British artists shun Israel’s ‘blood money’ but accept Britain’s

Seven hundred British creatives have signed a pledge saying they will never work in Israel or take the Israeli government’s filthy lucre so long as it continues to wage war in Gaza and kill Palestinians. So why, then, are they happy to take money from the British government, when the British government has in recent years bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and left a trail of destruction and line-up of corpses that make last year’s Israeli clashes in Gaza look like a tea party in comparison? Come on. There must be an answer to this question. What is it? Why shun Israel’s ‘blood money’ but accept Britain’s?

A quick glance at the list of 700 Israel-boycotters reveals numerous people who have built their careers on cash from the coffers of the Iraqi-killing, Afghanistan-repressing British government. There’s Ken Loach, recipient of monies from the government-backed UK Film Council, here chiming in with all the others to say he will ‘accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding from any institutions linked to its government’. So, Ken, why are you happy to accept money from institutions linked to a government that has killed way more people in the Middle East than Israel has?

There’s Mike Leigh, who’s also been funded by the UK Film Council, and who threw a massive hissy fit in 2010 when the Film Council was wound down in its current form and reorganised. Ladies and gentlemen, the principled film-directing doyen of decent Hampsteadites, who makes angry public statements over two things: his implacable, principled refusal to take blood money from the Israeli killing machine and his fury at having his bloody money from the British killing machine taken away from him! What a guy!

Film director Peter Kosminsky is here, too, blathering on about not doing any work with Israeli government-linked institutions, yet he’s happy to sit on the Board of Directors of the British Film Institute which has been subsidised by… you guessed it: the government that bombed the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There are too many more to mention: poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who’s worked with the Arts Council, which is funded by you-know-who; writer Bonnie Greer, who’s been an Arts Council playwright-in-residence despite the fact that the Arts Council receives millions of pounds every year from the government that killed thousands of Iraqis and Afghans… And on it goes. It would not be surprising to discover that the vast majority of creatives on this Israel-shunning list had, at some point, received money from the public purse in Britain, because that’s what creatives do these days.

So, that question again: why is it bad to have anything to do with institutions linked to the Israeli government because of that whole Gaza thing but fine and dandy to take money from institutions linked to the British government despite the Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya thing? Are Israel’s wars somehow worse than Britain’s? Is being killed by a solider from the Jewish State somehow worse than being killed by a soldier of the British state? Is Israel more evil than Britain? Is Israel’s money bloodier than British money? Come on. Give us answers. You criticise those who say that any protest or boycott against Israel is anti-Semitic, and I agree with you that there’s sometimes a kneejerk tendency to interpret every political protest against Israel’s actions as anti-Jewish in sentiment. But that might be because there’s such a glaring double standard in how Israel is judged and treated by radical Westerners, including you, in comparison to how the British government is judged and treated, or the French government, or the American government, none of which you are actively boycotting. So, help to offset this search for the ‘real reason’ for boycotts of Israel by giving us a straight answer to one of the great moral conundrums of our time: why are artists so allergic to working with a government whose army killed 2,000 people in Gaza last year yet will demand the right to spend the cash of a government whose army killed 150,000 people in Iraq?

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.

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