The issue of a “cultural boycott” – as if there’s anything cultured about stifling others’ freedom of expression – has been in the headlines recently, with repeated reports of bullying and intimidation by Irish boycott activists to get fellow artists to refrain from performing in Israel, the ongoing attempts by others, including Israeli so-called “fans”, to scare leading music acts to cancel concerts, and the very public attempt to get London’s Globe Theatre to retract its invitation to Israel’s Habima National Theatre to perform next week in a “Cultural Olympics” celebration of Shakespeare.
A common thread passing through these different assaults is an ideology promoted by the “Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” (PACBI) – the same outfit which unsuccessfully pushed for academic boycotts in the UK, Norway and elsewhere few years ago. Since 2004 PACBI, closely aligned with the BDS movement, has called upon intellectuals and academics worldwide to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions”, arguing that “as a general overriding rule, virtually all Israeli cultural institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence or actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights [sic]. Accordingly, these institutions (mainly major state and public entities), all their products, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted.”
Yes, that’s right, all Israeli cultural institutions are inherently and a priori guilty and worthy of being boycotted, unless (somehow) proven otherwise. No discussion, no debate, no flexibility. If you’re Israeli, you’re off limits.
The campaigners from PACBI and BDS like to cover the stench of bigotry and extremism that emanates from their approach with high-minded talk of Palestinian rights, solidarity, self-empowerment and so on, something which has allowed them to mobilize the occasional (often ignorant) celebrity to sign up to their program. The tactic of seeking celebrity endorsement is not of course unique to the BDS movement, but as DivestThis has documented, it is actually one of BDS’s key strategies; lacking in any credibility of their own, they seek to get others more publicly respected to parrot their positions, all the while manipulating and instrumentalizing them into pawns for the cause.
Habima are scheduled to play at the Globe on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th May. The PACBI and BDS activists will no doubt be there to disrupt and bully as they have been before, and to impose their views on the performers and audience alike.
The graphics you see here alongside this post were prepared by us to address that prospect, and to encourage ordinary, decent-minded people not to be played by the boycotters.