The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the British writer and director, Mike Leigh, for his recent decision not to visit Israel to teach at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School’s "Great Masters" program. In his letter, Leigh cited the “Loyalty Oath” as the last straw, in addition to “the ongoing criminal blockade of Gaza, not to mention the endless shooting of innocent people there.”
Leigh’s position highlights the fact that collaborating with institutions of a state that practices occupation, colonization and apartheid, as Israel does, cannot be regarded as a neutral act in the name of academic freedom or cultural exchange. Regardless of intentions, such acts are a conscious form of complicity that is manipulated by Israel in its efforts to whitewash its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. Collaborating with Israeli institutions that have not once spoken out against – let alone acted to end -- the occupation and apartheid policies of Israel sends a message to Palestinians that the world is not interested in human rights, equality and freedom. Leigh’s decision, thus, reverberates positively among oppressed Palestinians and among conscience people around the world who are calling for peace based on justice and respect for international law.
We also wish to acknowledge Leigh’s sentiment when he concluded that, “If you and I should live long enough to see peace, a just solution for Palestinians, and Gaza restored to humanity, I will be first in line to visit the school” . This statement captures part of the spirit of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, which calls for boycott against Israel until Israel restores justice to oppressed, dispossessed and ethnically cleansed Palestinians, and to do so by meeting three key demands: 1) an end to the occupation of all Palestinian lands; 2) a recognition and promotion of the UN-sanctioned Palestinian right of return; 3) an end to the system of racial discrimination, or apartheid, against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Until that time in which these conditions are met, Palestinian civil society calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against all complicit Israeli institutions.
Finally, in saluting Leigh’s decision we extend our thanks to him and others who have answered our call, and we ask that they do not let themselves be swayed by those who say “the public will interpret your decision as indicating an irrevocable rift between us, a boycott of Israel, and a rebuke of its current and future artists” . Rather, Leigh, and others, should know that a world of opportunity and alternative dialogue, based on the BDS principles, now opens up to them, and that their actions will certainly not be “a rift” with people in Israel and Palestine who seek true justice, equality and freedom. Moreover, this is a rebuke of Israeli institutions that are part of the machinery of oppression orchestrated by the Israeli government over many decades. It is a clear, positive message for change, justice and freedom heard by Palestinians, as well as by all conscientious individuals around the world, including in Israel.