We are citizens of Israel who oppose our government’s policies of colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid against the Palestinian people . We write to you in support of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli institutions , and specifically the call to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions . We support this campaign since it follows universal principles of human rights, including opposition to any form of racism.
The many artists that 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 and on the matter, and engage in dialogue over the issues.
"We find it very cynical that a colonial state, which for the past seven decades has been practicing systematic discrimination against the indigenous Arab ethnicity, and exploiting gender and sexual preference within that system, for the purpose of population control, tries to present itself as a promoter of Arab and feminist cultures. We see this as an attempt to take advantage of critical voices from the Middle East, like those of Mazzaj or Emel Mathlouthi, in order to present the occupation of Palestine as normal. There is nothing normal about military occupation and siege, apartheid and colonialism. It is fundamentally decent to oppose entities that commit these crimes and demand they be brought to account."
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 a decade ago, in order to change Israel's deteriorating image around the world, which has been badly damaged after decades of occupation, apartheid and military attacks . The strategy's aim is to actively shift the focus of the conversation around Israel from its military regime and its crimes, to its perceived cultural or hi-tec achievements, or- ironically- its so-called "Democracy and respect of human rights". Most notable is the exploitation of the achievements of the LGBTQ* community, which in reality are suffering frightening setbacks , especially when it comes to legislation, where Israel is in fact far behind most European states .
It is important for it to be understood, especially in Germany, that the BDS campaign is a campaign initiated and conceptualized by Palestinian civil society, and it has consensus across its separated sectors- in the West Bank, Gaza, within Israel itself, and among refugees all around the globe. It is those directly affected by Israeli policy who ask us, as people of conscience, to boycott Israel. Many Jewish people of conscience from all around the globe, and some of us within Israel, have taken up the call, and years of advocacy have proven to us, time and time again, that just as Israel is dependent on external funds and approval, so it is that external divestment and disapproval is the only way to force it to abide by international law and human rights principles.
It is for all these reasons that we ask you to end your partnership with the Israeli embassy.
We await your reply,
BOYCOTT! Supporting the Paletinian BDS Call from Within