Palestinian children on a Gaza City beach (Marcin Monko/Flickr)

Artists, filmmakers, musicians, and writers around the world are calling on world governments to impose an arms embargo on Israel and to lift the siege of Gaza. Shepard Fairey, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Antony Gormley, and Naomi Klein are among over 350 creatives who signed an open letter published last week.

“Gaza’s almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world’s largest open-air prison,” the letter says, warning against a potential COVID-19 catastrophe in Gaza.

The statement was released on May 13, a date that marks two years since the killing of 60 Palestinian civilians by Israeli army snipers during the Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

Other signatories on the letter include visual artists Celine Condorelli, Kevin Beasley, and Tai Shani; actors Viggo Mortensen, Julie Christie, and Steve Coogan; musicians Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, and Roger Waters; authors Irvine Welsh, Jeanette Winterson, and Philip Pullman; and film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. Film producer James Schamus, filmmaker and writer Ariella Azoulay, and the band Massive Attack have also signed the letter.

“International pressure is urgently needed to make life in Gaza liveable and dignified,” the open letter reads. “Israel’s siege must be ended. And most urgently, a potentially devastating outbreak must be prevented.”

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Gaza currently stands at 20. But this low number of reported infections might be due to lack of testing. A spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry told Reuters in April that authorities stopped testing after coronavirus test kits “completely ran out.”

Later in April, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had initially proposed to test Palestinian for COVID-19 at the Israeli Tzrifin checkpoint outside the Gaza Strip but the plan was blocked on the government level.

According to other reports, Israel and Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, have been negotiating a deal in which the Hamas government would return captured soldiers to Israel in return for COVID-19 relief.

Meanwhile, a group of Palestinian, Israeli, and international humanitarian and human rights organizations has called for the lifting of the 13-year Israeli blockade on Gaza and urged the international community to assist local clinics in addressing their severe shortages of medical equipment.

“What happens in Gaza is a test for the conscience of humanity,” the open letter says. “In these times of international crisis, we must stand for justice, peace, freedom, and equal rights for all, regardless of identity or creed. We may be staying at home, but our ethical responsibility shouldn’t.”

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

16 replies on “352 Artists Urge World Governments to Impose Arms Embargo on Israel”

  1. 60?!?! As compared to the 6 million Jews who have been slaughtered for no reason?!?! #PrayForIsrael God bless Israel! 🙏🏽❤️

  2. As educated people know, Gaza is a hotbed of terrorist activity, with Gazans shooting thousands of rockets into civilian areas of Israel ever since Israel gave the land over for Palestinian self-rule. The fact that there are terrorist attacks on a weekly basis to this day (time to start reading other news sources people) demonstrates that Gazans are only interested in the destruction of Israel, and not in peace. As the saying goes: If the Palestinians were to throw down their weapons today, there would be instant peace. If the Israelis were to throw down their DEFENSIVE weapons today, every last man, woman, and child in Israel would be slaughtered. Time to put the blame where it squarely lies, on the murderous Palestinians.

    1. Return these people’s stolen homes and there will be peace. WHO are the murders here?
      We SEE what you have done because we know history.

      1. Virginia, some *do* know history, but unfortunately you do not seem to be among them. Those who abandoned their homes lost their homes, and ended up in the deplorable refugee villages such as the one outside Jericho. Those who stayed, against the advice of their so-called leaders, continue to this day to live in their own homes, in Israel, and with but few exceptions, have voting rights and representation in the Knesset. [And where are the homes of the many Israelis who left neighboring countries and many European countries for refuge in today’s Israel. Who now occupies and owns those homes?]
        When Israel vacated Gaza, they left behind many beautiful homes, lush orchards and well-run greenhouses. Where, and in what condition is that infrastructure today? Please don’t be insulting and tell me that Israel has bombed them to destruction. To the extent that they have been abandoned, trashed or destroyed, certainly Israel is not to blame. At the time, I felt that the international community would make sure that Hamas and certain militant inhabitants of Gaza would behave themselves. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Where is the peace in what Israel handed over a decade and a half ago?

          1. Isreal “handed over” NOTHING. They have stolen massive amounts of land belonging to the Palestine, oppressing those that stay.

          2. Virginia, you do seem to have trouble keeping facts straight. I was the one to say “handed over”, not Venice Murano Designs.

            It was Israelis who tended and nurtured the orchards in Gaza, and it was Israelis who built an industry of greenhouses in Gaza, and it was Israelis who built homes in Gaza. None of this was stolen. And, it is a fact that when Israel left Gaza, they left all of it in tact — all of which was maintained and/or built by Israelis.

