Aug 16, 2010

No Business as Usual with Israel: PACBI Salutes Faithless

PACBI | 15 August 2010

No Business as Usual with Israel: PACBI Salutes Faithless

Occupied Ramallah, 15 August 2010

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the British dance group Faithless for declining to play in Israel this summer. The cancellation of the group’s Israeli gig is the latest in a string of cancellations of performances in Israel by artists and musicians of conscience, artists who say no to normalizing relations with Israel, no to business as usual with a state that practices the most pernicious forms of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

We applaud Faithless frontman Maxi Jazz for the unequivocally clear message explaining the band’s decision:

“While human beings are being wilfully denied not just their rights but their NEEDS for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that this is either 'normal' or 'ok'. It's neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have.” [1]

This statement brings to focus the fact that performing in a state that practices occupation, colonization and apartheid, as Israel does, cannot be regarded as a purely artistic act, if any such act exists. Regardless of intentions, such an act is a conscious form of complicity that is manipulated by Israel in its efforts to whitewash its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. This is because artistic performances in Israel promote a “business as usual” attitude that normalizes and sanitizes a state that has committed war crimes over several decades -- in Gaza, Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev), and recently in the high seas against international humanitarian relief workers aboard the Freedom Flotilla.

An artist who performs in Israel today -- just like any artist who violated the boycott and performed in Sun City, South Africa, during apartheid -- can only be seen by Palestinians and people of conscience around the world as motivated by profit and personal gain far more than by moral principles. We know that Israeli concert promoters offer large sums of money to lure international performers as part of Israel’s “Brand Israel”[2] campaign, designed explicitly to hide Israel’s criminal violations of human rights under a guise of artistic and scientific glamour and a deceptive image of cultural excellence and “liberalism.”

Artists who courageously take principled positions on the side of justice deserve the highest commendation. We also take this opportunity to reiterate our appreciation to the 150 Irish artists and writers for their endorsement of the pledge to boycott Israel:

In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge not to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel, nor to accept any funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights."[3]

We urge all artists of conscience to follow the example of Faithless dance group as well as the brave Irish artists and writers. In particular, we urge them to heed the Unified Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel [4], and to respect the PACBI Guidelines for the International Cultural boycott of Israel [5].

Once again, hats off to Faithless: you are faithful indeed!

A million dollar festival will not rescue Israel’s image as an apartheid state

PACBI | 15 August 2010

Occupied Ramallah, 15 August 2010

Once again, the Brand-Israel machine is in high gear, this time organizing a million-dollar international youth extravaganza in Eilat in September 2010 called “Funjoya.” This unabashed propaganda exercise is sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism and the Israeli Student Union, among other official and semi-official bodies. The Ministry of Tourism explains one of the aims of the festival: “branding Israel as an attractive tourism destination for students, an improvement in Israel’s image among this target group and facilitating multi-cultural encounters for students from Israel and European countries.” [1]

There is no question that Israel is working hard to whitewash its crimes and to justify its occupation, colonization and system of apartheid. Since 2005, the official “Brand-Israel” campaign [2] has tried to present Israel in a new light, as a vibrant state promoting culture and the arts. However, Israel’s own actions make a mockery of this branding exercise, proving that no amount of re-branding will cover up the escalating agenda of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and violence against the Palestinian people, the last of which were the deadly assault on the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009, and the lethal attack on humanitarian aid workers aboard the Freedom Flotilla in Gaza in May 2010, which resulted in the murder of nine Turkish citizens. This viciousness is customary to Israel. The report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone, released in September 2009, found strong evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the assault on the Palestinian people in Gaza, and called for holding Israel accountable before international law.

We call upon students from around the world not to take part in this festival. We invite you to join the international movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel (BDS) until Israel respects international law [3]. As students, you should be aware that Palestinian students do not enjoy the rights taken for granted by many of you: Palestinian students’ freedom of movement is severely restricted by the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints and road blocks and hundreds are detained in Israeli jails for resisting the occupation. [4]

We urge you to heed the words of the Gaza-based Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel in their open letter to students a few days ago: From under a most brutal siege humanity has witnessed during this modern age, we urge all students around the globe to boycott this festival We ask: will it speak about the cultural confiscation, the occupation of Palestinian history, the system of racial discrimination, home demolition, settlement expansion, settler colonialism and land expropriation? Will it tell of how apartheid Israel slices the West Bank into Bantustans separated by more than 600 checkpoints and a monstrous Apartheid Separation Wall preventing Palestinians from access to local hospitals, schools and universities, not to mention their families and relatives?” [5]

Don’t come to Eilat and honour the apartheid state! Support the Palestinian people in our struggle for self determination by boycotting “Funjoya” and exposing this vulgar Israeli hasbara effort!




