In a letter published today in the UK’s The Guardian, artists across Great Britain including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, Dame Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall) and Simon Schama are rallying in support of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue versus cultural boycotts in a new group known as the Culture for Coexistence. The letter comes in response to a letter the newspaper published in February by 700 artists calling for the cultural boycott of Israel.
That letter last winter, which included the signatures of Brian Eno and directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, read: “We will not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel. We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government. Since the summer war on Gaza, Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence.”
Today’s letter in the Guardian includes 150-plus signatures and reads as follows:
In February 2015 you published a letter from UK artists announcing their intention to culturally boycott Israel.
We do not believe cultural boycotts are acceptable or that the letter you published accurately represents opinion in the cultural world in the UK.
Therefore we are writing to declare our support for the launch and aims of Culture for Coexistence – an independent UK network representing a cross-section from the cultural world.
We will be seeking to inform and encourage dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians in the wider cultural and creative community. While we may not all share the same views on the policies of the Israeli government, we all share a desire for peaceful coexistence.
Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace. Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance, and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict.
Ultimately we all believe in a two-state solution so that the national self-determination of both peoples is realised, with the state of Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.
Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change. We wholly endorse encouraging such a powerful tool for change rather than boycotting its use.
Other names included on the list included such distinguished entertainment executives such as Cohen Media Group president Daniel Battsek, docu film producer John Battsek, producer John Heyman, Lord Melvyn Bragg and MP Michael Dugher. The Culture for Coexistence’s letter was applauded by Los Angeles-based Creative Community for Peace, which last summer published a “Hollywood Speaks” statement in the trades and major U.S. newspapers during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict from CCFP & Friends that said, in part, “We join together in support of the democratic values we all cherish and in the hope that the healing and transformative power of the arts can be used to build bridges of peace.” That statement included 300 signatures from people including Seth Rogen, Sylvester Stallone, Sarah Silverman, Bill Maher and Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
CCFP co-founder David Renzer said in a statement today: “We are pleased to see prominent UK artists supporting the positive powers of the arts while at the same time not falling prey to many of the falsehoods and misinformation that have been spread by the Boycott Israel (BDS) movement. We look forward to working closely with Culture for Coexistence to promote peace and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians through the cultural and creative industries. As their letter so accurately points out, ‘cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace.’ ”
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