ROWLING ON BOYCOTTS JUST WIZARD
A LETTER signed by JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel and Melvyn Bragg, which appeared in the Guardian, is the first step of a campaign opposing the boycott of Israel, its organisers say.
Loraine da Costa, chairman of the new Culture for Coexistence group, said last week’s initiative would be followed by further action.
The letter, signed by 150 figures from the arts and media world, stated that “cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change. It is important to encourage such a powerful tool for change rather than boycotting its use.”
Cultural boycotts singling out Israel were “divisive and discriminatory and would not further peace”, it stated.
Other signatories include Simon Schama, outgoing director of BBC Television Danny Cohen, Zoë Wanamaker, publisher Lord Weidenfeld, pioneering scientist Lord Winston and former BBC chairman Lord Grade.
Lord Weidenfeld said: “Narrowmindedness and cultural prejudice are the first step to barbarism and must be fought ruthlessly.”
Lord Grade said: “Freedom of expression and artistic freedoms are the cornerstones of democracy. Attempts to single out the democratic state of Israel for boycotts of any kind have no place in the free world; they are a tool of totalitarianism.”
Ms da Costa, who is a patron of a number of British art institutions, said the letter was prompted by a pro-boycott letter published in the newspaper earlier this year signed by Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Roger Waters and others.
She said Culture for Coexistence hoped to arrange a seminar to further argue the case for cultural exchange.
“We are also looking to bring cultural delegations to Israel and get people to meet their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts there,” she said.
Ms Rowling was criticised and abused on social media after the letter was published. She responded by saying she “deplored” most of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions. But she added a boycott would not force him from power. “Nor have I ever heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict,” she said.
Ms Rowling also highlighted the work of late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who she said had “seared the true human cost of the Palestinian conflict upon my consciousness”.