            If that is not an act of handing over, perhaps you can enlighten us.

            And while you are at it, please try to explain to us how it is Israel and not Hamas who oppresses the people of Gaza.

  3. Some good news on the topic…

    As stated in the article:

    “The Israel Airports Authority confirmed the cargo flight would be landing at Ben Gurion on Tuesday evening.
    An Israeli official said the flight would be delivering humanitarian aid provided by the UAE to the Palestinians and that the cargo flight was coordinated with the Israeli government.”


    “The flight comes as the UAE, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, has no formal diplomatic ties to Israel…However, it marks an open moment of cooperation between the countries after years of rumored back-channel discussions between them over the mutual enmity of Iran.”

    As we all know, Hamas governs Gaza, not Israel. Hamas has shown in the past that it will rain rockets on Israel if security measures ease up….over 17,000 rockets and mortars since 2005, when Israel completely withdrew from the area. So Hamas has knowingly and intentionally created, and still maintains, a terribly unfair situation for both the innocent Palestinian people and Israeli people. Sadly, this crisis lies in the hands of Hamas and not Israel. Israel is simply doing all she can to protect herself, which every nation has the right to do.

    I am glad that Israel is playing a part in helping others (as it so often does, worldwide) and hope that one day Hamas will do its part in finding peaceful ways to keep its people healthy and safe.

    1. “We” do not know any such thing. Return their homes and stop destroying their farms and torturing their children.

      1. Their homes were not stolen. They rejected a Palestinian state in 1947, and then fled their homes to take up arms, going on the promise from their Imams that Israel would be destroyed. Even leaders like Abbas admit that they left voluntarily in order to go to war. And to think that there could have been a Palestinian state then, and a number of other times since, but it was always rejected by the Palestinians. Learn some history.

        1. All that is necessary is to look at maps of palestine and isreal from 1948 on.
          This is similar to what europeans did to indians on the american continent.
          i happen to be obsessed with history because I believe it is an important discipline.
          in reply to your condescending and ignorant command to “learn some history” i say
          learn to communicate civilly,
          if this is possible for those who justify genocide and make a mockery of “never again”

  4. So many inaccurate statements in this article- i
    urge readers to do independent research.
    The propaganda train should halt.
    If the world really cared about the Palestinians more than they do about bashing Israel, they would do their due diligence, learn the history, the region and the culture AND then they would assist the Palestinians oppressed by Hamas by protecting the Palestinian peace activists that are abducted tortured and murdered by Hamas for having any contact with an Israeli.
    Anyone read those articles???
    There are Palestinians that want peace and normalized relations with Israel but they cant
    ‘come out’ for fear of the above consequences.
    I’ m positive that BDS supporters know little of The region’s history or the players involved

    1. There are plenty of us “doing due diligence”. and we SEE what you are doing to Palestine. There is no excuse for the subjugation for ANY people in this way, EVER.

  5. Check this out, and ask yourself who cares more about treating the caronavirus? I bet you’ll get two out of three correct.

    From Al Jazeera:
    Palestinian Authority rejects UAE aid sent via Israeli airport.


  6. Virginia,
    If its peace you seek between the Palestinians and Israelis, meet with the Palestinians that want peace and listen to their plight living under Hamas rule.
    Instead of spreading hatred and teaching children that its glorified to blow themselves up as long as they kill a lot of Jews, consider an option towards balanced communication and work towards an enduring peace.
    Among other countries, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon received ( not welcomed) the Palestinians that were encouraged to leave their homes and promised a return to their homes after the Jews will be driven into the sea.
    This didn’t happen but these countries as well as additional Arab nations have kept the Palestinian refugees in camps for 7 decades – not allowing them citizenship, even.
    You seem okay with that or at least don’t bring it to the discussion.

    Gaza was part of Egypt and should have been returned to Egypt during the peace agreement between Sadat and Begin in 1979 which resulted in land for peace exchange – Israel evacuated citizens from farms and homes to give the Sinai back to Egypt.
    Egypt created the refugee camp of Gaza ( not Israel) and did not want Gaza in return with its hotbed of terrorism. Are you aware that Egypt kills Palestinian terrorists trying to infiltrate their land in the Sinai?
    You are disturbed that Israel retaliates after rockets are aimed into Israeli homes and kindergartens and kill innocent civilians including children.
    There is so much to write to refute your forgive me ‘simplistic’ accusations.
    Have you ever been to Israel?
    Have you ever engaged with an Israeli Arab who enjoys life and privileges in Israel?
    That might seem scary – I can understand that would confuse your position to be aware of another perspective.

    I wish you could see another side as well as your own.

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