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14 Oct, 2012

Indian Activists: Don’t Let Israeli Apartheid Onstage!

Official InCACBI Statement, Full Text

New Delhi, October 11, 2012 – In solidarity with the Palestinians and their just demand for freedom, equality and justice, Indian academics, artists and activists came together in 2010 as the Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI) to support the international campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

InCACBI recently learned that the organizers of the Delhi International Arts Festival (DIAF) — the Prasiddha Foundation, the Hindustan Times and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) — have invited The Cameri Theatre from Israel to perform at Siri Fort on November 4th as part of the Festival’s celebration of “the spirit of Delhi”.

DIAF seems to be unaware of the fact that The Cameri Theatre serves as an official propaganda tool for the Israeli state — a state that occupies Palestinian lands and practises apartheid policies on the Palestinian people. The Cameri’s performances abroad are sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land violates international law, and amounts to a war crime. The Cameri performs in Ariel, one of the largest illegal settlements in the West Bank. Illegal Ariel contaminates Palestinian water and agricultural lands. Illegal Ariel is surrounded by walls and fences, and closely guarded by soldiers and armed security personnel. A theatrical performance in this illegal settlement is, by definition, a performance to an exclusively Israeli audience. Palestinians living even in the nearest village are physically excluded from attending. By performing in such circumstances, the Cameri profits from and legitimizes Israel’s illegal colonization policies, and becomes an accomplice to these crimes.[1]

The Cameri often chooses to stage plays that convey “humane” messages to deflect criticism. But it is ready to perform these “humane” plays on stolen land – excluding the people of that stolen land suffering the occupier’s military rule. “Culture” and the “arts” do not operate in a non-political wonderland. The best of artists know this well. Renowned British theatre director Peter Brook, much admired in India as well, cancelled his theatre troupe’s participation at the International Festival for Plays of The Cameri Theatre in December 2012. Brook wrote that The Cameri Theatre’s support of “the brutal action of colonisation by playing in Ariel in the West Bank” led to his decision to decline performing in the Cameri Theatre’s festival.[2]

Many Israeli theatre artists, intellectuals and activists have been working hard to communicate to the world the kind of politics at work behind the “theatre arts” of The Cameri Theatre. Many Israeli actors and artists have, in protest, refused to perform in Ariel. Their boycott has grown to include academic institutions and events. Support has come from highly acclaimed Israeli academics and authors, including Amos Oz and David Grossman. This protest was met by threats and denunciation from the Israeli prime minister and government, the Knesset, and the managers of Israeli theatres themselves, including The Cameri.

By hosting The Cameri Theatre’s performance in Delhi, the DIAF organisers would be endorsing The Cameri Theatre’s complicity with Israeli occupation of Palestine and the state’s apartheid policies against Palestinians. Surely DIAF cannot equate The Cameri Theatre’s spirit with either the “spirit of Delhi” or the “spirit” of Indian citizens of conscience?

One of the DIAF organisers, the ICCR, states that “Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore — the values that they stood for inspire the ICCR. As do the people of India, the people who believe in and carry forward the best of this country’s traditions.”[3] We remind the ICCR that Gandhi and Nehru clearly stated that Palestine is for the Palestinians. If they were with us, Gandhi and Nehru would advise ICCR that as artists and citizens of conscience, we should abstain from and condemn all links between India and the state of Israel as long as it occupies Palestinian lands.

Indeed, Israel should not be admitted into the global cultural arena as long as it does not respect international law; as long as it does not recognize the Palestinian people’s right to freedom, equality and justice. At a time when the international movement to isolate Israel is gaining ground in response to the escalation of Israel’s colonial and racist policies, we should not showcase India in Israel or welcome groups such as The Cameri Theatre to India.

Israel’s apartheid policies cannot be whitewashed with “culture”, “art” or “festivals”. We appeal to you to cancel the Cameri Theatre’s performance in the Delhi International Arts Festival on November 4, 2012.

For The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI)

N Pushpamala, Convenor (Artist)

Gargi Sen, Convenor (Film-maker)

Githa Hariharan, Convenor (Writer)

Ayesha Kidwai, Convenor (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Mohan Rao, Convenor (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

M.K. Raina (Theatre person)

Sudhanva Deshpande (Theatre person)

Saeed Mirza (Film-maker)

Amar Kanwar (Film-maker)

Anand Patwardhan (Film-maker)

Saba Dewan (Film-maker)

Arundhati Roy (Writer)

K Satchidanandan (Writer)

Aijaz Ahmad (Literary Critic and Cultural Commentator)

Alok Rai (Literary Critic)

Geeta Kapoor (Art Critic)

Ram Rahman (Artist)

Sheba Chhachhi (Artist)

Vivan Sundaram (Artist)

KN Panikkar (Academic)

Mushirul Hassan (Director, National Archives of India)

Ritu Menon (Publisher)

Achin Vanaik (Delhi University)

Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Kalpana Kannabiran (Hyderabad University)

Nandini Sundar (Delhi University)

Nivedita Menon (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Prabhat Patnaik (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Rajni Palriwala (Delhi University)

Sumit Sarkar (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

T Jayraman (Tata Institute of Social Studies)

Tanika Sarkar (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Uma Chakravarthy (Delhi University)

Upendra Baxi (Former Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University)

Vina Mazumdar (Former Director Center for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi)

Zoya Hasan (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Dhruv Sangari (Singer)

Nayantara Sahgal (Writer)

Kamal Mitra Chenoy (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Prabir Purkayastha (Delhi Science Forum)

Gautam Navlakha (Journalist)

Harsh Mander (Activist)

Praful Bidwai (Journalist)

Romi Khosla (Architect)

Seema Mustafa (Journalist)

Vrinda Grover (Lawyer)

and 150 others from InCACBI


[1] Boycott from Within, http://boycottisrael.info/; PACBI, http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1379

[2] The letter was reported by Sandy Rashty of the Jewish Chronicle. http://refrainplayingisrael.blogspot.com/2012/09/peter-brooks-courageous-support-for.html

[3] http://www.iccrindia.net/index.html