Israel Needs Cultural Bridges, Not Boycotts Say JK Rowling, Simon Schama and 150 British Cultural Figures

'Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace,' letter says.

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Pro-Israel marchers facing BDS protesters during a New York parade in June 2014.Credit: AP

Some 150 cultural figures from the UK called for building cultural bridges with Israel, and not boycotts, in a letter published in The Guardian on Thursday.  It was signed by such well-known figures as JK Rowling, Simon Schama, Hilary Mantel and Niall Ferguson.

"We do not believe cultural boycotts are acceptable or that the letter you published accurately represents opinion in the cultural world in the UK," they wrote, which is partly a response to a letter from other UK artists in The Guardian in February announcing their intention to culturally boycott Israel.

They announced their support for the establishment of Culture for Coexistence, "an independent UK network representing a cross section from the cultural world," calling for "engagement, not boycott."

"We 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," they wrote.

They said they all believed in a two-state solution to realise the national self-determination of both peoples, with 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."