To the Sydney Festival organizers,
We are hundreds of citizens of the Israeli state, opposed to the government’s policies of oppression, occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing against the Indigenous Palestinian people. We write to ask you to respect the Palestinian civil society call, especially its cultural aspect, and cut ties with the Israeli embassy.
The many artists who have pulled out of the festival have called our attention to the Israeli embassy’s partnership role in the festival. It is not often that artists forgo the opportunities that a festival such as yours affords them, and it is our sincere hope that you hear out their thoughts and ours on the matter, and engage in dialogue over the issues.
The state of Israel openly and actively uses culture as part of its state-branding campaign strategy. The Israeli foreign ministry openly acknowledges spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to improve Israel’s image. ‘Brand Israel’ was conceptualized over a decade ago, in order to revise the state of Israel’s image around the world, following decades of occupation, apartheid and military attacks. The strategy’s aim is to actively shift the focus of the conversation around the Israeli state from its military regime and its crimes, currently under investigation in the International Criminal Court, to its perceived cultural or hi-tech achievements, or – ironically – its so-called ‘democracy and respect of human rights’.
2021 was a turning point in the way the international community regards Israeli state’s repressive policies against the Palestinian people. This policy has been recognized as apartheid by leading global human rights groups, including the US-based Human Rights Watch, and Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. As citizens of the Israeli regime, we witness this apartheid reality and its devastating consequences firsthand.
In recent years, the state of Israel has been committing an ongoing massacre in the Gaza strip, with this year seeing an Israeli onslaught on Gaza in May 2021, killing hundreds of civilians, many of them children. The state of Israel’s siege, which has lasted for more than 15 years, renders Palestinians in Gaza prisoners of the biggest open-air prison in the world, which the United Nations has warned has become “unliveable”.
In the West Bank, the state of Israel has been employing a brutal, belligerent military regime for the past 55 years, and expanding its colonial settlement project, which a recent report of The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights describes as “pervasive and devastating [violations of human rights], reaching every facet of Palestinian life”, further listing numerous violations such as “restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and education; their rights to land and water; access to livelihoods and their right to an adequate standard of living; their rights to family life; and many other fundamental human rights”.
Within Palestine proper – what has been demarcated as the state of Israel today – Indigenous Palestinian citizens, 21% of the population, are subjected to over 65 laws denying them basic equality, civil, and human rights, culminating in a recent act of legislation – the ‘Nation-State Law’, which enshrines apartheid into the Israeli regime’s constitutional law.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, a short description of life for the millions of children, women, and men, who have been living under these ever-deteriorating policies for the past seven decades.
Inspired by the boycott movement of South Africa, the BDS movement was initiated and conceptualized by Indigenous Palestinian civil society, and it has consensus across its separated sectors – in the West Bank, Gaza, within Palestine ’48, and among refugees all around the globe. It is those directly affected by the Israeli state’s policy who ask us, as people of conscience, to join the the boycott of Israeli institutions.
Many Jewish people of conscience from all around the world, and some of us within Palestine 48, known as the Israeli state today, have taken up the call, and years of advocacy have proven to us, time and time again, that since the Israeli state’s government is dependent on external funds and international political approval, external divestment and political disapproval is the only way to force it to abide by international law and human rights principles.
We ask you to refuse providing the state of Israel with political approval under the excuse that culture is somehow “non-political”. We ask you to refuse the Israeli regime’s $20,000 sponsorship, which surely is political. We ask you to take a stand for human rights and against apartheid, and cut ties with the Israeli regime’s embassy.
BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within
Also known as Boycott From Within