To the board and member theatres of the European Theatre Convention (ETC),
We, Jews, Palestinians, citizens of Israel, write to you today asking you to cancel the Israeli theatre The Cameri’s membership of the ETC, due to The Cameri’s implicit and now also explicit role in sustaining the occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people.
As you may already know, on Wednesday, August 25, an Israeli newspaper revealed1 that the major theatres in the country, including The Cameri, are to perform in the newly established cultural centre of Ariel. Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the occupied West Bank, located approximately 16 kilometres east of the internationally recognized “green line”, on expropriated agricultural Palestinian land. As any other settlement for Jews-Only, Ariel’s existence is in itself a violation of international law, breaching article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupier from transferring it’s own civilian population into occupied territories. Ariel regularly contaminates Palestinian water and agricultural lands2. Moreover, the West Bank separation wall and the roads for Israelis only that surround it form severe restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement and further expropriate Palestinian lands and resources. In 2004 the international court of Justice in Hague ruled the Israeli-built West Bank separation wall to be entirely illegal as well.
Following this publication, dozens of Israeli theatre artists signed a protest letter declaring they refuse to perform in Ariel.3 They were later joined by 150 Israeli artists and intellectuals, expanding the boycott to include academic institutions and events as well4. This rare voice of protest was soon met by threats and denunciation from the Israeli prime-minister and government5, the Knesset, and the managers of Israeli theatres themselves, including The Cameri.
In spite of The Cameri’s shifting into active involvement in the occupation of Palestinian territories, this recent development merely exposes the theatre’s continued complicity in sustaining the apartheid policies of its main funder, the state of Israel. Like all Israeli cultural institutions, especially on the international level, The Cameri functions as a fig leaf for the Israeli regime and its human rights violations, remaining silent and serving to obscure them. The Cameri’s ties with the Israeli army, providing benefits and discounts for soldiers6 whose main task is to oppress another people – though considered ‘normal’ in Israeli society – should not be approved as such by the international community.
In light of such typical institutional complicity and due to the fact that all other forms of international intervention have failed, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has issued in 2004 its call for a boycott of all Israeli cultural institutions7. Supporters of the call have asked individuals and institutions abroad to refrain from any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions.
PACBI’s statement delineates the extent of the Israeli colonial rule on the Palestinian people. This includes the denial of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine carried out by the Israeli forces and the ensuing consistent refusal to grant compensation and the right of return to the Palestinian refugees; the systematic discrimination of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the 1967 military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and their further colonization in violation of international law and UN resolutions.
Along the same principles, a wide spectrum of 171 Palestinian civil society organizations have issued the 2005 general Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights8. PACBI’s Call and the BDS Call signify a Palestinian resort to non-violent tactics that has gained tremendous support throughout the world, sending a strong message of “no business as usual” to the Israeli government and to its complicit institutions.
The Cameri’s membership in a respectable organization such as the ETC, as well as any form of cooperation with it, reflect back on the ETC and its members and implicate you too in condoning the Israeli colonial policies. We therefore appeal to you to bring about the cancellation of The Cameri’s ETC membership and refrain from cooperating with it from now on, until the basic rights of the Palestinian people are respected by Israel.
On behalf of
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from within