‘Art is the velvet glove on Israel’s iron fist’ – Brian Eno in Apollo magazine

(First posted in www.artistsforpalestine.org.uk)

International art magazine Apollo devotes its December double-page  Forum discussion to the question, “Are artists justified in boycotting Israel?”

The debate can be viewed online here. We review it below.

Explaining why his answer to the magazine’s question is “Yes”,  composer Brian Eno traces his personal journey from idealistic sympathy with Israel in the 1960s to disillusion with its policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing directed at the Palestinians and a realisation that endless peace talks and cultural exchanges were not going to put an end to the injustices.

When he sees “Art being used by Israel as a PR tool, the velvet glove on an iron fist,” there is little he can do other than “refuse to become part of the cultural propaganda effort on which Israel spends so much money.”



In the “No” camp , commentator Tiffany Jenkins does not trouble herself with going into the reasons why Palestinian artists and academics have called on their international peers to implement a boycott. There is no mention of Palestine or Palestinians at any point in her 700 word polemic.

When she complains that boycott places “an embargo on artistic exchange”, or that it demands “that people stop communicating with one another,”she is clearly concerned solely about exchange between Israel and the rest of the world.

As filmmaker and writer Omar Robert Hamilton said in his recent defence of the boycott tactic, as far as Israel’s supporters are concerned, “The Palestinians are irrelevant.”

When Jenkins alleges that boycott denies art “to one nationality in particular”, or that artists “need to be free not to have an opinion, and when they do, to be able to express it,” she ignores Israel’s denial of artistic, cultural or indeed any fundamental freedoms to Palestinians over the past six decades and more.

But then how seriously should we take someone who thinks choosing not to buy apartheid-era South African oranges was “questionable”?




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