Celebrities protest Pilsen’s Days of Jerusalem Festival
A group of world public figures, including US linguist Noam Chomsky and British film director Ken Loach, are publicly protesting against the Days of Jerusalem Festival, which is to be held within the Pilsen 2015 European City of Culture, claiming that it is being used to help legitimise Israel’s political strategy.
When they didn’t succeed, they decided to step up the pressure. On Thursday, they published an open letter addressed to the European Commission, parliament, and council, suggesting that the European Capital of Culture is helping legitimise the illegal annexation of Jerusalem.
Among the signatories are a number of respected cultural figures, such as Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker, musician Roger Walters and history professor Shlomo Sand.
One of the organizers of the protest, Vojtěch Srnka, outlined the main arguments:
“The main reason is that Jerusalem was pronounced an international city by the international community, by the General Assembly of the United Nations. In 1980 Jerusalem was annexed by Israel. And the international community, namely the UN, does not recognize the annexation. However, the Israeli Government insists that Jerusalem is their capital city.
The head of Pilsen European City of Culture, Jiří Suchánek, admits that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sensitive issue. However, he adds that Pilsen 2015 is not the organizer and emphasizes that the festival is a strictly apolitical event:
“I want to stress that we cannot combine politics and culture, we strictly divide these two things. Days of Jerusalem is a multi-genre festival focusing on different types of audiences and includes dance, music, visual arts, film and gastronomy and in no way can it be connected with politics. We are aware of the sensitivity of this topic and moreover we support the cooperation of both Jewish and Arab artists at this festival.”
But, according to Vojtěch Srnka, the Czech media, including Czech radio and Czech television, describe the festival as an introduction of Israeli culture. He also points out that the participation of Palestinian artists is not sufficient:
Meanwhile, the organizers of Days of Jerusalem in Prague and Pilsen insist that despite the controversies, they are ready to go ahead with the event, which is set to take place in Pilsen on June 19 and 20 and in Prague on June 22 and 23.