Joel and Ethan Coen - do not accept the Dan David prize

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Akulbi | 03/05/2011 |

Open letter to Ethan and Joel Coen

As signers of the call in Norway for academic and cultural boycott of Israel (www.akulbi.net), we ask you to reconsider your acceptance of the Dan Davids prize, awarded jointly by the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University. We read that you’re likely to attend the award ceremony in Israel on May 15, in the company of Israeli president Shimon Peres.

As we think you are well aware of, the Israeli state is currently breaking UN resolutions and international laws ; committing serious crimes against the civilian Palestinians, who are living under the Israeli occupation. This is particularly evident in Gaza, which can be termed the world’s biggest outdoor prison. During the ‘war’ in 2009, 1400 Palestinians were killed, and a majority of these were children. Today, the siege of Gaza inhibits the reconstruction of the damaged buildings and infrastructure. The people of Gaza are starving as the food supplies are far below what are required for basic human needs.

Your appearance in Israel will unfortunately help to camouflage the brutal realities of a powerful and illegal military occupation. You might believe you can go there simply as artists, but your presence will be spun to reassure the Israeli public that their ruthless colonial society is ‘normal’, and to promote Brand Israel abroad. You will be saying, to Israelis and to the world, that Israel’s violently racist treatment of the Palestinians is acceptable. The Israeli government, and in particular the foreign ministry, is working hard to improve Israel’s image abroad, not the least after their war on Gaza in 2009. International scientific and cultural conferences and awards serve to ‘rebrand’ the state as an attractive cultural centre. Do you really want to be a part of this ?

Palestinian civil society organizations, grouped together as PACBI, are asking international artists not to go to Israel while it flouts international law and denies Palestinians human rights. In the last few months, musicians Roger Waters and Pete Seeger have announced their support for this boycott call ; they join film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, writers John Berger and Arundhati Roy, musicians Massive Attack, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and The Pixies, as well as many others. You may reject the idea of ‘taking a stand’, but by accepting the prize and going to Israel, you are already taking a stand. Boycotting is a non-violent form of direct action. It gives citizens the power to act in favor of justice when governments fail to do so. Is it conceivable that during the long struggle against apartheid in South Africa, you would have travelled there to receive an award from an apartheid institution ? If it isn’t, you’re already willing to boycott an unjust system. It is worth noticing that Johannesburg University (South Africa) is the first University in the world, to have stopped all cooperation with the Israeli Ben Gurion Univerity. They truly know what great effects an academic and cultural boycott could have on a ruthless system. By declining to accept the prize, you can make your disapproval known. Please don’t go.

Line Halvorsen, Director

Ketil Magnussen, Program Director, The Oslo Documentary Cinema

Steinar Berthelsen, Director

Tor Vadseth, Producer, Filmforsyninga AS

Alexander Martinsen, Actor

Guri Glans, Actress

Trond P. S. Munch, Actor

Bjørn Eivind Aarskog, Producer

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