Israeli Dance Institute

Israeli Dance Institute

Jewish artists have joined a cultural boycott of Israel after an open letter signed by over 100 figures was published in the Guardian newspaper.

In an initiative known as ‘Artists for Palestine’ signatories said they would “not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with Israel” and that they would stay away for concerts, awards ceremonies, exhibitions, festivals and conferences.

Together with well-known Jewish critics of Israel, such as comedians Ivor Dembina and Alexei Sayle, there were several lesser known names, such as Alisa Lebow, a documentary maker whose film ‘Treyf’ explored her life as a Jewish lesbian. 

Folk music singer and children’s author Leon Rosselson, from North London, featured on the list, together with anti-apartheid activist and renowned architect Peter Ahrends, whose family fled Nazism in Berlin in the 1930s. 

Others putting their name to the letter have covered the subject of Israel in their work. London-based filmmaker and photographer Haim Bresheeth has written about the Holocaust and the Gaza blockade, while fellow signatory Peter Kosminsky produced 2011 drama series ‘The Promise,’ which looked at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of two Britons.

Some names are recognisable campaigners, including Ann Jungman, a children’s author who has long been involved with Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). In 2009 she enraged Jewish advocates with her book about a Palestinian boy growing up in the West Bank.

Other Jewish signatories took the opportunity to take a stand against Israel despite their Jewish heritage. Director and screenwriter Michael Radford said: “As the son of a Jewish refugee, the anger and despair I feel can only faintly echo that of the people of Gaza… Refusing any artistic collaboration is the least we can do to protest against the horrifying inhumanity of its actions.”

Meanwhile actor Miriam Margolyes said: “My support for the Palestinian cause is fiercer because I am Jewish. The Israeli forces’ lack of humanity disgusts me. I want no part of it. We were fed a lie about the foundation of the State of Israel.”

Among the other non-Jewish signatories were Palestinians, including writer Selma Dabbagh, and well-known Israel critics such as Scottish artist Jane Frere, whose sculptures depict the plight of Palestinian refugees. She was recently accused of linking the Holocaust to Gaza by designing a mountain of shoes for a play about the coastal strip. 

Many are no strangers to the boycott movement, with several having criticised the inclusion of Israeli dance troupe Batsheva in the 2012 Edinburgh Festival.