[2] Jonathan Cook provides a comprehensive discussion of the brand-Israel effort in

[3] See the Unified Palestinian Call for BDS at

[4] For further information on the violation of students’ rights check:


UK Embraces the Boycott

In this part of the world, where Israel seems to be regularly singled out as the world’s bête noire, recent developments in Britain have given even veteran pro- Zionism watchers a sense of alarm. Even the most optimistic observers of what is loosely referred to as the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) movement, are worried about this summer’s activities.

In late June, the Methodist Church of Britain, the fourth largest Christian denomination in the UK with 70 million members worldwide, voted to boycott Israeli-produced goods and services from the West Bank because of Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.”

The one-sided characterization of the Israel- Palestine conflict is based on the platform published by the World Council of Churches, which formally espoused a boycott by all its affiliates in 2009 and took its bearings from the Kairos Palestine Document that emerged from the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. The Kairos declaration brands the occupation as “a sin against God and humanity” and calls on companies, countries, religious institutions, NGOs and individuals “to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation.”

Israel at center of boycott row once again at Melbourne Film Festival

The Melbourne International Film Festival is a marquee event on the cultural calendar of Australia, in what some would call the world's most livable and multicultural city. Once again, it was struck by controversy with independent film makers threatening legal action if their own movie was not revoked from the set-list. The row was sparked by funding for a return economy-class airfare for an Israeli director.

The makers of Son of Babylon, a film set in Iraq, wanted to withdraw their movie because the organizers of the festival received funding from the Israeli government. But the demand went unheard, and the film screened on July 26 and July 28 as scheduled.
"The festival was informed in enough time to stop the screening … therefore if you have knowingly disregarded our wishes and screened the film, we will of course be left with little alternative than to take appropriate action against the festival,'' producer Isabelle Stead wrote to festival executive director Richard Moore last week in an email exchange leaked to

''You should not underestimate our resolve to ensure that our film is not associated with the state of Israel as long as it continues its illegal crimes against humanity,'' she wrote.

This is not the first time a film has been revoked because of an Israeli influence. Ken Loach decided to withdraw his film Looking for Eric from last year's festival on the same grounds. The veteran English filmmaker warned at the time that, ''if it did not reconsider the sponsorship, I would not allow the festival to screen my film''. Loach cited ''illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods'' and ''the massacres in Gaza'' as reasons for the boycott.

The festival's executive director, Richard Moore, refused to give in to Loach's demands and return the money to the Israeli government, saying that it would be ''like submitting to blackmail''. This refusal led to Moore being shunned by the Edinburgh Film Festival, which had bowed to Loach's will. However, his stance led to the Melbourne festival being honored with the Liberty Victoria's free speech award - the Voltaire award - given "in recognition of its refusal to buckle in the face of intense pressure from a left-wing extremist filmmaker last year."

However, this year's flare-up was a little different.

Harvard University fund sells all Israel holdings

In another blow to Israeli shares, the Harvard Management Company notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday that it had sold all its holdings in Israeli companies during the second quarter of 2010. No reason for the sale was mentioned. The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard University's endowment.

Harvard Management Company stated in its 13-F Form that it sold 483,590 shares in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) for $30.5 million; 52,360 shares in NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE; TASE:NICE) for $1.67 million; 102,940 shares in Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) for $3.6 million; 32,400 shares in Cellcom Israel Ltd.(NYSE:CEL; TASE:CEL) for $1.1 million, and 80,000 Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: PTNR; TASE: PTNR) shares for $1.8 million.

Harvard Management Company's 13-F Form shows some interesting investments. Its two largest holdings, each worth $295 million, are in iShares ETFs, one on Chinese equities, and the other on emerging markets. Harvard also owns $181 million in a Brazilian ETF.