Open letter to Gare St Lazare Players Ireland: Cancel Tel Aviv University!
PACBI | 23 April 2010
Occupied Ramallah, 23 April 2010
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urges through this letter the Irish touring theatre company Gare St Lazare Players Ireland to cancel their scheduled performance of Samuel Beckett’s “First Love” at Tel Aviv University on May 26, 2010.
We are addressing this appeal to the company particularly in view of the fact that its artistic directors made an effort to understand the rationale for the Palestinian call for the cultural boycott of Israel. However, the company is going ahead with the Tel Aviv University performance and has also added to the schedule two performances in Ramallah after the Tel Aviv University event in what we feel is a regrettable attempt to project some “balance” between “the two sides,” as it were, as if symmetry between the oppressor and the oppressed is ever justifiable.
We urge you to respect the 2005 Palestinian Unified Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), supported by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society organizations and movements , as well as the 2004 call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel issued by PACBI and endorsed by the major civil society forces in Palestine . Performing at an Israeli institution that is complicit in Israel’s occupation and apartheid violates the Guidelines for the International Cultural Boycott of Israel .
We would like to remind Gare St Lazare Players Ireland that by putting on a performance at Tel Aviv University (TAU), they will be giving credibility to one of the worst violators of fundamental human values. TAU, as other Israeli academic institutions, is notorious for its deep and well documented collaboration with the Israeli military and intelligence establishment. A recent comprehensive study  presents strong evidence of intensive, purposive and open institutional partnership between TAU with the Israeli military establishment, particularly in the development of weapon systems and military doctrines that were used in Israel’s atrocious war on Gaza, which was condemned by the Goldstone Report and the UN General Assembly as constituting war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
TAU is also complicit in providing cross-departmental legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and deepening the Israeli occupation by assisting ongoing lethal assaults on the occupied Palestinian territories and by defending and justifying Israel’s occupation policies. These policies are implicitly and explicitly supported by TAU’s Law Faculty which appointed an Israeli army colonel, Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, to its staff recently. As the Israeli army’s principal international law counsel, Sharvit-Baruch is responsible for green-lighting the decision to target civilian infrastructure and for a “relaxing of the rules of engagement” regarding civilians on the army’s International Law Division. The SOAS briefing paper points out: “[T]here is nothing unique about state institutions being implicated in the pursuit of state objectives, including security-related objectives. The tense military mobilisation of Jewish-Israeli society, its constant-war footing, and the closely related knowledge of circles which compose the defence research and development community in this comparatively small country, together amplify the role played by academic institutions in military affairs. TAU, as the largest university in Israel, is, unremarkably, at the centre of this militarization…. Ultimately, … this collusion with the military amounts to the commissioning of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
TAU has also conspicuously refused to recognize and commemorate the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwannis and its ethnically cleansed population on whose land the university was partially built. Despite sustained activists’ campaigning, TAU has so far rejected even mounting a plaque referencing and commemorating the village and its history, and has failed to acknowledge the moral debt for injustices caused to the indigenous Palestinian people during the establishment of the state of Israel. 
In conclusion, and appealing to your sense of justice and moral consistency, we hope that, until Israel fully abides by international law and respects Palestinian rights, you shall treat it exactly as most of the world treated racist South Africa, or indeed any other state that legislates and practices apartheid: a pariah state. By respecting the cultural boycott of Israel, which was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian cultural workers and cultural institutions in 2006,  you will be joining internationally acclaimed cultural figures such as Ken Loach, as well as John Berger, Brian Eno, Raymond Deane, Leon Rosselson, Sophie Fiennes, Jenny Morgan, Arundhati Roy, Ahdaf Soueif, Eduardo Galeano, John Greyson, among many others, who issued a call urging their fellow artists to respect the aforementioned Palestinian appeal . The 2006 appeal by Palestinian artists, filmmakers and cultural workers stated:
We, the undersigned Palestinian filmmakers and artists, appeal to all artists and filmmakers of good conscience around the world to cancel all exhibitions and other cultural events that are scheduled to occur in Israel…. Like the boycott of South African art institutions during apartheid, cultural workers must speak out against the current Israeli war crimes and atrocities. We call upon the International community to join us in the boycott of Israeli film festivals, Israeli public venues, and Israeli institutions supported by the government, and to end all cooperation with these cultural and artistic institutions that to date have refused to take a stand against the Occupation, the root cause for this colonial conflict.
We are also hopeful that you shall not betray the rich Irish tradition of solidarity with the oppressed, nor let down your fellow Irish citizens who have fought tirelessly in support of the Palestinian call for boycott. Don’t let your art be abused to cover up apartheid and occupation!