Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UK: anti-Israel protests and boycotts risk stripping Britain's vibrant arts scene

Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for culture, argued boycotting productions and exhibitions achieves nothing, saying no-one should put pressure on an institution to change its art. Speaking at the Union of Jewish Students Annual Conference in London, following high-profile controversies about donations from Israel to theatres this year, Mr Javid said culture was “bigger than politics” and must not be interfered with.

Arguing modern Britain is home to a “staggering range of art and culture” which reflects its “multi-faceted” society, he added it was essential that people remain free to express their thoughts and opinions from the local pub, to Twitter, to Parliament.

Mr Javid’s comments come months after the Tricycle Theatre announced it would not be working with the UK Jewish Film Festival was, after its organisers accepted a grant from the Israeli embassy. Elsewhere, a performance of play The City was cancelled in Edinburgh after protests about the theatre company receiving funding from the Israeli government.

Mr Javid said he found the Tricycle Theatre controversy – which has now been resolved after the theatre dropped its objection - “completely unacceptable”, admitting: “I didn’t shy away from telling its directors that”. He said: “Let me be very clear – I don’t believe in artistic and cultural boycotts. As we have said many times, a cultural boycott would achieve nothing. “It would be needlessly divisive, and would run counter to the long history of cultural freedom that this country holds dear”.

More: Daily Telegraph

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