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Scots campaigning for Palestinian rights have responded to hypocriticalcomments by Fergus Linehan, the new director of the Edinburgh International Festival, and his predecessor Jonathan Mills. Last week Linehan and Mills spoke out against Palestine solidarity actions over recent years that have disrupted and closed down Israel-state endorsed events during Edinburghs Festival, when they were participating in the panel discussion at the Walking the Tightrope production at Underbelly.

Albie O'Neill, secretary of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign who will be taking part in the Walking the Tightropepanel discussion on Tuesday with the Israeli Embassy cultural attaché Dan Golan, said "If we were all to follow the pompous and self-righteous advice of Linehan and Mills, I am sure that apartheid in South Africa would still be standing and women in Scotland would still be denied the vote.

"If Linehan and Mills are not interested in the well documented war crimes, torture and human rights abuses carried out by Israel, I doubt they have much time to consider how Israel denies freedom of expression to Palestinians. Fortunately, millions of decent people around the world care enough to hold Israel to account.” 

ONeill continues: Countless performers have been arrested without charge, performances prohibited, and theatres attacked with tanks.

"The Palestine Literary Festival in 2009 was closed down and participants, including Michael Palin, were driven out. The 19th Annual Palestinian Children's Festival in East Jerusalem was prohibited due to the fact that it received funding from the Palestinian Authority.

"In 2012 members of the Ramallah Orchestra were denied entry permits to perform in East Jerusalem.

"In June of this year Israeli cultural workers signed a petition condemning the government for moves, described as anti-freedom of expression, that will deny funding to artists and theatre companies if they do not support the government line.

"Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev threatened to cut funding to the Jaffa based Elmina Theater group because their manager refused to perform in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.

"This is in stark contrast to Israeli government support for artists and performers who are funded to attend events like the Edinburgh festivals, on condition they sign contracts which make clear they must act as ambassadors and not criticise Israel.  Crucially, they must not reveal the conditions of their contract.

"Arye Mekel of the the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in 2009, 'We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel's prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.'

"The cultural boycott of Israel has been called for by Palestinian cultural workers as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which was launched in 2005. The Israeli government is aware that the demand from across the world for them to end their brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people is growing, and like the pressure on the South African apartheid regime it will ultimately prove irresistible."

"The former ambassador to the UK has been recalled to head up a new anti-BDS department which has been allocated a multi-million pound budget."

"No amount of whitewashing by Dan Golan, or by Linehan and Mills for that matter, will fool the people of Edinburgh. They call for the right of freedom of expression but their actions serve to defend a brutal apartheid regime that denies that same freedom and the right to life to the Palestinian people."

ENDS

Notes

1. Contact

Albie O'Neill 0772 547 0071

Secretary, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

www.scottishpsc.org.uk

2. Details of event

Albie O'Neill will be taking part in the panel discussion at Walking the Tightrope, The Tension Between Art and Politics on Tuesday 25 August at 3.35pm at Topside. (Potterrow is the location of Topside, a stunning studio theatre presenting the very best in fringe theatre, comedy and cabaret, located behind the studio theatre on Potterrow.

Studio at the Festival Theatre, Potterrow, Edinburgh EH8 9BL)

3. Information sources

Edinburgh Fringe 2014 cancellation of shows

Attacks on Palestinian cultural workers rights

Israeli Culture Minister attacks artists

Statement by Palestinian performing art organisations

Putting out a contract on art

To:
Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
18th July 2016

 

Dear Ms McCarthy

International Shalom Festival Gala Concert, Central Hall, 17 August 2016

I write to you to ask that you remove the above event from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme since it is nothing more than an explicit attempt to whitewash the crimes of a state, in this case the state of Israel.  Edinburgh Festival Fringe should not be helping to promote an event that is openly being promoted by its sponsors as state propaganda, propaganda for a state that stands accused by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and other bodies of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

The event is organised by the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (CoFIS) and StandWithUs UK who partner with the Israeli Embassy to counter advocacy and campaigning work in support of Palestinian rights.  StandWithUs UK helped to establish and launch CoFIS, assistance that included financial contributions.  CoFIS is officially affiliated to StandWithUs UK.1

