‘This is not a conflict: this is apartheid.’
Over 16,000 artists, including hundreds of Palestinian artists, six Academy Award winners, and eight Pulitzer Prize winning writers, have signed a letter denouncing Israel’s apartheid system and calling on countries “to cut trade, economic and cultural relations.”
Over 16,000 artists have signed their names in support of a letter that condemns Israel’s recent attack on Gaza and denounces the country’s apartheid system. The letter also calls on other countries “to cut trade, economic and cultural relations” with Israel.
Titled, “A Letter Against Apartheid,” the statement was written by six Palestinian artists, who have asked to remain anonymous. It was initially signed by hundreds of Palestinian artists including filmmakers Annemarie Jacir, Elia Suleiman, and Farah Nabulsi; visual artists Emily Jacir and Larissa Sansour; actress Hiam Abbass; musicians Kamilya Jubran and Sama’ Abdulhadi; and writers Elias Sanbar, Mohammed El-Kurd, Naomi Shihab Nye, Raja Shehadeh, Randa Jarrar, Suad Amiry, and Susan Abulhawa.
Following that artists across the world signed on as supporters of the document. Supporters include six Academy Award-winning directors and actors – Alejandro Iñárritu, Asif Kapadia, Holly Hunter, Mike Leigh, Jeremy Irons, Julie Christie, Thandiwe Newton, Viggo Mortensen, Brian Cox, Michael Moore, Alia Shawkat, and Susan Sarandon; eight Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, poets and playwrights – Benjamin Moser, Hisham Matar, Richard Ford, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Tyehimba Jess, Annie Baker, Lynn Nottage and Tony Kushner; and many others including Brian Eno, Angela Davis, Roger Waters, Cypress Hill, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Robert Wyatt.
The authors also told Mondoweiss that the decision to remain anonymous stemmed from the desire to speak in a collective voice and not have the letter associated with specific people or organizations.
“An unprecedented display of unity, inspired by the most significant elements of what we’ve seen unfold in Palestine. The Palestinians of Gaza, Lydd, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and throughout the world have shown that seven decades of Israeli policies have not broken their idea of themselves as Palestinians. This letter is a reflection of that,” one of the organizers said in a press release put out announcing the statement.
“To frame this as a war between two equal sides is false and misleading,” reads the letter. “Israel is the colonizing power. Palestine is colonized. This is not a conflict: this is apartheid.”
“There was this question after the most recent escalation of violence by the Israelis that came about,” one of the authors told Mondoweiss, “We all had this discussion about what we could do and how we could use our networks. How can we use our own positions to organize around this?”
“Another goal was to bring this vocabulary that Palestinians have been working on for decades to a larger audience,” they explained. “We wrote this letter with a true sense of urgency and it took on a life of its own. We’re trying to balance the urgency with a long term response that’s not tied only to the specific events that have been happening in the past weeks. The letter was triggered by them, but these events are just a continuation of everything that’s been happening for decades, the letter is a long term call.”
The authors said the amount of people willing to sign the letter points to the fact that the public opinion on Palestine is shifting.
“Obviously people are still anxious and there is still censorship,” said one of the authors, “But the conflation of antisemitism with support for Palestinian liberation is something we wanted to directly address in the letter and dismantle. And you’ll see we have a huge number of Jewish signatories and as well as anti-Zionist Israeli signatories. I think there has been a change , even in the last five years, between the level of fear in speaking out.”
You can read the whole letter below:
Palestinians are being attacked and killed with impunity by Israeli soldiers and armed Israeli civilians who have been roaming the streets of Jerusalem, Lydda, Haifa, Jaffa and other cities chanting, “Death to Arabs.” Several lynchings of unarmed and unprotected Palestinians have already taken place in the last two weeks. Families in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah continue to face ethnic cleansing and displacement from their homes. These acts of murder, intimidation, and violent dispossession are protected, if not actively encouraged, by the Israeli government and police.
This May, the Israeli government committed yet another massacre in Gaza by indiscriminately and relentlessly bombing Palestinians in their homes, offices, hospitals and on the street. The bombing of Gaza is part of an intentional and recursive pattern where entire families are killed and local infrastructure is destroyed. This serves to exacerbate conditions that are already unliveable in one of the most densely populated places on earth, which, despite the temporary ceasefire, remains under military siege. Gaza is not a separate country: we are one people, forcibly separated by the architecture of the Israeli state.
To frame this as a war between two equal sides is false and misleading. Israel is the colonizing power. Palestine is colonized. This is not a conflict: this is apartheid.
In the face of the increased mortal danger of the past two weeks, Palestinians are uniting once again. In Palestine and across the world, vast numbers are taking to the streets, organizing on social media, defending their homes, protecting each other, and demanding an end to ethnic cleansing, apartheid, discrimination and dispossession. Our communities have been systematically denied their right of return and forcibly fragmented and erased since An-Nakba, the dawn of Israeli settler colonial rule in 1948, and this recent coming together has given us some much-needed confidence amid the rage and grief of the past two weeks. We are starting to feel, in spite of all that is happening, in spite of years of dehumanization, some hope.
Finally, the world has started calling the Israeli system by its name. Earlier this year the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem followed the example set by decades of Palestinian intellectual and legal advocacy work in demonstrating that there is no separation between the Israeli state and its military occupation: the two form a single apartheid system. Human Rights Watch, in turn, published a thorough report accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”
We, the undersigned Palestinian artists, writers and our listed allies in the arts ask you to join us. Please don’t let this moment pass. If Palestinian voices are silenced again, it may take generations for another chance for freedom and justice to arise. We ask you to join us now, at this critical juncture, and show your support for Palestinian liberation.
We call for an immediate and unconditional cessation of Israeli violence against Palestinians. We call for an end to the support provided by global powers to Israel and its military; especially the United States, which now provides Israel $3.8 billion annually without condition. We ask all people of conscience to exercise their agency to help dismantle the apartheid regime of our time. We ask governments that are enabling this crime against humanity to apply sanctions, to mobilize levers of international accountability, and to cut trade, economic and cultural relations. We call on activists, and especially our peers in the arts, to exercise their agency within their institutions and localities to support the Palestinian struggle for decolonization to the best of their ability. Israeli apartheid is sustained by international complicity, it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm.
We have seen how governments in Europe and beyond recently have instated policies of open censorship, and fostered a culture of self-censorship, towards Palestinian solidarity. Conflating legitimate criticism of the State of Israel and its policies towards Palestinians with antisemitism is cynical. Racism, including antisemitism, and all forms of hate, are heinous and not welcome in the Palestinian struggle. It is time to stand up to these tactics of silencing and overcome them. Millions of people around the world see in Palestinians a microcosm of their own oppression and hopes, and allies such as Black Lives Matter and Jewish Voice for Peace, along with indigenous rights, feminist and queer activists, among many others, are increasingly vocal in their support.
We ask you to be brave. We ask you to come forward, speak up and take a clear public stand against this ongoing injustice in Palestine.
Apartheid must be dismantled. No one is free until we are all free.