Dear Curators at the Haifa Museum of Art,
In response to your inquiry about the possibility of exhibiting my artwork at your museum, I must refuse due to my commitment to the cultural boycott of Israeli institutions and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and dignity. As part of the global Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) Movement organized and called for by Palestinians, the cultural boycott is intended to exert pressure on the Israeli state and its affiliated institutions until it ends its military occupation of Palestine, ceases to impose apartheid policies, and promotes the Palestinian right of return.
When I was teaching at a Palestinian university and living in the West Bank in 2016-17, I personally encountered and witnessed the oppressions and controls that my students were regularly subjected to and forced to endure, intimately affecting every aspect of their lives. The diverse forms of state-organized violence that were routinely enacted against the student body, including but not limited to invasive checkpoint searches, arbitrary road closures, military raids of the campus, soldiers’ attacks on student demonstrations using tear gas and other potentially lethal projectiles, and the pervasive use of indefinite administrative detention were not the exception, but rather defined the norms of university life. The prospect of exhibiting my work in Haifa, a place where the large majority of my former students would be prevented from attending due to the unjust and discriminatory restrictions placed on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, is clearly unacceptable and plainly unjustifiable in this context.
While the cultural boycott stakes out a position of withdrawal and refusal, I find it important to note that it is also purposefully undertaken as a creative gesture intended to cultivate what Eyal Weizman has called “co-resistance.” In this case as well as in others, refusal is not exercised solely as a negative measure but also aspires to produce novel political and cultural communities across borders as a direct consequence of refusal and the practice of solidarity more generally. In this sense, I am also committed to the cultural boycott in hopes of participating in the formation of global alliances of artists, activists, and scholars that are committed to the unconditional struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and all forms of oppression wherever and whenever they arise. It is my closely-held belief that in order to possibly overcome the manifold injustices of the present we must all persistently remain willing to engage in dignified refusals, imaginative solidarities, and diverse struggles, a collective political project that ultimately aims to make freedom and dignity more possible for all.
I sincerely hope that one day we will find ourselves in a time and place where it will become possible to collaborate with one another and show my work in Haifa, a time and place where Palestinians are no longer subjected to unjust treatment, military occupation, and apartheid and where other kinds of worlds can find expression and life.
Dr. Ian Alan Paul