Archive for May, 2011

On May 20, around 150 to 200 Palestine solidarity activists and human rights supporters in Melbourne staged a peaceful BDS action to highlight the complicity of Israeli companies, Max Brenner Chocolate and Jericho, in Israel’s Apartheid and Occupation policies.

Israeli company, Jericho, exploits minerals from the Dead Sea. While Jericho profits from the Dead Sea, the indigenous Palestinian people who live on the land surrounding the Dead Sea are regularly denied access. Palestinian access to the Dead Sea is prevented by Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands. Restrictions are place on Palestinian access to the Dead Sea via a network of military checkpoints, Israeli-only roads, exclusive zones and other apartheid and occupation policies.

Max Brenner Chocolate is owned by the Strauss Group, Israel’s second largest food and beverage company. On its website, the Strauss Group emphasis its support for the Israeli military, providing care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games for soldiers. Strauss boasts that it supports both the Golani and Givati (Shualei Shimshon) Brigades of the Israeli military. Both of these brigades were heavily involved in Israel’s 2008/2009 Gaza massacre, which killed more than 1300 Palestinians, the majority civilians, including 300 children.

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“The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival’s (HRAFF) mission is to make human rights accessible and engaging to everyone through creative media. Our vision is a vibrant human rights culture and community across Australia.” ~ The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival online About page
We are members of the Israeli group BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within[1] and we are appalled to learn that the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival would ban art. Especially the art of Van Thanh Rudd, a person of color, who’s committed his art to commenting on human rights abuses and racism. Specifically a piece supporting the human-rights-based Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement[2], which is a Palestinian initiative and as such, the voice of the oppressed
Rudd’s choice to highlight the connection between your chosen venue (above a Max Brenner outlet) and the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people[3] is as relevant as art may get. It’s an artistic choice that takes into account not only the canvas, but the exhibition venue. A choice that would make many an art professor and critic jump for joy, but you choose to cower behind your sponsors, instead of staying committed to your own stated aspirations.
“HRAFF endeavours to:
  • Advance and encourage education, debate and awareness of human rights issues amongst the broader community through creative media.
  • Showcase and support Australian and international artists who are concerned with human rights issues.
  • Promote works by or about Australia’s indigenous communities.
  • Create a stronger, diverse and more cohesive human rights community within Australia
  • Promote businesses and organisations that use and advance human rights, fair trade and environmentally friendly policies.
  • Encourage participation and patronage from diverse and marginalised communities in Australia.
  • Provide patrons with a way to take action by connecting them to human rights organisations and campaigns.” ~ The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival online About page
Rudd dares to imagine a different world than our existing one, where people of Justin Beiber’s caliber would use their influence to highlight the plight of the oppressed, as they choose to identify it. In return you turn your back on your own stated values, erasing Rudd’s voice from the debate completely.
We understand that you plan on screening the film Budrus as part of your program this year. As many of us take part in the weekly village demonstrations (some of us took part specifically in the Budrus demonstrations documented in the film), we know the importance of anti-occupation action on the ground, as well as abroad. For some reason you choose to draw a line between two pieces that are obviously parts of one united struggle.
We hope that you choose to uphold your stated values of encouraging debate and awareness of human rights issues and showcase and support artists who are concerned with such issues and the rest of it. We hope you allow the debate of human rights to run its course, without silencing the most tenacious and relevant voices, especially within the human-rights-concerned community. Silencing Rudd is silencing all of us. Silencing Rudd is silencing the Palestinian people.
Sincerely on behalf of Boycott from Within,
Oshra Bar
Ohal Grietzer
Shir Hever
Liad Kantorowicz
Assaf Kintzer
Edo Medicks
Jonathan Pollak
Deb Reich
Tal Shapira
Kobi Snitz
[1] BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, http://www.boycottisrael.info/
[2] The BDS Movement, http://www.bdsmovement.net/call
[3] Information on Max Brenner Chocolates, http://australiansforpalestine.com/25671

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For Immediate Release:12 May, 2011

Melbourne visual artist Van Thanh Rudd was informed by HRAFF  (Human Rights Arts and Film Festival) organisers late yesterday that his artwork titled Pop Goes the System, which depicts Justin Bieber supporting Palestinian human rights, will be banned from the 2011 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

The artwork was to be part of a group exhibition, “Create an Example”,  at No Vacancy Gallery in Melbourne’s QV shopping centre, opening on Thursday May 12 and closing on May 23rd.

Rudd’s artwork consists of two cartoons painted on both the front and back of a large piece of canvas. Once exhibited, it can be viewed from both sides. One side of the canvas depicts a cartoon figure ‘exploding with people power’ – a tribute to the democratic revolutions taking place in the Middle East and north Africa. The other side shows global pop icon Justin Bieber spray painting on Israel’s separation wall in support of the pro-Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Campaign against Israel.

Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, the Palestinian-initiated BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law.

According to Rudd, the exhibition organisers strongly opposed displaying the side of the canvas that depicted pop icon Justin Bieber spray painting on Israel’s dividing wall because it incited “racism”, “violence” and “division”.  Bieber is shown painting a logo of Israeli-owned chocolate company, Max Brenner Chocolate, which has been a target of the non-violent boycott campaign due to its support of the Israel Defence Force units which participated in Operation Cast Lead, resulting in the death of more than 1300 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians, including 300 children.

“I wanted to imagine if Justine Bieber decided to support the BDS campaign – what impact that would have on the youth that worship him,” said Rudd.

“There is clearly no incitement of racism and violence in this artwork. It strongly opposes it. The incitement of racism and violence clearly comes from the Israeli state towards Palestinians. It maintains the world’s largest open air prison, conducts frequent military raids, maintains hundreds of military checkpoints, illegally constructs settlements and conducts massive military bombardments”.

Justin Bieber recently performed in Israel, defying the requests of Palestinian civil society and Israeli supporters of the Palestinian BDS campaign not entertain apartheid by playing in Israel.   In a letter to Bieber, Israeli supporters from the Boycott from Within campaign called on Bieber to “create an example” and listen to the voices of the oppressed.  http://www.boycottisrael.info/content/justin-bieber-you-can-choose-do-more-pray

Rudd had asked he be sent an official statement from the festival organisers as to the reasons for the artwork’s rejection. So far the organizers have refused to do so, informally saying the artwork ‘doesn’t fit the theme of the show’.

“This banning is not only antithetical to the quest for human rights and freedom of expression on a global scale against colonisation and occupation, it also infringes on the individual human right of freedom of expression through art”, says Rudd.

“The fact that a human rights arts festival bans an artwork that contributes to a discussion on very important human struggles, shows that they breach the very position they seek to uphold and are not committed to their own mission statement which advocates encouraging debate on human rights issues and providing festival patrons with a way to take action by connecting them to human rights campaigns ” http://hraff.org.au/festival-info/about/

“This week also happens to be the commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) – where over 60 years ago, over 750 000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homeland by Zionist forces. Today Palestinians make up the largest refugee community in the world, with more 7 million living in exile.  So debate and action on the issue of human rights for Palestinians is crucial in their struggle for self-determination and human rights”, said Rudd.

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