BOYCOTTING CULTURE IS BOYCOTTING HOPE.
Artists may sometimes offer us alternative versions of - and even redemptive visions for- our troubled world.
In a country as small and as young as Israel, artists have traditionally served an important role in collective identity formation and in the nation-building process. As Rachel Tzvia pointed out in her book With an Iron Pen.Twenty Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry, poets through the better part of the twentieth century, were expected to produce a narrative implicitly reflective and supportive of official government policies, which were seen as synonymous with the desires of the people. Hebrew even has a term for this literary phenomenon: shirah meguyeset (mobilized poetry), a poetry that speaks in the name of the nation, carrying the patriotic flag into battle. Nevertheless, there are always been voices of protest against the anti-Palestinian policies, voices of solidarity with Palestine. There are artists in Israel who do not speak in the name of politicians, artists who are engaged in building bridges, in encouraging dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians in the wider cultural and creative community.
In the interests of clarity, we can say that not all Israeli artists are government servants. A campaign is underway in the world to boycott anything remotely resembling a link to the Jewish State. But BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions]* proponents are pretty obtuse, they do not understand that it is not by fomenting the “clash of civilization” that peace can be achieved. A cultural dialogue and a collaboration is more important than ever before in Israel and this cultural boycott is divisive, discriminatory and counterproductive.
As I wrote in my novel The other state, by getting a fictional journalist talk : “We and they use the same word, dam, to call blood: because ours and their blood is identical. The example should start precisely from these lands”.
Art civilises, challenges and reminds us of our common humanity. So, go and perform in Israel, read your poems and stories there, make your music there, hold your university lessons there, because you will also have a huge Palestinian audience there.
Performing in Israel means NOT supporting Apartheid. On the contrary, it means being able to make the voice of dissent heard by an audience that, otherwise, risks being brainwashed by politicians.
Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will surely not further peace!
* BDS, What are we talking about? The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) pro-Palestinian movement has called for the boycott not only of Israeli-made goods, but also of cultural and educational products and institutions. An apparent contradiction needs to be clarified. Who, among artists, opposes the BDS-cultural and educational campaign strongly calls for an end to Israel's occupation of Arab lands conquered in 1967 and the dismantling of its West Bank wall; recognising the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. This must be shouted out loud and highlighted. We oppose the cultural boycott because the BDS campaign is making all the grass a bundle and its misguided strategy could damage rather than help Israel's victims. Just as Noam Chomsky said "I do not suggest boycotting Harvard University and my own university, even though the United States is involved in horrific acts".
I would add that BOYCOTTING CULTURE IS BOYCOTTING HOPE.