Don’t let Israeli apartheid onstage!
Call to boycott The Cameri Theatre at the Delhi International Arts Festival 2012
The organizers of the Delhi International Arts Festival (DIAF) — the Prasiddha Foundation, the Hindustan Times and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) — have invited The Cameri Theatre from Israel to perform at Siri Fort on November 4th as part of the Festival’s celebration of “the spirit of Delhi”.
The Cameri Theatre serves as an official propaganda tool for the State of Israel — a state that occupies Palestinian lands and practises apartheid policies on the Palestinian people. The Cameri theatre is complicit in the Israeli Occupation of Palestine because it chooses to perform in the illegal settlement of Ariel. Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the occupied West Bank, located on expropriated agricultural Palestinian land. The construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land violates international law, and amounts to a war crime. Illegal Ariel contaminates Palestinian water and agricultural lands. Illegal Ariel is surrounded by walls and fences, and closely guarded by soldiers and armed security personnel. A theatrical performance in this illegal settlement is, by definition, a performance to an exclusively Israeli audience. Palestinians living even in the nearest village are physically excluded from attending. By performing in such circumstances, the Cameri profits from and legitimizes Israel’s illegal colonization policies, and becomes an accomplice to these crimes.
The Cameri often chooses to stage plays that convey “humane” messages to deflect criticism. But it is ready to perform these “humane” plays on stolen land – excluding the people of that stolen land suffering the occupier’s military rule. “Culture” and the “arts” do not operate in a non-political wonderland. The best of artists know this well. Renowned British theatre director Peter Brook, much admired in India as well, cancelled his theatre troupe’s participation at the International Festival for Plays of The Cameri Theatre in December 2012. Brook wrote that The Cameri Theatre’s support of “the brutal action of colonisation by playing in Ariel in the West Bank” led to his decision to decline performing in the Cameri Theatre’s festival.
Many Israeli theatre artists, intellectuals and activists have been working hard to communicate to the world the kind of politics at work behind the “theatre arts” of The Cameri Theatre. Many Israeli actors and artists have, in protest, refused to perform in Ariel. Their boycott has grown to include academic institutions and cultural events. Support has come from highly acclaimed Israeli academics and authors, including Amos Oz and David Grossman. This protest was met by threats and denunciation from the Israeli prime minister and government, the Knesset, and the managers of Israeli theatres themselves, including The Cameri.
By hosting The Cameri Theatre’s performance in Delhi, the DIAF organisers are endorsing The Cameri Theatre’s complicity with Israeli occupation of Palestine and the state’s apartheid policies against Palestinians. Surely DIAF cannot equate The Cameri Theatre’s spirit with either the “spirit of Delhi” or the “spirit” of Indian citizens of conscience.
We condemn this plan to woo Israel and promote links between Indian and Israel by compromising cultural practitioners as well as citizens of conscience in both India and Israel. We have to make it clear to the State of Israel and institutions supported by it that Israel cannot be admitted into the global cultural arena as long as it does not 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 should not showcase India in Israel or welcome groups such as The Cameri Theatre to India.
Israel’s apartheid policies cannot be whitewashed with “culture”, “art” or “festivals”.
We call upon all members of the theatre, film and arts world in India and the academic community to join us in protesting against these attempts. We appeal to all Indian citizens of conscience to boycott the Cameri Theatre’s performance in Delhi on November 4th.
Sd/- Shyam Benegal (Film maker, Former Rajya Sabha Member) Sadanand Menon (Arts editor, curator and writer) Sanjna Kapoor (Theatre person) Samik Bandyopadhayay (Theatre, art and film critic) Maya Rao (Theatre person) M.K. Raina (Theatre person) N. K. Sharma (Theatre person) Moloyashree Hashmi (Theatre person) Sudhanva Deshpande (Theatre person) Sameera Iyengar (Theatre person) Aneesh Pradhan (Musician, composer, author) Bedabrata pain (film-maker and scientist) Jana Natya Manch (JANAM) SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, Delhi) Prayog (Theatre group, Delhi) Act One (Theatre group, Delhi) Kashmir Performance Collective (Theater group, Kashmir) Kashmir Bhagat Theater (Theater group, Kashmir) For InCACBI (The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel): N Pushpamala, Convenor (Artist) Gargi Sen, Convenor (Film-maker) Githa Hariharan, Convenor (Writer) Ayesha Kidwai, Convenor (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Mohan Rao, Convenor (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Saeed Mirza (Film-maker) Amar Kanwar (Film-maker) Anand Patwardhan (Film-maker) Saba Dewan (Film-maker) Arundhati Roy (Writer) K Satchidanandan (Writer) Aijaz Ahmad (Literary Critic and Cultural Commentator) Alok Rai (Literary Critic) Geeta Kapoor (Art Critic) Ram Rahman (Artist) Sheba Chhachhi (Artist) Vivan Sundaram (Artist) KN Panikkar (Academic) Mushirul Hasan (Director, National Archives of India) Ritu Menon (Publisher) Achin Vanaik (Delhi University) Jayati Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Kalpana Kannabiran (Hyderabad University) Nandini Sundar (Delhi University) Nivedita Menon (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Prabhat Patnaik (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Rajni Palriwala (Delhi University) Sumit Sarkar (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Lawrence Liang (Alternative Law Forum) T Jayraman (Tata Institute of Social Studies) Tanika Sarkar (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Uma Chakravarthy (Delhi University) Upendra Baxi (Former Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University) Vina Mazumdar (Former Director Center for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi) Zoya Hasan (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Dhruv Sangari (Singer) Kamal Mitra Chenoy (Jawaharlal Nehru University) Prabir Purkayastha (Delhi Science Forum) Gautam Navlakha (Journalist) Harsh Mander (Activist) Praful Bidwai (Journalist) Seema Mustafa (Journalist) Vrinda Grover (Lawyer) and 150 others from InCACBI