Dear Zuzana Kronerová, dear Theatre Institute, dear Slovak National Theatre,
We are writing to you from Israel with regard to the planned New Drama Festival. We understand that this year the festival will have focus on Israel and that the Israeli embassy is partly sponsoring the festival. Despite the general positive effect of the sharing of arts and culture and despite the best intentions on your part, which we have no reason to doubt, we are afraid that in this context the effect is counterproductive.
After many decades of systematic oppression there is now near unanimous gobal condemnation of Israel's occupation, discrimination and expulsion of Palestinians. This is due to decades of persistent struggle by Palestinians, displaced or living under occupation. They had to deal not only with Israel and its military power but also with a Europe which was more interested in according Israel special status than objecting to its crimes. One of the main tactics now available for the Israeli foreign ministry is to divert attention from its crimes to other aspects of Israeli society. They are counting on festivals like yours to help them do that. In doing so the Israeli government subverts artistic work to service in the perpetuation of a racist oppressive system. With funding for art becoming harder and harder to get, even artists who would be opposed to government policies can be tempted by foreign ministry money.
Likewise by accepting Israeli funding a festival like yours lends legitimacy to that government and helps it in its most important foreign policy objective of diverting attention from its ongoing crimes and allowing them to continue.
As Israeli citizens it is our responsibility to resist the criminal policies of our government – the legalized discrimination against non-Jewish citizens, the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza strip and the Golan Heights, and the expulsion of the great majority of the native Palestinian population. We urge you to refuse the sponsorship of the Israeli embassy. A focus on Israel might be a good idea but when the Israeli 'dissidents' are flown there on the government ticket and speak under the logo of the embassy the focus becomes an obfuscation. Unfortunately, the sympathy which these Israeli artists are said to have to Palestinians does not include paying attention to the clearest demand which Palestinians are making: that they do not assist the Israeli foreign ministry in its effort to hide the crimes committed against them.
A theater festival can be the highest expression of the values and qualities of humanity. Unfortunately by accepting Israeli sponsorship of your festival you have recruited these values for the service of the most inhumane practices. We urge you again to refuse Israeli sponsorship of your festival.
Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)