A few notes on tonight’s Cirque Du Soleil Boycott, and why I — a person who deeply respects and appreciate culture — am boycotting.
- Boycott is a strategy (a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim), not a principle (a fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning).
- It’s okay to disagree, that’s what civil society is about.
- Cultural, academic and economic boycotts or sanctions have been part of our human rights history for the longest time. They are effective tools for exerting pressure to bring about change.
- Culture does not operate in some special, apolitical space – just like academic institutions in Israel are also not removed from complicity in systematic human rights abuses.
- The Israeli government and advocacy groups are deliberately seeking to use culture as a means of ‘rebranding’. In 2008, Israel’s Foreign Ministry hired a British firm to “craft” a “new image” for the country based on “Israel’s scientific and cultural achievements”. After the Gaza massacre in 2009, Israel announced more money for ‘cultural diplomacy’, with an official declaring a plan to “send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits” to “show Israel’s prettier face”.
- The cultural boycott of Israel is bringing about discourse, and discourse is good.
- The cultural boycott of Israel is “troubling” senior Israeli politicians: a law passed by the Knesset last year means that people who call for a boycott could be sued in court. The Israeli government has also set up a committee to look at how to compensate Israeli promoters in the cases of “politically motivated cancellations”.
- Calls for a boycott are supported by hundreds of artists around the world, from the film director Ken Loach to former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters and the author Alice Walker. Artists such as Carlos Santana and Elvis Costello have cancelled shows after pressure from campaigners in recent years; Coldplay, U2 and Bruce Springsteen have declined invitations to play in Israel without supporting the boycott publicly.