by Justin Cohen

JK Rowling today joins more than 150 leading lights from the world of culture in condemning boycotts of Israeli artists as a barrier to peace. 

J._K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

The Harry Potter author has spoken out alongside Lord Bragg, Simon Schama, Danny Cohen and Dame Hilary Mantel by signing a letter in The Guardian today. 

The letter supports Culture for Coexistence – which aims to inform and encourage dialogue about Israel – and says: “Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change. It is important to encourage such a powerful tool for change rather than boycotting its use.”

“Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace.

Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict.”

The signatories state that the de-legitimisation and boycott of Israel are not constructive ways to achieve  peaceful coexistence and throw their weight behind a two- state solution, where the national self-determination of both peoples is realised.

The letter was welcomed by community leaders, with Board of Deputies Senior vice-president Richard Verber saying: “We welcome this excellent initiative by some of our nation’s most celebrated cultural figures. 

“We have always argued that boycotts do nothing to encourage dialogue and peace in a complex and troubled region. We encourage people to channel their energies and efforts into supporting groups which promote coexistence and mutual respect.”

Simon Johnson chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC): “The JLC is delighted to see the wide number and varied backgrounds of the signatories supporting today’s Culture for-Coexistence letter, many of whom are leading figures in the worlds of arts and culture. We warmly welcome their timely  message that the de-legitimisation and boycott of Israel are not constructive ways to achieve a peaceful coexistence and a two state solution”

Eitan Na’eh, Deputy Head of mission at the Embassy of Israel in London said: “I want to thank the leading cultural figures for their support in the peace process, for opposing boycotts of any kind. The peace process is about building bridges of trust, understanding and recognition. This impressive list of people is a testimony that the leading figures in British cultural life understand the responsibility that rests on their shoulders. We encourage dialogue rather than boycotts in order to build bridges for peace.”

Among the other names backing the letter are Lord Winston and Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Loraine da Costa, Chair of Culture for Coexistence, said: “The call for a cultural boycott of Israel is fundamentally flawed and morally wrong.  Culture is a unique way of engaging with, listening to and learning from ‘the other’ and to cast away this opportunity can only have a negative impact.”

Quilliam founder and author Maajid Nawaz said: “As a British author, I would be mortified if my work was censored or affected in any way around the world due to the actions of my government – such as the invasion of Iraq, which I incidentally opposed – or due to a political position taken by any other fellow British writer. 

“Policies that impose collective responsibility, especially on the artistic and creative communities who usually challenge the status quo within their own cultures, must be resisted across the board.”