More than 1,300 artists and performers, including Academy Award winning British actress Olivia Colman, have signed a letter addressing the arts and culture sector,
accusing cultural institutions in the West of “repressing, silencing and stigmatizing Palestinian voices and perspectives.”
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“We find it deeply troubling and, frankly, indicative of a disturbing double standard that expressions of solidarity, which have been readily offered to other peoples facing brutal oppression, have not been extended to Palestinians,” the letter said.
The artists said that such a discrepancy raises serious questions about bias in response to “grave human rights violations.”
“Far from supporting our calls for an end to the violence, many cultural institutions in Western countries are systematically repressing, silencing and stigmatizing Palestinian voices and perspectives. This includes targeting and threatening the livelihoods of artists and arts workers who express solidarity with Palestinians, as well as cancelling performances, screenings, talks, exhibitions and book launches.”
The writers and poets include renowned names like Deborah Frances-White, Kamila Shamsie, Marina Warner, Lara Pawson, Abbie Spallen, Camilla Whitehill, Daisy Lafarge, Malika Booker and Emily Berry.
“Despite this pressure, artists in their thousands are following their conscience and continuing to speak out. Freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights, is the backbone of our creative lives, and fundamental to democracy,” the artists said in the letter.
Among the examples of censorship, the letter cites are Lisson Gallery’s “postponement” of a London exhibition by Ai Weiwei; Folkwang Museum in Essen’s last-minute cancellation of curator Anais Duplan’s Afrofuturism exhibition and Saarland Museum’s cancellation of a solo exhibition by artist Candice Breitz; and the announcement by Hollywood producers that they had dropped actress Melissa Barrero from Scream 7.
In each case, the institution attributed the cancellation to comments made by the artist in support of Palestinian rights and unrelated to the content of their professional work.
Letter signatory Hassan Abdulrazzak, whose play And Here I Am based on the life of a Palestinian actor was cancelled in Paris in October, was quoted by Artists for Palestine UK as saying: “This censorship is as frustrating as it is wrongheaded. Now is the time to listen to Palestinians, to understand what their lives are like.”
The letter urged arts organizations to join calls for a permanent cease-fire and to “stand up for artists and workers who voice their support for Palestinian rights.”
Two thousand poets announced a boycott of the Poetry Foundation in the US after its magazine refused to publish a book review it had commissioned.
Artists and writers around the globe have declared that they will no longer work with Artforum magazine, and editorial staff have resigned in response to the firing of the editor David Velasco who had published a letter, signed by 8,000 artists, that called for a cease-fire and for Palestinian liberation.