At the beginning of March, the South African artist William Kentridge arrived for the opening of his retrospective at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, rejecting calls to boycott Israel, and arguing that “It was not the cultural boycott that changed the government’s views” in apartheid South Africa. He is the second high-profile cultural figure – in the space of one month – to accept an invitation from an Israeli cultural institution, then to meet with Israeli author David Grossman, and to attend protests in occupied East Jerusalem against evictions of Palestinian residents. In February, Ian McEwan was photographed attending the protests with Grossman before accepting the Jerusalem Prize from Mayor Nir Barkat, who is behind the evictions in East Jerusalem, at the city’s International Book Fair.
I imagine a flyer handed out to artists at international events:
Coming to Israel to accept an official prize, or put on an exhibition at a state sponsored establishment, and receiving some negative press? The BDS campaign can cause some social awkwardness. Don’t worry, a distinguished Israeli is here to help!
Just follow my two-step plan:
1) Meet with a highly regarded Israeli cultural figure, such as myself and;
2) Take one hour on a Friday afternoon to visit the premier solidarity spot to be seen at in Israel/Palestine! Come observe the protest at Sheikh Jarrah and show how much you care about the poor Arabs.
Feel free to utter a sentence or two against the settlements; it’s very fashionable to say that in our enlightened circles. (WARNING: comments about the inherently racist nature of the regime are a faux pas and to be avoided).
Then, with an easy conscience, continue mingling with the great and the good on Israel’s cultural scene and give your career the boost it needs. In fact, you can even rub shoulders with Jerusalem’s Mayor or with the Israeli President. Favourable Media coverage in Haaretz and other mainstream papers – online and print editions – is guaranteed!
David Grossman, PR consultant