Mar 7, 2012

#BDS: To boycott or not to boycott

"Neil Coppen interviews Iain Ewok Robinson about Israeli Apartheid week and his boycott of the Hilton Arts Festival last year.

In September last year, a day before Iain Ewok Robinson (KZN poet/performer and activist) was scheduled to perform at the Hilton Arts Festival he pulled out. His absence he hoped would draw attention to the inclusion of an Israeli theatre company in the festival programme while showing solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians.

Robinson and I have always enjoyed healthy, if not heated, discussions and shortly after his boycott of Hilton I wrote him a long letter part criticism and part inquiry.

I was asking why he had stood up school audience with barely 24 hours’ notice and left a cultural festival (which has supported him over the years) in a programming lurch. I deemed his no show as an “ultimately ineffectual action”. In the letter I asked Iain just how successful he thought his boycott action really was and wondered if there was perhaps not a better means of getting one’s message across by using the platform of an arts festival to educate audiences on the cause.

Many South African artists are faced with a similar dilemma and there seems to be an argument that rages every few months in the national press whenever a South African (be it individual or organization) decides to perform on Israeli turf or host Israeli artists here in South Africa."

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