Palestine rights campaigners respond to “hypocritical” Festival chiefs

PNN/ Bethlehem/

Scots campaigning for Palestinian rights have responded to “hypocritical” comments by Fergus Linehan, the new director of the Edinburgh International Festival, and his predecessor Jonathan Mills.

Last week Linehan and Mills spoke out against Palestine solidarity actions over recent years that have disrupted and closed down Israel-state endorsed events during Edinburgh’s Festival, when they were participating in the panel discussion at the Walking the Tightrope production at Underbelly.

Albie O’Neill, secretary of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign who will be taking part in the ‘Walking the Tightrope’ panel discussion on Tuesday with the Israeli Embassy cultural attaché Dan Golan, said “If we were all to follow the pompous and self-righteous advice of Linehan and Mills, I am sure that apartheid in South Africa would still be standing and women in Scotland would still be denied the vote.

“If Linehan and Mills are not interested in the well documented war crimes, torture and human rights abuses carried out by Israel, I doubt they have much time to consider how Israel denies freedom of expression to Palestinians. Fortunately, millions of decent people around the world care enough to hold Israel to account.”

O’Neill continues: “Countless performers have been arrested without charge, performances prohibited, and theatres attacked with tanks.

“The Palestine Literary Festival in 2009 was closed down and participants, including Michael Palin, were driven out. The 19th Annual Palestinian Children’s Festival in East Jerusalem was prohibited due to the fact that it received funding from the Palestinian Authority.

“In 2012 members of the Ramallah Orchestra were denied entry permits to perform in East Jerusalem.

“In June of this year Israeli cultural workers signed a petition condemning the government for moves, described as ‘anti-freedom of expression’, that will deny funding to artists and theatre companies if they do not support the government line.

“Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev threatened to cut funding to the Jaffa based Elmina Theater group because their manager refused to perform in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.

“This is in stark contrast to Israeli government support for artists and performers who are funded to attend events like the Edinburgh festivals, on condition they sign contracts which make clear they must act as ambassadors and not criticise Israel. Crucially, they must not reveal the conditions of their contract.

“Arye Mekel of the the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in 2009, ‘We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.’

“The cultural boycott of Israel has been called for by Palestinian cultural workers as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which was launched in 2005. The Israeli government is aware that the demand from across the world for them to end their brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people is growing, and like the pressure on the South African apartheid regime it will ultimately prove irresistible.”

“The former ambassador to the UK has been recalled to head up a new anti-BDS department which has been allocated a multi-million pound budget.”

“No amount of whitewashing by Dan Golan, or by Linehan and Mills for that matter, will fool the people of Edinburgh. They call for the right of freedom of expression but their actions serve to defends a brutal apartheid regime that denies that same freedom and the right to life to the Palestinian people.”