial oppression (and resistance to it), have spoken of life in the shadow of Israeli repression as akin to or worse to that under apartheid in South Africa.
Artistic performances in Israel promote a “business as usual” attitude that normalizes and “whitewashes” a state that is guilty of daily forms of exclusion, violence and war crimes. Operation Cast Lead in Gaza saw over 400 children killed by the Israeli military; and the unconscionable attack by Israel in international waters aboard the Freedom Flotilla resulted in the death of nine humanitarian aid workers. (Both have been described as crimes in violation of international law – the former by the 2009 Goldstone report and the latter by the UN Human Rights Council.)
As artists of conscience we can act to resist the normalization of Israel’s apartheid policies. Some may hide behind the excuse that art is apolitical. However, artists have not been hesitant in taking a position against racism and inequality. As South Africans we benefitted from such a position of conscience. For example, members of the British Musicians' Union, pledged not to perform in South Africa as long as apartheid was in effect. Numerous organizations and artists in film, television, theatre and other arts fell in line against the South African regime and contributed to the denormalisation of South African apartheid which eventually led to that regime’s demise – and to the birth of a free and democratic country, for all.
Joining the International Momentum
Inspired by the boycott of Apartheid South Africa, Palestinians have made a call for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign of Israel. This call has been actively supported by Israelis as well.
British writer John Berger, Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, US poet Adrienne Rich, British film director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty are just some of the prominent voices that have joined this call. In a movement that continues to gain momentum, a string of artists have recently either cancelled shows or pledged their refusal to be complicit in Israeli Apartheid. Some names include: Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Dustin Hoffman, Meg Ryan, Faithless and Massive Attack. For futher details, refer to the attached