PACBI: An open letter to J.K. Rowling from occupied Palestine: Don’t lend your name to Apartheid

The following letter was issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI):

The BDS Campaign is a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable for its violations of International law.

Occupied Palestine October 30, 2015

Dear J. K. Rowling,

We were disappointed to see your name on the “Israel needs cultural bridges, not boycotts” letter published in the Guardian last week. We are also perplexed by the timing of this call, signed by many Israel apologists as Israel has killed over 65­ Palestinians (of whom 13 are children) and injured 7200 since the start of October alone. We wish to clarify some points pertaining to yourcomments on the cultural boycott of Israel.

Much like you, Ms. Rowling, we are dreamers too. Despite the suffocating walls that besiege us, restrict our freedom and our daily movement to and from our schools and workplaces, and between our towns and villages, we dare to imagine what should be possible: liberation from oppression and a day when we are treated as equal human beings. Our boycott campaign, backed by overwhelming support from people of conscience all over the world, is turning this dream into a reality.

To start, we are a collective of Palestinian intellectuals, artists and academics who initiated the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in 2004. Following our initiative, an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing BDS campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality in 2005

Since its initiation, the BDS movement has adopted a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights and international law standards other states must adhere to. More specifically, Palestinians have called for a full boycott of Israel until our three basic rights are met:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3.  Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The BDS National Committee, in which PACBI is a member, rejects censorship and upholds the universal right to freedom of expression and subscribes to the internationally accepted definition of freedom of expression as stipulated in the United Nations” International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). PACBI”s Cultural Boycott Guidelines reject, on principle, boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion, and does not boycott Israeli individuals – cultural workers, academics or otherwise. BDS does not entail, as you say, “severing contact with Israel”s cultural and academic community” nor “refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are…most critical of Israel”s government,” quite the contrary.

The Palestinian call for BDS is inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid, where people of conscience in the international community shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice using diverse forms of boycott. Like the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, our aim is to bring direct pressure to bear on our oppressor. More than twenty years of “constructive engagement” projects in Palestine have led to nothing but further entrenchment of Israel’s colonization and progressive denial of Palestinian rights.

These projects provide a false symmetry between the oppressor and oppressed, which only serves to empower the oppressor, and contribute to perpetuating and normalizing oppression. In addition, they have often played into the hands of persistent Israeli official propaganda, especially its well oiled, but so-far futile, “Brand Israel” campaign which serves to mask Israel”s oppression of Palestinians.

There is no contradiction between boycotting complicit Israeli institutions and calling for serious, rational and ethical dialogue based on respect for the rights of Palestinians. BDS in fact promotes debate and even dialogue, but one that is based on respect for Palestinian rights under international law.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has repeatedly said, “those who turn a blind eye to injustice actually perpetuate injustice.” Tutu is joined in endorsing the boycott by a list of distinguished artists, writers and public intellectuals, including the late Stéphane Hessel, Holocaust survivor and co-author of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Judith Butler, Naomi Klein, Ken Loach, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Mira Nair, Roger Waters, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Faithless, Zakir Hussain, Mike Leigh and many many others.  Just this year,one thousand British cultural figures, a list of who”s who in film, literature and performing arts, signed a pledge to boycott Israel until it respects its obligations under international law.

J.K. Rowling, we appeal to you to stand on the right side of history by affirming our three basic rights mentioned above, and supporting the boycott.  We urge you not to undermine our resistance movement and to join the many world writers and artists who support the boycott.  At a minimum, we call on you not to lend your good name to be used in undermining our call for nonviolent resistance.


The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

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