BERGER, John. UK art critic, artist & author on cultural boycott of Apartheid Israel: "the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid"

John Peter Berger (born 5 November 1926) is an English art critic, novelist, painter and author of the novel ”G.” which  won the 1972 Booker Prize, and “Ways of Seeing” a BBC TV series and  book on art criticism (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Berger ).

 

John Berger advocating a cultural boycott of  Apartheid Israel in a letter to the UK Guardian  signed by 95 creative writers and artists (2006):There is a fragile ceasefire in Lebanon, albeit daily violated by Israeli overflights. Meanwhile the day-to-day brutality of the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank continues. Ten Palestinians are killed for every Israeli death; more than 200, many of them children, have been killed since the summer. UN resolutions are flouted, human rights violated as Palestinian land is stolen, houses demolished and crops destroyed. For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for the Jewish former ANC military commander now South African minister of security, Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid.

Meanwhile, western governments refer to Israel's legitimate right of self-defence, and continue to supply weaponry. The challenge of apartheid was fought better. The non-violent international response to apartheid was a campaign of boycott, divestment and UN-imposed sanctions which enabled the regime to change without bloodshed.

Today, Palestinians teachers, writers, film-makers and non-governmental organisations have called for a comparable academic and cultural boycott of Israel as offering another path to a just peace. This call has been endorsed internationally by university teachers in many European countries, by film-makers and architects, and by some brave Israeli dissidents. It is now time for others to join the campaign - as Primo Levi asked: "If not now, when?" We call on creative writers and artists to support our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues by endorsing the boycott call. Read the Palestinian call pacbi.org.

John Berger
Brian Eno
Sophie Fiennes
Eduardo Galeano
Reem Kelani
Leon Rosselson
Steven Rose
Arundhati Roy
Ahdaf Soueif
Elia Suleiman
and 85 others." [1].

John Berger signed the following letter together with Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy, José Saramago, and  Howard Zinn on the occasion of the 2006 devastation of Gaza and Lebanon by the Apartheid Israeli military machine (2006):

 “The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza. An incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish press. The following day the Palestinians took an Israeli soldier prisoner - and proposed a negotiated exchange against prisoners taken by the Israelis - there are approximately 10,000 in Israeli jails.

That this "kidnapping" was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and the systematic appropriation of its natural resources - most particularly that of water - by the Israeli Defence (!) Forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land alloted to them by international agreements, during the last seventy years.

Today outrage follows outrage; makeshift missiles cross sophisticated ones. The latter usually find their target situated where the disinherited and crowded poor live, waiting for what was once called Justice. Both categories of missile rip bodies apart horribly - who but field commanders can forget this for a moment?

Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.

This has to be said loud and clear for the practice, only half declared and often covert, is advancing fast these days, and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognised for what it is and resisted.” [2].

[1]. Letter to the Guardian signed by 95 creative writers and artists, “Israel boycott may be the way to peace”, Guardian, 15 December 2006: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/dec/15/israel.guardianletters .

[2]. Tariq Ali, John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Harold Pinter, Arundhati Roy, José Saramago and  Howard Zinn, “Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine”, Open Letter, 19 July 2006: http://www.chomsky.info/letters/20060719.htm .

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