- Published on Friday, 10 August 2012 23:47
Human rights campaigners today welcomed the Scottish Government's confirmation that Israel will not be represented at the first International Culture Summit hosted in the Scottish Parliament building next week.
A coalition of campaign groups labelled "Don't dance with Israeli apartheid", which had planned to protest any official Israeli presence, said that Israel had declined the invitation to attend a conference "encouraging cultural dialogue among nations". The coalition is organising an audio-visual, singing and spoken-word event entitled "Israel's Culture of Apartheid" outside the Parliament for the duration of the Cultural Summit.
The summit, on August 13th and 14th, will bring together around 40 culture ministers from around the world; according to Scottish Government's Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, the gathering "offers an unprecedented opportunity to discuss the use and value of the arts, culture and the creative industries, and their role in encouraging dialogue among nations."
Relationships between Israel and the SNP government have differed from that between former Labour/Lib Dem administrations. After Israel's Mossad agents travelled on forged British passports during their assassination of a Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel in 2010, First Minister Alex Salmond called for trade sanctions against Israel.
Campaigners say an official "Brand Israel" marketing campaign is an attempt to use culture to distract attention from ongoing allegations of human rights abuses and war crimes. The Israeli Embassy in London was recently embarrassed when the idea behind a Twitter campaign promoting Israel's state-sponsored theatre company, Habima, was exposed. A leaked Embassy email stated that, "After careful consideration, we have decided to use the hashtag #LoveCulture as it... won't be taken at first glance as a political statement."
Kate Logan, of the Don't Dance with Israeli Apartheid coalition said, "Israel attending the Culture Summit would be highly inappropriate. However, it is unprecedented for Israel to miss an opportunity to cover its crimes through a disingenuous focus on culture. Either it was scared away by the planned protests, still angry at Salmond's call for trade sanctions, or it was not invited in the first place. Our group will still play an informative role at the Cultural Summit, but we are delighted we do not have to protest any official Israeli representation."
The coalition was formed to protest Israel's state-funded Batsheva dance group which is set to play the Edinburgh International Festival later this month. Israeli Government Minister Limor Livnat is expected to attend one of the Batsheva performances.
1. 'Don't Dance with Israeli Apartheid' is a coalition of Palestine solidarity organisations and activists.
2. According to the official Edinburgh International Culture Summit website (http://eics2012.com):
"The first International Culture Summit will take place in Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh, on August 13 and 14."
"The Edinburgh International Culture Summit is a collaboration between partner organisations – the Scottish Government, the UK Government, the British Council and the Edinburgh International Festival – and will be hosted at the Scottish Parliament."
"50 culture ministers from around the world" have been invited.
Above quote from Fiona Hyslop:
3. Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, called for trade sanctions against Israel on the BBC's Question Time on 25th March 2010:
See Jewish Chronicle, 8th April 2010: Alex Salmond calls for Israel trade rethink:
4. Brand Israel
Foreign Ministry, PR firm rebrand Israel as land of achievements
Israel Aims To Improve Its Public Image
Putting out a contract on art
Israel is new South Africa as boycott calls increase
5. Israeli Embassy embarrassed by Twitter campaign that tried to present politics as culture. See:
Ben White, 26/5/12, Israel's UK embassy plans Twitter campaign against boycott of Tel Aviv theatre group:
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, 26/5/12, Israeli Embassy Orchestrates Twitter Defence Of Habima:
6. Batsheva Dance Company at the Edinburgh International Festival
Batsheva funded by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Limor Livnat attending Batsheva performance