Church Land programme and MRN BDS Statement on the Hilton Arts Festival

Dismayed and angered as the Hilton
Arts Festival puts on Israeli state-sponsored productions

08 September 2011

The state of Israel is guilty of oppression, injustice, illegal occupation, and
apartheid-style discrimination on a massive scale. It’s actions provoke
revulsion, protest and active resistance by decent people all over the world.
One component of that protest is a global cultural and academic boycott.
The Hilton Arts Festival is in danger of irrevocably tarnishing its image by
undermining that boycott and allowing itself to be used as an instrument of the
Israeli state’s agenda. Festival Director, Sue Clarence, has repeatedly drawn
attention to three productions at this year’s Festival that are being mounted
through support from the Israeli state. On the Festival website for example,
she says:

“I would also like to draw attention to Roy Horowitz
and his actors from Israel with three plays, The Timekeepers, Volunteer Man and
My First Sony. Thanks are due to those who made this possible: the Embassy of
Israel, the Ambassador – Mr. Dov Segev-Steinberg and the Cultural Attache, Mr.
Yaakov Finkelstein; the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Mr Victor
Gordon, the head of Tararam [‘South Africa Israel Culture Fund’].[1]
International Cultural and Academic Boycott

According to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
which was launched in Ramallah in 2004, boycotting Israeli academic and
cultural institutions is an urgently needed form of pressure against Israel
that can bring about its compliance with international law and the requirements
for a just peace. In July 2004, the Campaign issued a statement of principles,
addressed to the international community urging them to comprehensively and
consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until
Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem;
removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions
relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its
system of apartheid.
The Palestinian Campaign is inspired by the historic role played by people of
conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals who
have shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in
their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of
boycott2. The call for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign of Israel
has wide support in Palestine and has been actively supported by Israelis as
well. British writer John Berger, Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, US poet
Adrienne Rich, British film director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty
are just some of the prominent voices that have joined this call. In a movement
that continues to gain momentum, a string of artists have recently either
cancelled shows or pledged their refusal to be complicit in Israeli Apartheid.
Some names include: Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Dustin
Hoffman, Meg Ryan, Faithless and Massive Attack.
The South African Campaign

In October 2010, Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on the Cape Town
Opera to cancel its scheduled tour of Israel. A nationwide campaign was
initiated and on 1 November 2010 the South African cultural boycott of Israel
was launched with the ‘South African Artists Against Apartheid Declaration’.

In that Declaration, signatories commented that:

As South African Artists and Cultural Workers who have lived
under, survived, and in many cases resisted apartheid, we acknowledge the value
of international solidarity in our own struggle. It is in this context that we
respond to the call by Palestinians, and their Israeli allies, for such
solidarity. As artists of conscience we say no to apartheid – anywhere.

Specifically, the Declaration makes clear that “Collaborating with institutions linked to the
state of Israel cannot be regarded as a neutral act in the name of cultural
exchange”. [3]


We strongly urge:·

-the Festival organisers to re-think this disastrous decision and pull the
productions from the Festival programme immediately;·

-the Festival sponsors [4] and partners to join people of good conscience in
protesting the decision and withdrawing their support for the Festival should
the decision not be changed;

-all cultural workers and artists, directly involved in this year’s Festival and
around the country, to speak about their concerns, to support the boycott, and
to take creative actions to highlight these issues

-the general public, especially those of us well-off enough to go to the Festival,
to add our voices to the protest, to pressure the Festival organisers to
reverse the decision;

-to protest at the Festival;

-and at minimum to boycott – if not the whole Festival as some of us will
undoubtedly be doing, then at least those plays brought to us with
Israeli-state money.
We urge our colleagues who have been active on issues of Palestinian solidarity
and justice to take the protest action further in the coming weeks.

Signed on 8th September 2011, at the Church Land Programme, Pietermaritzburg:

-Prof Richard Ballard, School of Development Studies, UKZN

-Prof Steven Friedman, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Rhodes
University and University of Johannesburg

-Anne Harley, Centre for Adult Education, Paulo Freire Project, UKZN

-Prof Gillian Hart, University of California, Berkely, and UKZN

– Ayanda Kota, Unemployed Peoples Movement

-Rev Mavuso, Rural Network

-Prof Michael Neocosmos, Department of Sociology, UNISA

-Zodwa Nsibande, Abahlali baseMjondolo

-Richard Pithouse, Politics Department, Rhodes University

-Prof David Szanton, University of California, Berkely (retired)

Church Land Programme (CLP): Board, staff and associates:

Madalitso Ntine (Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian
Awareness, PACSA); Solomuzi Mabuza (Ujamaa Centre, UKZN); David Ntseng; Graham
Philpott; Thulani Ndlazi; David Hallowes; Mercio Langa; Mark Butler; Lindo
Dhlamini; Nomusa Sokhela; Zonke Sithole.


The Media Review Network has expressed deep concern about the
Witness Hilton Arts Festival that is scheduled to take place in
Pietermaritzburg from 16 to 18 September. The advocacy group said the fact that
three Israeli plays will be staged at the festival was a “clear
violation” of an international call by Palestinian victims of Israeli
oppression to enforce a boycott regime against the apartheid state.

“We are dismayed too that despite calls by South African civil society on
the organisers and sponsors of the event to heed the plea for a cultural
boycott of Israel, they have opted to dismiss these. We wish to remind Iain
McMillan, the chairman of the festival that by staging plays by Israel, they
would be seen to be endorsing the right wing regime and its policies of
Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid,” MRN chairperson Iqbal Jassat said
in a statement issued on Monday.

He called on McMillan to urgently review the merits of incorporating Israeli
plays against the backdrop of life-threatening daily violations of human rights
by Israel. “If the Hilton Festival is serious about its commitment to deal
with human issues, we respectfully urge them to not turn a blind eye to the
pain and suffering resulting from decades of human rights violations such as
settlement activity, the siege of Gaza, military checkpoints, the Wall, home
demolitions and land confiscation – all illegal under International Law. Unlike
these plays, real life drama affects every single Palestinian whose voices are
stifled each time Israel attempts to breach the boycott campaign,” Jassat

1. See:

2. See:


4. They include: East Coast Radio, Spar, The Witness,
Nedbank, SAPPI, Grindrod Bank, DACT, SAB Miller, Black Coffee, Star Hire, and


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