StandWithUs UK is a branch of US-based StandWithUs2, an organisation that is known to have close relations with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs3, receives funding from the Israeli government and disseminates propaganda on its behalf4.  Their partnership with the Israeli government5 aims to whitewash Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian rights and the brutal military blockades of Gaza and occupation of Palestinian territories, as part of the ‘Brand Israel’ project6.  Another important Israeli government partner in the ‘Brand Israel’ project is Israel21c7, an exhibitor and participant of the event promoted by Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

A key objective of both CoFIS and StandWithUs is to counter the success8 of the international movement that supports Palestinian rights through active campaigns for the boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel and complicit institutions (BDS).  The BDS Call from Palestinian civil society was made in 20059, after decades of confiscations of Palestinian land, home demolitions, imprisonment and torture of political activists and of Palestinian children, military attacks on Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank, alongside the failure of international diplomacy and of any effective mechanism to end Israel’s violations of international and human rights law. All of these atrocities continue to this day.

In March 2016 the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) wrote to Edinburgh Fringe Festival calling on you “to reject funding from, and cooperation with, the Israeli government and its complicit institutions”.  We ask that you heed this call and refuse to promote the CoFIS and StandWithUs ‘Brand Israel’ event.

While repressing Palestinian culture, Israel has unabashedly used culture to whitewash its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. In 2005, as a response to the nascent boycott movement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry launched the “Brand Israel” campaign that instrumentalizes culture and academia in the service of Israel’s propaganda agenda.

Soon after the campaign was launched, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, a deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry said, "We are seeing culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture."

In 2009, Arye Mekel of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted, "We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits . . . This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

Brand Israel initiatives seek to distract from Israel’s systematic violations of UN resolutions and international law. Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people include:  denying millions of Palestinian refugees their inherent and UN-stipulated right to return to their homes of origin; the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev) and the Jordan Valley; building illegal colonies on occupied Palestinian land; and continuing the medieval siege of 1.8 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip.
PACBI, Open Letter to Edinburgh International Festival and Festival Fringe: Keep your Festivals Apartheid Free! Do not whitewash Israel’s crimes, March 2016, http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2774

If you would like to meet to discuss the content of this letter please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Sofiah MacLeod (Chair)
on behalf of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

07931 200 361

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign

101 Rose Street South Lane, Edinburgh, EH2 3JG, 0131 208 1948

180 West Regent Street, Glasgow, G2 4RW, 0141 416 1948

www.scottishpsc.org.uk

1.      StandWithUs UK Accounts, April 2016, http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends29/0001151329_AC_20150930_E_C.pdf

2.      StandWithUs, https://www.standwithus.com/aboutus/; StandWithUs UK, http://standwithus.co.uk/

3.      StandWithUs Draws Line on Israel, http://forward.com/news/146821/standwithus-draws-line-on-israel/

4.      StandWithUs to take cash, messaging from Israeli gov't, http://972mag.com/standwithus-to-take-cash-messaging-from-israeli-govt/101314/

5.      StandWithUs: “Ambassadors Club”, https://international.tau.ac.il/standwithus

6.      Israel Aims To Improve Its Public Image, http://forward.com/news/2070/israel-aims-to-improve-its-public-image/

7.      Marketing a new image, http://www.israel21c.org/jewish-week-marketing-a-new-image/

8.      Eleven signs that BDS continues to grow despite Israel’s war of repression, https://bdsmovement.net/2016/eleven-signs-bds-14310

9.      Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights, https://bdsmovement.net/call

 

Please act on the appeal from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) which asks you to add your voice – wherever you are – asking the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) and Edinburgh Festival Fringe (EFF) not to cooperate with the State of Israel while that state commits crimes against the Palestinian people.

Please send a letter to Directors of EIF, including Fergus Linehan (Edinburgh International Festival Director and Chief Executive) and Shona McCarthy (Chief Executive of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society). Send the letter as is or amend it as you see fit.

Send a letter to EIF and EFF Directors by clicking here

We shall shortly be sending appeals and udpates to BDS campaigners to come to Edinburgh in August as guests of SPSC to join with others to promote the cause of Palestinian freedom during the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe.

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to indicate your interest and to be kept informed.


This is the PACBI Open Letter to Edinburgh International Festival and Festival Fringe: Keep your Festivals Apartheid Free! Do not whitewash Israel’s crimes

Occupied Palestine, 8 March 2016 -- The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls on the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to reject funding from, and cooperation with, the Israeli government and its complicit institutions.

