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150 British Artists, Including J.K. Rowling, Sign Letter Opposing BDS

More than 150 British artists, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, have signed a public letter opposing boycott campaigns against Israel.

The group, which also includes Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantel and noted historian and BBC presenter Simon Schama, wrote an op-ed in The Guardian criticizing an earlier effort by British artists to refuse to perform in Israel in protest of the country’s treatment of Palestinians. “Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace,” the letter said.

The letter announced the creation of Culture for Coexistence, a group that “will be seeking to inform and encourage dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians in the wider cultural and creative community. While we may not all share the same views on the policies of the Israeli government, we all share a desire for peaceful coexistence.”

Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace. Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance, and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict.

Ultimately we all believe in a two-state solution so that the national self-determination of both peoples is realised, with the state of Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.

Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change. We wholly endorse encouraging such a powerful tool for change rather than boycotting its use.

The letter was also signed by a bipartisan group of members of parliament, including former Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles and shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher of the Labour Party.

Culture for Coexistence wants to be “a tiny part of the jigsaw that can work towards breaking down barriers,” Loraine da Costa, the chair of the group, told The Guardian in an interview. The group also hopes to “take people to Israel and the Palestinian territories to have a dialogue with cultural counterparts there.”

[Photo: Daniel Ogren / Wikimedia]