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Challenging Double Standards (CDS) respond to Artists for Palestine’s letter

March 6, 2015

via Challenging Double Standards

On February 26th, Artists for Palestine published a response to the open letter Challenging Double Standards (CDS) – A Call Against the Boycott of Israeli Art and Society. The authors accuse the CDS Call of misrepresenting the cultural BDS Movement, but in fact they misrepresent what CDS is and what it is about. To begin with: CDS has not been put together by a group of cultural workers based mainly in Germany. Out of the twenty initial signees only three are based in Germany. Moreover the authors of the response write that we “apparently endorse the idea that a state can be ‘democratic’ while also being defined by ethnicity[…].” But in fact we merely cited Noam Chomsky’s and Norman Finkelstein’s critique: Chomsky and Finkelstein oppose the BDS Movement for its vague definition of “occupied territories” (whether it refers to 1948 or 1967) and accuse BDS of ultimately striving for the destruction of Israel. We find it remarkable how the authors of the response re-emphasize that the idea “that a state can be ‘democratic’ while also being defined by ethnicity” is being “criticised by many Israelis – recently by Shlomo Sand.” Shlomo Sand himself is a historian teaching at Tel Aviv University and therefore he would be one of the victims of the BDS Movement. Further, Sand has not been in favor of cultural and academic boycotts against Israel within the Green Line — just like many other left Israelis. Could there be a more convincing proof of how inconsistent the idea of academic and cultural boycott actually is?

We do not misrepresent the BDS Movement. BDS is not a solely Palestinian, but an international movement mainly based in academic institutions in the global north though still speaking for “the Palestinians” or the Palestinian cause. While it acts on the authority of Palestinian activists it is also criticized within Palestinian society. The Palestinian Administration officially supports a boycott only against products made in West Bank settlements, but not a boycott of Israeli society as a whole and certainly does not support a cultural or an academic boycott.

It is hard to understand why the Artists for Palestine want us to believe that BDS is not directed against an entire state and its citizens. Have they not read their own texts? The authors quote the “Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS” written in 2005, where it says that the boycott shall be implemented until Israel fully complies with the precepts of international law by its ending of “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and by “respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194”. Anyone well-acquainted with the conflict knows that the phrase “the occupation of all Arab lands” does not only refer to the occupied territories of 1967.

Our letter intended to draw attention to the very nature of the cultural boycott. We demonstrated how individual artists as well as Jewish organizations have become targets of these boycott measures. We pointed to the fact that the boycott of Israel has to be seen in the wider context of the old and new history of anti-Jewish discourse and the ongoing use of Israel as the symbol of  the neo-colonial evil. This bias is exactly why Jews are attacked (and killed) by radical islamists.

Let us be clear: We understand very well that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not a symmetrical one. We do not overlook Palestinian suffering. We oppose the occupation and the settlements. This is the very reason why we promote dialogue and fight against a cultural boycott. As we have written in our letter: “We do not want to silence criticism; rather, we aim to challenge the dichotomized discursive battlefield. We don’t believe that all of us have to agree on each and every argument – that’s impossible! – but we insist on nuanced dialogue.”

Markus Brunner
Julia Edthofer
Benjy Fox-Rosen
Eduard Freudmann
Oliver Marchart
Suzana Milevska
Katharina Morawek
Ruth Novaczek
Doron Rabinovici
Nikola Radić Lucati
Anja Salomonowitz
Ruth Sonderegger
Luisa Ziaja

Erratum: Till Gathmann was listed in a previous list of signees.

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