OPINION: Harnessing culture to bring coexistence and dialogue
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Harnessing culture to bring coexistence and dialogue

by Loraine da Costahug-635x357

Culture for Coexistence was set up directly in response to a call for a cultural boycott of Israel earlier this year.  As patrons of the arts and professionals in the cultural world, we came together to discuss how to tackle the growing issue of the demonisation of Israel within the UK cultural sector. 

The reduction of a tragically complex conflict to an unproductive narrative of evil Israelis and the good Palestinians is penetrating cultural circles.

The inconsistencies of those calling for a boycott of Israel are stark. The artistic community in Israel has the freedom to be critical of their government and suffer no penalty.

Many artists living in neighbouring countries do not have the ability to criticise their governments freely without fear of arrest, imprisonment or worse.  Other artists are not subjected to boycotts due to the actions of their governments. It is only Israel that is singled out for a boycott.

In the summer of 2014, a small Israeli dance group at the Edinburgh Festival was targeted by boycotts and protests, whilst the Mariinsky ballet performances in London were a sell-out, even as Russia annexed the Crimea.

Attempts to drive Israeli artists, musicians and dancers from the British cultural scene attack both the right of those artists to exhibit and perform and the right of the British public to see and hear them.  This leaves British people without the ability to form informed opinions through engagement.  The boycotters are in effect trying to control what the public can or cannot hear. Boycott quickly becomes censorship.

This is why Culture for Coexistence reached out to those in the arts to sign our letter published in the Guardian in October this year. In this letter, we reiterated that “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.”

We want to spread a message that overrides politics. We want to show that culture can be a tool to bring people together, break down barriers and build bridges. We believe that cultural bridges should be encouraged as a tool for engaging with others, and can play a small part in working towards peaceful coexistence.

Our message is about harnessing the power of culture to bring dialogue and engagement and it is this that people are supporting. It is not about the complexities and the frequent outbreaks of violence that affect all parties in this conflict.

We believe in a two state solution with a Palestinian state and an Israeli state living side by side in peace and security. We believe that engagement not boycott can help towards those aims.

After a successful launch, we are now planning to take cultural delegations to Israel to see specific cultural projects and to meet with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.

We’d like to engage with those who signed up to the cultural boycott and have an open discussion about engaging Israelis and Palestinians through culture to achieve coexistence and a peaceful solution to the conflict.

British artists in theatre, dance, film, etc., can be part of helping to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. We believe that it is through understanding and engagement that we can break down barriers and encourage both sides to recognise each other’s humanity.

There is a better way to peace than boycotting Israel. We hope to spread this message and encourage others to build bridges towards a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments