The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON ROCKER

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”.


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