Dear Vikas Swarup,
We understand that you are scheduled to participate in the International Writers Festival to be held in Jerusalem (Mishkenot Sha ananim) from May 13-18, 2012.
We, a group of academics, activists and artists in India, came together in June 2010 to campaign against yet another apartheid regime by extending support to the international campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel (see www.incacbi.in).
In response to a recent boycott call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (see appeal to participating writers on www.pacbi.org), the Indian Campaign urges you to withdraw your participation in the Writers Festival.
Doing otherwise would inadvertently lend a stamp of approval to Israeli policies of colonialism, apartheid and occupation. This is especially given the festival’s ties to the Israeli political and cultural establishment, which uses the festival as an opportunity to rebrand Israel as a normal country by showing its “prettier face”--its vibrant cultural and artistic community. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/world/middleeast/19israel.html).
Should Israel be admitted into the global cultural arena when it does not respect international law and recognize the Palestinian people s right to freedom, equality and justice? At a time when the international movement to isolate Israel is gaining ground in response to the escalation of Israel s colonial and racist policies, we urge you to reflect upon the ethical implications of your accepting an invitation to take part in such a festival. Pertinent facts concerning this festival include the announcement that, in accordance with the tradition of previous festivals, the President of the state will preside over the festival’s opening; that it expects to be funded by the Jerusalem Foundation, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Jerusalem Municipality; (see http://www.jerusalemfoundation.org/uploads/%5CProposal%20-%20Third%20Writers%20Festival-%20AB%20Rev.pdf )and that the festival is envisioned by its organizers as a public-relations exercise to “improve the image of Jerusalem”.
The Writers Festival thus makes a direct and meaningful contribution to improving the image of Jerusalem around the world, and at the same time, continuing a most significant tradition of Jerusalem as the centre of creativity, scholarship and spirituality. These complementary goals can be met with the help of friends around the world who understand that the power of the written word can have an impact on how we all view Jerusalem. Through renewing our commitment to Jerusalem as a creative capital, with Mishkenot Sha ananim as a key player bringing leading minds and creative talent together, it is possible to bring about change for the future of Jerusalem.
Your participation would help whitewash Israel’s practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual. We urge you not to lend your name to this propaganda exercise. Jerusalem epitomizes, in the starkest terms, the colonial and apartheid regime now in place in the occupied Palestinian territory. We need not remind you of the ongoing and deepening Israeli campaign to confiscate Palestinian land and destroy more homes, to expand and build colonies in and around this city, and to block the access of Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza strip from their premier city by means of the apartheid Wall and other barriers to free movement. In short, Israel is blocking all avenues to self-determination and freedom for Palestinians. Under these circumstances, pressure from the outside is the only viable way to push for change in Israel.
We, supporters of the Palestinian struggle in India and South Asia, call upon civil society in our region to support the Palestinian right to resist, without violence, an illegal occupation. The BDS position is a morally sound and effective means of struggle that challenges the world to force Israeli compliance with international law.
In the spirit of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression, we call upon fellow Indians to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions by applying the following:
1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to
3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and
5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for
6. We urge the Indian government to forthwith cease all trade and military ties with Israel. We also urge all Indian Universities and research institutions to join
History shows us that boycotts and sanctions can be effective. The most obvious example of the effectiveness of such campaigns is South Africa. After calling for boycott and sanctions against Israel in 2002, the South African Minister for Intelligence Services, Ronnie Kasrils, stated: “We in South Africa know about racial oppression. We fought it and defeated it because it was unjust… South Africa is an example of what is possible”.
For The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
- Ayesha Kidwai (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Convenor)
- Mohan Rao (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Convenor)
- Gargi Sen (Filmmaker, Convener)
- Kamal Mitra Chenoy (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
- Anuradha Chenoy (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
- Githa Hariharan (Writer)
- Ritu Menon (Publisher)
- Seema Mustafa (Journalist)
- Pamela Philipose (Journalist)
- Prabir Purkayastha (Engineer)
- N. Pushpamala (Artist)
- Achin Vanaik (Delhi University)
Posted on 01-03-2012