Hani Zurob, “Heritage”(2009), Acrylic, Oil, Pigments, and Tar on Canvas (via Wikimedia Commons)

Samia Halaby and Rachid Koraichi are among dozens of Arab artists who have pledged to boycott cultural activities sponsored by the United Arab Arab Emirates (UAE). Over 80 artists and cultural organizations signed a letter condemning the Gulf country’s “normalization agreement with Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid” and reaffirming their support for “the Palestinian struggle for liberation, self-determination and the return of refugees.”

“The people of the UAE had no say in the agreement and could hardly express public opposition to it,” the letter continues.

The initiative was launched by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) along with Arab and international cultural organizations. Other signatories include filmmakers Mai Masri and Hany Abu Assad; visual artists Hani Zurob and Nabeel Anani; and musicians Rima Tarazi and Kamilya Jubran.

The artists joined PACBI’s previous statement against the Israel-UAE agreement, supported by Arab trade unions, women’s associations, and human rights organizations.

The artists pledged not to participate in “any event sponsored by the UAE regime or by any company or institution that is complicit in the implementation of the normalization agreement, until the UAE ends its normalization with Israel and ends its grave violations of human rights.”

In August, Palestinian artist Mohamed Badarne withdrew his work from an exhibition at the Sharjah Art Foundation in the UAE to protest the country’s agreement with Israel. “I could not have a relationship with a regime that is now officially complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinians,” the artist told Hyperallergic.

Meanwhile, Israel and the UAE have started forming cultural ties. The Abu Dhabi Film Commission announced yesterday, September 21, that it signed a cooperation agreement with the Israel Film Fund and the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film & Television School. The agreement includes planned co-productions and an annual regional film festival that will rotate between Abu Dhabi, the UAE’S capital, and Israel.

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...