Nan Goldin, Barbara Kruger, Tania Bruguera, and Cecilia Vicuña are among thousands of artists, writers, curators, and filmmakers who signed an open letter demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, allowing aid into the besieged city, and “the end of the complicity of our governing bodies in grave human rights violations and war crimes.”
The currently circulating letter, reproduced in full below, implores organizations and institutions to break their silence around Israel’s human rights violations in the city.
“Silence at this urgent time of crisis and escalating genocide is not a politically neutral position,” the letter reads. “Over the last few years there have been significant steps to institutionally address social justice and inequality and also for your artistic programmes to benefit from these politics. We now ask that they continue and be extended in recognising the crimes against humanity that the Palestinian people are facing.”
Laura Poitras, Peter Doig, Michael Rakowitz, Adam Broomberg, and Yto Barrada are among other artists who have endorsed the letter. Academics including Saidiya Hartman, Judith Butler, Christina Sharpe, and Fred Moten are also listed among the signatories.
Over 4,200 Palestinian civilians have been killed and more than 1 million displaced as the continued Israeli airstrikes reduce large sections of the Gaza Strip to rubble and resources like food, water, and medical supplies run scarce. Roughly half of Gaza’s population of over 2 million is made up of young people under the age of 18.
“There is ample evidence that we are witnessing the unfolding of a genocide in which the already precarious lives of Palestinians are deemed unworthy of aid, let alone human rights and justice,” a portion of the letter reads, calling for unrestricted humanitarian aid for Palestinians.
The ongoing siege on Gaza comes after the territory’s governing fundamentalist military movement Hamas launched a multi-faceted attack on Israel on October 7, killing over 1,300 Israeli civilians and taking nearly 200 of them as hostages. Following the Hamas attack, Israel issued an evacuation order to some 1.1 million Palestinian civilians of north Gaza, ordering them to relocate to the southern portion of the extremely densely populated territory as the Israel Defense Forces orchestrated thousands of airstrikes.
Citing the condemnations from Amnesty International, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and Action Aid, the letter’s signatories underscore that they “reject violence against all civilians, regardless of their identity” and call for “ending the root cause of violence: oppression, and the occupation.”
Read the open letter below, followed by an initial list of signatories.
The arts community is diverse and crosses borders, nationalities, systems of faith and belief. We as artists, writers, curators, filmmakers, publishers and workers who produce work, collaborate and communicate, create the core around which institutions and organisations revolve, need to be assured that these are not just safe but humane spaces.
We support Palestinian liberation and call for an end to the killing and harming of all civilians, an immediate ceasefire, the passage of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the end of the complicity of our governing bodies in grave human rights violations and war crimes.
We demand that the institutional silence around the ongoing humanitarian crisis that 2.3 million Palestinians are facing in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip be broken immediately. In the words of the UN resident humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian Territory, “it’s about the loss of our humanity if the international community allows this to continue. What we are seeing now is simply inhumane.”
Silence at this urgent time of crisis and escalating genocide is not a politically neutral position. Over the last few years there have been significant steps to institutionally address social justice and inequality. Your artistic programs benefit from these politics. We now ask that they continue and be extended in recognising the crimes against humanity that the Palestinian people are facing.
The ongoing bombing of Gaza and the killing and forced displacement of its residents has been condemned by Amnesty International, the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, and Action Aid. These, amongst other global bodies, have indicated that the collective punishment of Gaza civilians—which includes the killing of aid workers, journalists, and medics, as well as the destruction of all infrastructure and life-sustaining resources, cutting off water, food, electricity and medicine—amounts to a war crime.
There is ample evidence that we are witnessing the unfolding of a genocide in which the already precarious lives of Palestinians are deemed unworthy of aid, let alone human rights and justice. With impunity, Israel has already undertaken 3 of the 5 defining acts outlined by the United Nations Genocide Convention. As Raz Segal, an Israeli historian and scholar of genocide, writes, “Israel has also intensified its 16-year siege of Gaza—the longest in modern history, in clear violation of international humanitarian law—to a ‘complete siege.’” This directive to accomplish the systemic destruction of Palestinians and Palestine society in Gaza, comes directly from Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who has described his targets in degraded terms, as “human animals.”
We, the undersigned, reject violence against all civilians, regardless of their identity, and we call for ending the root cause of violence: oppression, and the occupation. We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We ask arts organisations to show solidarity with cultural workers and call on our governments to demand an immediate ceasefire and the opening of Gaza’s crossings to allow humanitarian aid to enter unhindered.
We believe that the arts organisations and institutions whose mission it is to protect freedom of expression, to foster education, community, and creativity, also stand for freedom of life and the basic right of existence. We call on you to refuse inhumanity, which has no place in life or art, and make a public demand from our governments to call for a ceasefire.
The Otolith Group
M. NourbeSe Philip
Hedi El Kholti
Doreen St. Félix
Paige K. Bradley
Myriam Ben Salah
Sin Wai Kin
Sarah Nicole Prickett
Fatima Al Qadiri
Denise Ferreira da Silva
Catherine Quan Damman
Victoria Adukwei Bulley
Jesse Luke Darling
Cécile B. Evans
Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz
bones tan jones
Rebecca Lamarche Vadel
Abdullah Al Mutairi
Rosa Johan Uddoh
Karen Di Franco
Kalliopi Tsipni Kolaza
Gabrielle de la Puente
Editor’s note 10/19/23 5:40pm EDT: Since the publication of this article, additional names have been added to the list of signatories, as published in Artforum. Our story has been updated to reflect this.
Editor’s note 10/24/23 3pm EDT: Two artists’ names were removed from the signatory list at their request.