British Arts Center Apologizes for Canceling Palestinian Film Events

Arnolfini, an arts center in Bristol, England, apologized on Friday for a decision to cancel two events planned as part of the Palestine Film Festival, a move that many artists and activists claimed was a form of censorship.

Those events were a screening of Farha (2021), a film set during the Nakba, and a discussion between Palestinian writer and doctor Ghada Karmi and rapper and activist Lowkey. When it called off this programming in November, Arnolfini said that hosting the events might be “construed as political activity,” and that the center could not afford that possibility as an arts charity that is supposed to remain politically neutral.

Related Articles

More Than 1,000 Artists Boycott Bristol’s Arnolfini Center Amid Palestine Censorship Controversy

Morning Links: ‘Make Fruit Punch Great Again’ Edition

“We are sincerely sorry we cancelled the events,” Arnolfini said in a lengthy statement issued today. “It was a decision based on the information and understanding we had at the time, but now believe it was wrong.”

And, in a move few other art institutions anywhere have taken, Arnolfini explicitly acknowledged the violence taking place in Gaza, where more than 34,000 people have been killed since October 7. The statement also referred to violence in Israel, seemingly in reference to the attack by Hamas, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 people hostage.

“The ongoing devastation and loss of life in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel is abhorrent,” Arnolfini wrote. “The International Court of Justice has described Israel’s actions in Gaza as plausible acts of genocide. During this overwhelming humanitarian crisis, the voices of the victims need to be heard. Arnolfini recognises the importance of artists and their powerful voices in a complex world. We believe that freedom of expression and intellectual freedom are vital and must be fully reflected in our policies and practices. We are sorry that we did not provide a platform for Palestinian voices at such a crucial time.”

Shortly after the events were canceled, more than 1,000 artists, including Turner Prize winner Tai Shani and Palestinian filmmaker and sculptor Jumana Manna, said they would boycott Arnolfini. On Friday, Artists for Palestine UK announced that the boycott was now over.

“We hope this sends a clear message to other cultural institutions,” the activist group said in an emailed announcement. “Amid a repressive political and media climate, cultural institutions are too often failing in their duty to uphold freedom of expression and to protect against discrimination.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *