As a collective of radical Black and POC artists in Chicago, it is the duty of For The People Artists Collective to support the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural boycott of Israel. The call was issued by Palestinian Civil Society (the broadest coalition of Palestinian unions, networks, organizations, institutions, and civil society parties) in 2004. Since that time, hundreds of artists, academics, and cultural workers around the world have upheld the boycott by refusing to perform or display work in Israel, and by protesting and refusing to partner with Israeli institutions and artists that are complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people.
Here are three reasons that FTP supports the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:
- Palestinian artists face severe barriers to creating work
FTP exists in part to challenge barriers frequently faced by Black artists and artists of color attempting to create, exhibit, or distribute work. We know that the barriers faced by Palestinian artists are severe. Every aspect of Palestinian life is impacted by Israel, as a settler-colonial project that is continually killing, expelling, and militarily occupying its indigenous Palestinian population. While Israeli artists travel freely around the world to exhibit their work, perform, or attend cultural events, Palestinian artists can hardly travel within their own borders, let alone abroad, due to strict travel restrictions and barriers to freedom of movement imposed by Israel. These restrictions make it extremely difficult for Palestinian artists to collaborate and interact not only with one another, but also with people around the world, hindering the development of Palestinian art, life, and culture. Palestinian artists also face severe censorship at the hands of Israel. Political artists in particular are often arrested without charge, held indefinitely, and tried in Israeli military courts with a 99% conviction rate. Palestinian arts and culture institutions in the West Bank, from theatres to print shops, have faced closures, raids, and other forms of violent repression. Meanwhile, Palestinian arts institutions in Israel have faced cuts to funding and attacks by the Israeli Ministry of Culture for creating political work.
- We won’t participate in or be used to whitewash Israel’s crimes
As a collective of artist-organizers, we know that art is always political. We are conscious of the political implications of everything we create. Projects that either directly or indirectly present Israel as an international hub for art and culture serve only to whitewash the reality that Israel is actively engaging in the destruction and repression of virtually every aspect of Palestinian life. The political implications of such initiatives are abundantly clear: They serve to present Israel as a “regular” country, normalizing the repressive and genocidal practices on which the state is built. Given the context in which Palestinians continue to live, struggle, and create art, it would be extremely problematic to participate in or support Israeli cultural projects that do not acknowledge and actively work against this reality.
- Palestinians have called on all of us to engage in boycott
FTP uplifts and supports the needs of those existing at the margins of the margins–people of color, Black queer and trans women, femmes, abundant bodies, indigenous, undocumented, disabled, poor, and disenfranchised peoples in our city and our world. The call to boycott Israel, which is based on the historic international calls to boycott apartheid South Africa, has been the number one ask by Palestinians to the international community for over ten years. As artists living and making work in the United States, it is not up to us to lead the struggle for Palestinian rights, presume what our solidarity must look like, or invent our own tactics without first consulting those most impacted. Our job as people acting in solidarity with Palestinians is to show up in the way that they ask of us. That is what we are doing by signing on to this call.
Today, FTP joins the call to boycott Israeli arts and cultural institutions complicit in the repression of the Palestinian people. In doing so, we are contributing to an international cacophony of voices coming together in coalition and co-resistance, across borders, ethnicities, and religions, to demand an end to Israel’s occupation, the dismantling of the wall, the implementation of the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, and equal treatment for Palestinian citizens of Israel. We invite all artists and arts organizations working towards the pursuit of justice and human rights to do the same.
For more information on the cultural boycott of Israel, visit the BDS Movement website. You can also read the guidelines for the International Cultural Boycott of Israel as stipulated by the BDS National Committee here.
We dedicate this statement to the countless Palestinian artists throughout history who have been assassinated, arrested, and attacked by Zionist forces. Palestinians have long displayed deep ingenuity and boundless creativity when approaching art making under extremely difficult circumstances. Their steadfastness is an inspiration to artists, activists, and organizers fighting for justice around the world.