Dear J.K. Rowling,
We are Israeli citizens opposed to our government's policies of racism, occupation and apartheid and we actively support the Palestinian call for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel.
Since you have publicly expressed your opposition to the idea of boycott, we appreciate the fact that you have taken the time and trouble to engage with arguments in favour of it. It was good to see you acknowledge, in your exchange with a Palestinian fan of your Harry Potter books, that the Israeli government needs to be held to account for the “injustice and brutality” it inflicts upon the Palestinian people. It is precisely this holding to account that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement aims to achieve.
It seems to us that you may have misunderstood the nature of the BDS Call. This call does not block communication between Israelis and Palestinians who are seeking justice and equality. Our group is a living proof of that. For example, we meet our partners in the occupied Palestinian territories, exchange ideas with them, and most important - we work together to create a future free of apartheid and occupation for all, Israelis and Palestinians.
It seems that you are sincere in adopting the idea that dialogue stands in opposition to “divisive” boycotts. You argue that Israeli artists and academics are the most pro-Palestinian “and most critical of Israel’s government.” You want Palestinian artists to abandon their call for a boycott and embrace their Israeli counterparts in the belief that this is the way to a better future.
But we are not talking about two equal parties here, like supporters of two different Quidditch teams who just need to get to know each other to overcome a few little obstacles in the way of peaceful co-existence. We have seen over and over again Israel's leading cultural and academic institutions collaborating with the government and its policies of illegal settlement and ethnic cleansing. National theatres Habima and Hacameri entertain residents of the settlement city of Ariel with light, often with audience-pleasing comedies, while the former Palestinian owners of the land are being humiliated, abused, tortured, detained without trial and shot by Israel's military regime. When Israeli forces were massacring Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv University showed their appreciation and support for the military by sending gift packages to soldiers. Examples of this kind are too numerous to mention. Israel insists on its right to “build cultural bridges” with the rest of the world while actively destroying that possibility for Palestinians.
There are some Israeli Jews who speak out and campaign in favour of justice and equality for the Palestinian people, but they are a tiny number of individuals and in any case they are NOT boycott targets, as the BDS movement does not target individuals. A growing number, like us, work in support of the call from Palestinian civil society for a boycott of complicit Israeli institutions. Some of us are students, artists and members of academia. Again, let us stress that as individual Israeli dissidents, BDS does not deny us the possibility of dialogue and collaboration with the outside world.
We urge you to take on board the words of your correspondent Mia Odeh who said: “Israel is intentionally employing academics and artists for acceptance by the international community, and is exploiting their art for its own political gain. Why should we have agents of the Israeli government, who are complicit in war crimes, come along and distract us from their apartheid, ethnic cleansing and occupation with pirouettes and paint brushes?”
We will gladly address any question or comment you may have
Sincerely on behalf of
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within
Prof. Haim Bresheeth
Dr. Ronit Lentin