Reproduced below is a post from the Artists For Palestine UK website. Regular readers of Reclaim EC1 will not be surprised that the Jerusalem Orchestra East & West have been scheduled to perform at the Barbican Centre on Sunday 5 February 2023, ‘in collaboration’ with the UK Israeli embassy. Projects such as Barbican Stories have highlighted the issue of institutional racism at this venue. It is clear that the City of London council who run the venue prefer to reputation wash themselves rather than seriously address this and related matters. As we’ve made clear, these issues will not go away while the key reforms suggested by the Rogers Report – most importantly ending the City of London council’s control of the Barbican Centre board – are implemented.

More than fifty artists, including poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, actor Miriam Margolyes, DJ The Blessed Madonna and Turner Prize co-winning artist Tai Shani have called on London arts venue the Barbican Centre to end its partnership with the embassy of Israel.

The Barbican is due to host the Jerusalem Orchestra East & West this Sunday 5th February, in an event organised “in collaboration with the Embassy of Israel in the UK”.

Writers China Miéville, Rachel Holmes and Pauline Melville are among those saying they “doubt the Barbican would have partnered with the South African embassy during its apartheid era”, citing reports by leading human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that designate Israel an apartheid regime.

Directors Peter Kosminksy (Wolf Hall, The Government Inspector) and Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake), actors Kika Markham and Stephen Rea, visual artists Oreet Ashery and Adam Broomberg, playwrights Sabrina Mahfouz and Hannah Khalil, and musicians Mary Black, Dónal Lunny and Narcy have also signed the letter.

Describing the recently inaugurated Israeli government as “the most racist, fundamentalist and homophobic in Israel’s history”, the artists criticise the Jerusalem Orchestra East & West as “a cynical attempt to re-brand apartheid as diversity and military occupation as tolerance”.

Last week, City of London councillor Frances Leach said she was “shocked and saddened” that the Barbican was partnering with the Israeli embassy. In a meeting of the Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Leach explained that she had been to the occupied West Bank and had “seen with [her] own eyes the brutality of the occupation”. She added, “I don’t feel that anyone in the City of London would want to be associated with the things I have seen, I assure you”.

More than 3000 supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK have written to the Barbican’s leadership, urging them to cancel the event and “pledge not to collaborate with Israel’s apartheid regime”. Moroccan human rights defenders also criticised the participation of four Moroccan musicians in the event and called on them to withdraw.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, welcomed the statements. PACBI added that Israel’s “far-right ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, is no outlier”, as the Israeli government “includes proud fascists who openly call for intensifying massacres and war crimes against Palestinians”.

Read the full letter from artists:

The Barbican is an institution justly admired and valued for its contribution to the cultural life of London and far beyond.

We are therefore deeply concerned that it is partnering with the embassy of Israel in hosting the Jerusalem Orchestra East & West on Sunday February 5th, just as the recent inauguration of Benjamin Netanyahu has brought unapologetic supremacists into government – the most racist, fundamentalist and homophobic in Israel’s history.

Today it is more than ever necessary for Israel to be held to account for its policies towards the Palestinian people – policies which are now widely recognised as fitting the United Nations’ definition of the crime against humanity of apartheid.

Amnesty International’s report on the subject last year followed others from Israel’s foremost human rights organisation B’Tselem and US based Human Rights Watch. We doubt the Barbican would have partnered with the South African embassy during its apartheid era.

We acknowledge the appeal of an event that promises “joining together the multiple cultures of Jerusalem for the broadest audience possible”. But this has to be seen for what it is – a cynical attempt to re-brand apartheid as diversity and military occupation as tolerance. Far from exemplifying a convivial multiculturalism, Jerusalem itself is the site of long-running oppression and violent military occupation as Israeli authorities seek to oust Indigenous Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas.

We support the Barbican’s “ambitious creative vision, with equity, diversity and inclusion at its heart”. Yet it is impossible to reconcile these principles with the current project. Palestinians, including artists and cultural workers, have called on people to stand with them in the struggle for their rights, and refuse to engage in cultural projects which obscure the human rights abuses committed against them. We therefore ask the Barbican to end its collaboration with the embassy of Israel.


Yassin ‘Narcy’ Alsalman, musician, educator

Oreet Ashery, artist

Sonali Bhattacharyya, playwright, screenwriter

Mary Black, singer

Nicholas Blincoe, writer, screenwriter

Victoria Brittain, writer

Adam Broomberg, artist

Mark Brown, critic, author

Tam Dean Burn, actor

Checkpoint 303, band

Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso, arts festival CEO

Ian Christie, cultural historian, broadcaster

Stefan Christoff, musician

Sarah Clancy, poet

Catherine Ann Cullen, poet

April de Angelis, playwright

Raymond Deane, composer

Alan Dent, novelist, poet

Gareth Evans, curator

Gavin Everall, publishing director

Annie Goh, artist

Garth Hewitt, musician

Rachel Holmes, writer

Brigid Keenan, writer

Patrick Keiller, filmmaker

Hannah Khalil, playwright

Peter Kosminsky, screenwriter, director

Ken Loach, film director

Dónal Lunny, musician

Alexis Lykiard, author, poet

Sabrina Mahfouz, playwright, poet

Miriam Margolyes, actor

Kika Markham, actor, writer

Emer Martin, writer

Pauline Melville, writer

China Miéville, writer

Laura Mulvey, filmmaker, professor of film

Ziad Nawfal, record label owner

Courttia Newland, writer, screenwriter

Donal O’Kelly, actor

Pratibha Parmar, screenwriter, director

Stephen Rea, actor

Nick Seymour, musician

Tai Shani, artist

Julian Maynard Smith, theatre company founder, artistic director

Ahdaf Soueif, writer

Marea Stamper, DJ

Maggie Steed, actor

Jessie Lauren Stein, musician

Don Wilkie, record label co-owner

Penny Woolcock, screenwriter, director

Benjamin Zephaniah, musician, poet


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