Israel’s repressive colonial policies spare no aspect of Palestinian life, including culture.  Nowhere is this more evident than in occupied Jerusalem where Israel’s ongoing attacks on Palestinian cultural life are part and parcel of its efforts to ethnically cleanse native Palestinian Jerusalemites by making their lives unbearable.

Israel is now threatening to shut down the only Palestinian theatre in Jerusalem, Al Hakawati, a key pillar of Palestinian culture and art in the city. Palestinian cultural events, dance troupes, poets and other cultural performers are routinely targeted, repressed and harassed by Israel’s occupation authorities because they are rich expressions of Palestinian identity, steadfastness and calls for freedom.

In 2002, the Israeli army invaded and vandalized the Al Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Centre in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, while in 2011, Israeli commandos raided the Freedom Theatre in the Jenin refugee camp, arresting several of its members.

While repressing Palestinian culture, Israel has unabashedly used culture to whitewash its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. In 2005, as a response to the nascent boycott movement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry launched the “Brand Israel” campaign that instrumentalizes culture and academia in the service of Israel’s propaganda agenda.

Soon after the campaign was launched, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, a deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry said, "We are seeing culture as a hasbara [propaganda] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture."

In 2009, Arye Mekel of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs admitted, "We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits . . . This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”

Brand Israel initiatives seek to distract from Israel’s systematic violations of UN resolutions and international law. Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people include:  denying millions of Palestinian refugees their inherent and UN-stipulated right to return to their homes of origin; the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev) and the Jordan Valley; building illegal colonies on occupied Palestinian land; and continuing the medieval siege of 1.8 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Thousands of artists around the world, including many celebrities, are standing firm in their refusal to cooperate with Israel and its complicit institutions until it fulfils its obligations under international law. More than 1,100 artists in the UK have signed a pledge “to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”

Renowned Scottish author, the late Iain Banks, wrote that the best way to “convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation” is “simply by having nothing more to do with this outlaw state.” His words echo those of Enuga S. Reddy, director of the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid, whose analysis of the South African regime in 1984 applies to Israel today:

It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms … to the African majority … should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world…  [Artists] need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid…and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime. 

Thanks to the dedication and persistence of Palestine solidarity networks in Scotland, Edinburgh has an unbroken record of preventing Scottish cultural events from being used to cover up Israel’s colonial and apartheid system (see below).

Most recently, protests at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe saw two state-funded Israeli troupes ejected from the Fringe, while two other Israeli troupes not connected to the Israeli State performed unimpeded, underlining the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines that target complicity, not identity. No Israeli State-funded troupes came in 2015. Despite incessant hostile efforts to misrepresent the BDS protests as a form of “censorship” or as “anti-semitic,” the message that BDS targets Israel’s regime of oppression and its cultural ambassadors is getting through to Israeli artists.

We salute our Scottish allies and supporters, especially the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and its role in spreading the cultural boycott of Israel in Scotland. We appeal to BDS supporters worldwide to rally behind this campaign and to call on the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe not to accept funding from or otherwise cooperate with the apartheid Israeli state and its complicit institutions.

In the words of BDS supporter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Sincerely,

PACBI

www.pacbi.org

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More information on Israel’s continued, albeit failed, efforts to 'Brand Israel’ in Scotland:

In 2006, during the Israeli war of aggression on Lebanon, protests led to the return of Israeli Embassy sponsorship money by the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), in response to local grassroots mobilization and the threat of a call for an international boycott.

Similarly, in  2009, following the Israeli massacre in Gaza, the EIFF again returned Israeli Embassy sponsorship monies, with internationally renowned Film Director Ken Loach adding his voice to the “torrent of email protests.” Recently revealed emails sent by then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton underline how seriously Israel took that 2009 boycott success.  Clinton had personally intervened to thwart the boycott by setting up a team in Washington to pressure the EIFF to reverse its decision. Their plan was to exert pressure through UK and Scottish Governments, and stimulate a popular backlash. The plan clearly failed.

Likewise, following protests against the Jerusalem Quartet and a high profile, unsuccessful legal attack on some of the protesters, those “Distinguished IDF musicians” have yet to return to Scotland. The Israeli Batsheva dance troupe, a key part of Israel’s cultural propaganda campaign, has also stayed away since protests in 2012 that followed the group into every one of their performances across the UK.

