‘We refuse to be complicit’: Over 150 Swiss artists call to boycott Israeli art fest

Activism
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The Swiss BDS Group has announced a statement signed by over 150 Swiss artists calling on artists, cultural institutions and the public to boycott the Culturescapes Israel festival and a “Swiss Season” program which hosts Swiss artists in Israel.

Among the signatories are the internationally acclaimed filmmakers Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner, the theater directors François Rochaix and Jean Grädel, as well as the actor Jean-Luc Bideau. A Swiss BDS Group press release says Culturescapes Israel festival and “Swiss Season” programs represent “the largest Israeli propaganda effort ever launched in Switzerland through the domain of culture.”

From the Declaration of Swiss Artists Responding to the Palestinian Appeal for Solidarity:

When Israel, through the Culturescapes festival, conducts a wide public relations campaign in Switzerland, when the program Swiss Season invites Swiss artists to present their works in prestigious venues in Israel, the undersigned artists and cultural actors hereby express their rejection of the politics of the Israeli state, policies which, for over 60 years, violate the rights of the Palestinian people.

The flattering image that Israel seeks to present, an image of a country in which creativity blooms in freedom, clashes with the reality that the Palestinian people endures. The refugees are still refused their right to return, Palestinians citizens of Israel are subject to legal and cultural segregation, the Gaza Strip is still under siege, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem remain under military occupation. In contempt of the law and public protestations, Israel continues the colonization and the construction of the separation wall in the West Bank and Jerusalem. We recognize in these politics the traits of an apartheid regime, as defined by international law.

In order to resist against this oppressive situation, and in order to struggle against the impunity that Israel enjoys through the support of the great powers, Palestinian civil society launched an appeal for solidarity in the form of Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions – BDS). We note that the non-violent boycott, when it gains wide popular support, is an effective means of putting pressure on those in power. Israeli companies such as Agrexco, which exploited agricultural land in the Occupied Territories, and multinational corporations such as Veolia, which is implicated in the construction of the light train project that connects the illegal settlements to the center of Jerusalem, have been subject to the successful pressure of BDS supporters. BDS is also adopted by the group of Israeli citizens, Boycott from Within, continuing their actions despite the anti-boycott law passed recently in the Israeli parliament.

Palestinian artists and intellectuals launched the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – PACBI), directed at their fellow artists and intellectuals all over the world. Many internationally recognizes names have responded to the call, including John Berger, Bjork, Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Eduardo Galeano, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Henning Mankell, Massive Attack, Arundhati Roy, and Carlos Santana. Israel’s present publicity offensive in Switzerland gives us the opportunity to respond in our turn to this Palestinian appeal for solidarity.

We refuse to be complicit. Conscious of our political responsibility as artists and as citizens, we express our support for the boycott, and we pledge not to present our works in Israel, for as long as persist the occupation and the colonization of the Palestinian territories, for as long as equality is denied Palestinian who are citizens of Israel, and for as long as the right of return of the refugees is refused.

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