A Conversation on Cultural Boycott of Israel

 An Open Conversation on Cultural Boycott of Israel 

All are welcome!

Thursday, September 15, 2011; starting promptly at 7:30 p.m.

 Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives:

Building a Progressive Jewish Community in Brooklyn

1012 Eighth Avenue at 10th Street in Park Slope

You are invited to a respectful conversation among Jews with many different perspectives about cultural boycott of Israel. During this time when the UN is scheduled to vote on Palestinian statehood, we hope to encourage discussion and thought within the Jewish community about how to best support movements for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. This evening will provide an opportunity to hear from people with different points of view about whether cultural boycott is an appropriate and effective strategy for doing just that.

Too often these days open discussions among American Jews about Israel, its politics, culture, and government are prevented, often from fear that differences may split apart a community, an institution, or friendships. This open conversation is a way to open up discussion, not shut it down.

Background: Many artists and musicians and others oppose the Israeli occupation and support the cultural boycott of Israel–which is part of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign—as a non-violent way to press Israel to abide by international law and recognize Palestinians’ human rights and right to self-determination. This boycott includes the decision not to perform or exhibit in Israel or in settlements in the Occupied Territories. This also includes a call to boycott Israeli institutions that are complicit with the occupation. Supporters of BDS and of cultural boycott have joined an appeal called for by Palestinian civil society asking the international community to use this nonviolent tool at a time when the Israeli government, as well as the U.S. and European governments, have failed to act to stop the abuses that are intensifying and when other forms of pressure have not been successful.

Other artists, actors, and musicians and others, also committed to peace and justice, feel differently. They believe that a cultural boycott of Israel does more harm than good and is not an appropriate tool in the Israeli-Palestinian context. They accept—or support accepting—invitations to perform or exhibit in Israel and prefer to keep channels of communication open. When Israeli cultural institutions or artists perform in the US, some of these people prefer to focus on their art, and not to engage in political action such as protests or calls for boycott. Some who share this view about cultural boycott also feel this way about the Palestinian call regarding BDS in general or other specific expressions of it.

The event: On September 15, we are fortunate to hear speakers who have thought deeply about—and been involved in—issues of peace and justice, who have spent time in Israel/Palestine, and who disagree with each other about BDS and cultural boycott. Some of our speakers are active in the arts, and some are members of Jewish groups that focus on peace in the Middle East. Some are members of our host congregation. Our moderator will encourage the speakers and audience to probe deeply into these issues and the many questions that arise as we think and talk together and learn from and listen to each other. There will be time for audience members to ask questions and engage in discussion as well.

Speakers (organizational affiliation for identification purposes only): Udi Aloni*, Filmmaker; Dalit Baum*, Who Profits?; Jethro Eisenstein, Board of Directors, Jewish Voice for Peace; Roy Nathanson, Musician, member of Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives; Lynne Sachs, Filmmaker, member of Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives; Ron Skolnik, Executive Director, Partners for Progressive Israel (Meretz USA)

Moderator: Esther Kaplan, radio and print journalist; editor of The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute; co-host of Beyond the Pale, which covers Jewish culture and politics on WBAI/New York

*The two Israeli speakers confirmed their participation prior to the July 11 passage in the Israeli Knesset of the “Bill for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Through Boycott.” This law, which has drawn widespread international criticism, limits freedom of expression and association and exposes Israeli citizens and organizations to litigation and penalties if they publicly call for all kinds of boycotts of Israel, settlements, or the occupation. Both speakers have once again confirmed they will join us.

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Hosted by: Kolot Chayeinu/ Voices of Our Lives: Building a Progressive Jewish Community in Brooklyn

Organizing Committee: Naomi Allen (Brooklyn For Peace), Ricky Blum (Brooklyn For Peace), Mary Buchwald (Brooklyn For Peace), Elly Bulkin (Jews Say No!), Cindy Greenberg (Kolot Chayeinu / Voices of Our Lives), Carol Horwitz (Jews Say No!), Rabbi Ellen Lippmann (Kolot Chayeinu / Voices of Our Lives), Donna Nevel (Jews Say No!)

Info: Naomi Allen 917-439-9054; Carol Horwitz 917-566-5675; Press inquiries: Donna Nevel 917-570-4371

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