For more information, contact SPSC at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

The programme of the 2016 Edinburgh International Festival published today, April 6th, has no Israeli State-sponsored artists. Make no mistake, this represents a failure on the part of the Israeli Embassy and its Scottish supporters who announced they were working to reverse the boycott trend that has developed since vigorous protests against the Jerusalem Quartet in 2008 and the Batsheva Dance company in 2012. Cultural boycott campaigning culminated in the ejection of two Israeli State-sponsored theatre groups in 2014 and the absence of any Brand Israel artists in 2015.

 

It is clearly not as easy for Israel and its allies to force cultural troupes into public festivals worldwide, even with powerful forces moving on their behalf, as it is to force their armed troops into Palestinian homes, schools, orphanages and theatres.

Two Israeli acts not conscripted into Brand Israel enjoyed an unimpeded run at the 2014 EFF; the contrast between the vigorous, peaceful demonstrations that greeted any performers linked to the murderous Israeli State and the lack of any hostility towards other Israeli acts was obvious to any honest observer.

Support has grown over the years for the Palestinian call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel by Scottish campaigners and wJerusalemQuartetell-known artists and this has generated a widespread public debate. Interestingly, public discussion has involved virtually no defence of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and the anti-BDS voices have retreated into baseless accusations of censorship and violence, with cynical insinuations of anti-semitism inevitably thrown in.

The much larger, more plebeian, Edinburgh Festival Fringe (EFF) runs concurrently with the EIF; no Israeli State-sponsored acts are listed to date, but the Fringe programme is only finalised on June 8th. Since the Scottish Government called for an arms embargo against the State of Israel following the massacre of Palestinians in summer 20014, insane levels of popular racism continue to rise, expressed in public celebration of open murder of Palestinians, and a mainstream political discourse comfortable with talk of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In this situation, SPSC calls on all to intensify efforts to support the Palestinian call for general boycott and isolation of the Apartheid State and complicit institutions. Throughout the period of the Edinburgh Festivals (EIF & EFF), from August 5 – 29, we will be organising solidarity activities in Scotland’s capital and invite anyone who is interested in participating - from Scotland, the UK and internationally - to contact SPSC:
00 44 (0)7986 804 298 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Skype: scottish.psc

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Building effective solidarity with the Palestinian people
101 Rose Street South Lane
Edinburgh EH2 3JG
www.scottishpsc.org.uk
00 44 (0)131 208 1948

Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomes today's decision by the prestigious Stills Gallery to terminate the Israeli Embassy's sponsorship of their forthcomng photography exhibition, A Thousand of Him, Scattered: Relative Newcomers in Diaspora. The Gallery has returned the Israeli Embassy's £1,300 sponsorship money and removed the Embassy's logo and name from the list of sponsors.

The Stills GalleryThe confirmation of the  decision came today in a call to SPSC from a Stills Gallery official, following a phone call and email from SPSC to the Stills Gallery in which we confirmed plans to crank up a letter writing campaign to the Gallery and the other sponsors and, if necessary, to mount a sustained protest against Israeli Government involvement every day of the three-month run of the exhibition in the heart of Scotland's capital.

Two artists who had been invited to contribute to the event refused to allow their work to be included as long as the Israeli Embassy was allowed to be a sponsor. Richard Fung from Toronto and John Akomfrah from London took the lead in this effort and the walls were at least seriously weakened or even already collapsing before SPSC charged at the Israeli Embassy sponsorship of the Stills Gallery event.

It would have been unthinkable to ignore the Israeli Government co-sponsoring an event with Amnesty and Freedom from Torture, when Amnesty International has reported that "Palestinians under interrogation were systematically tortured" and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel reports that many "Palestinian detainees died under mysterious circumstances while in interrogation".

An aroused public opinion could not ignore an event co-sponsored by the Israeli Embassy and Refugee Week Scotland 2014, when Palestinians from Aida Camp in Bethlehem who participated in Refugee Week Scotland 2013 are currently detained and being tortured by Israeli forces.  We are gravely concerned about the kidnap and torture by Israeli occupation forces of one of these cultural activists from Aida Camp's Lajee Cultural Centre whom we hosted last year, Mohammed Al Azraq.  And many others illegally detained and "systematically tortured" in the Israeli gulag.

Public anger in Scotland has twice already (2006 and 2009) forced the Edinburgh International Film Festival to return Israeli Embassy sponsorship money, admitting that to accept it had been "a mistake". 

Wednesday 09/04/2104

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday 10/04/2014

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