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PACBI-Open letter by Alain Platel (les ballets C de la B)

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Alain Platel | 14 October 2015

Open letter by Alain Platel (les ballets C de la B)

I would once again like to make a clear call for the support for the (cultural) boycott of Israel. I really am not much of a hero and it is always with a heavy heart that I swing into action, when I feel that it is necessary. It is even harder when I am forced to disagree with fellow artists – whose work I admire immensely – in this respect when they claim that these kinds of actions or statements either are not ours to take or make, or don’t help matters whatsoever.

My (artistic) collaboration with Jewish and Palestinian artists, both in the Occupied Territories and here in Belgium, however, leaves me no choice. Since my first visit to the Occupied Territories – in 2001, and this during the intifada – I became convinced that the resolution of the conflict in this part of the world could be crucial and could give a huge boost to a positive development in the whole region, and by extension, East-West relationships as a whole. Of course, this is very naïve and utopian, but I believe that harbouring such utopian hopes is a good thing. After all, I see very little or no evidence of how the existing political and military structures do/did get things moving.

And this is why, more than ever, I want to make a plea for a delicate, yet special citizens’ initiative: the support for the (cultural) boycott of Israel.

Recent hot news from this region only reaches us when unspeakable cruelties are inflicted on Jewish citizens. We are not told, however, what actually triggered them. It always seems as if yet another Palestinian extremist brutally attacked innocent Jewish civilians in a moment of insanity. What we don’t hear, for instance, is how Jewish settlers and other extremists meanwhile are allowed to engage in constant (often violent) provocations; what’s more, under the continuous protection of Israeli soldiers, in the Palestinian districts, at the Al-Aqsa mosque and by extension, permanently and everywhere in the Occupied Territories.

Photographer Filip Claus has recently made a short film about such an event in the city of Hebron. This is a Palestinian city on the West Bank (so-called Palestinian territory!) with approximately 200,000 inhabitants, where 800 illegal settlers live who are permanently guarded and supported by some 2,000 (!) Israeli soldiers. The Jewish settlers take regular 'sightseeing walks’ in the Palestinian part of the city, accompanied by a small army of Israeli soldiers, at that … A daily (!) shocking, provocative presence.

This is one instance of continuous harassment, besides the much more radical actions. Gaza is still an open-air prison; land, properties and possessions of Palestinians are still being systematically and illegally confiscated or simply destroyed. Illegal settlements are still being built every day in Palestinian territories. Every day, Palestinians are still being harassed, discriminated against, picked up, locked up or – where 'necessary’ – simply shot. The OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), a United Nations humanitarian organisation, for instance, regularly publishes the shocking figures of the 'invisible victims’ who are killed there every year. (see:

You could ask yourself here how it is possible that, at first glance, Palestinians seem to respond to this in such a resigned way. The massive military protection, the continuous legal and administrative preferential treatment of Jewish settlers, and selective reporting encourage this.

As many have been predicting for a long time, this inevitably leads to radicalisation on both sides, which we have clearly seen increase for some considerable time now. And as many have been predicting for a long time, we once again find ourselves on the brink of an intifada. The third intifada, as it is being called. And if this one, just as predictably, is crushed in a horribly violent way, the situation may calm down again for a while … as we wait the fourth intifada and the fifth, the sixth … etc. to kick off. Unless much more, clear pressure is exerted on the Israeli government(s) to work on real, constructive and permanent solutions. A (cultural) boycott is nonviolent but is incredibly irritating and with ardent advocates such as archbishop Desmond Tutu is in very good company.

Alain Platel

les ballets C de la B 

Info about the Belgian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:

Posted on 21-10-2015

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