Free Palestine – a Call to Action for Finnish Art and Culture Institutions

We, artists, cultural workers, critics, scholars and organisers, express our support for the Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonial rule and its apartheid system. We feel it is urgent to highlight the connections between the ongoing violence of Israel and the state of Finland. Not only does Finland not recognise Palestine as a state, it has in the past engaged in arms trade with Israel, assisting Israel in committing genocide against Palestinians.

We call on all artists and cultural workers in Finland to write to, and demand the cultural institutions they work with, to publicly extend solidarity to the Palestinian struggle for decolonisation and to participate in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)1 movement as a form of non-violent, peaceful pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by (i) ending its occupation and colonisation of all Palestinian lands and dismantling the Wall; (ii) recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; (iii) respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. The Finnish art and culture institutions must use their power and resources to apply pressure on the Finnish government to condemn Israel’s settler colonisation of Palestine and to demand an end to the violence and the occupation it continues to date.

We believe in the power of art and cultural participation in political actions. Artistic and cultural positions can neither be neutral nor separated from an ongoing reality that is founded on discriminatory laws and ethnic/racial exclusivity. Art and culture can impose intense pressure from both inside and outside the institutions’ walls. This works against the all-too-frequent isolation and exceptionalization of Palestine and strengthens the bonds between Free Palestine, Indigenous sovereignty, Black Freedom Movements and all other movements for land, life, and liberation, from Puerto Rico to Kashmir and beyond.

Finnish art institutions cannot remain silent, claim neutrality, nor separate the institution as a hegemonic structure from the people they are composed of, while at the same time seek academic and ethical legitimacy by inviting artists and cultural workers from ethnic minorities to participate in their programming to discuss oppression, post-coloniality, decolonization, and power structures. One can say with certainty that such invitations are nothing but gestures of performative activism and yet another late-capitalist eurocentric colonial commodity. If institutions are truly sincere, they must consider it urgent to issue a statement that recognises the oppressor and supports the oppressed. We, therefore, trust that you, as cultural workers and institutions working with and through feminism, anti-racism and decoloniality, comprehend the gravity of the situation and the hegemonic sanitation of illegality in this context. Together, we demand a recognition of the importance of countering ongoing occupation and violence – both in Palestine and beyond – and the liberty and right to reclaim one’s cultural narrative.

Violence against Palestinians has intensified in recent weeks. Israel has been escalating tensions in Jerusalem for weeks, which includes placing new restrictions on Palestinians during Ramadan; violent suppression of Palestinian protesters; Israeli-settler evictions of families – in Sheikh Jarrah, Acre, Lod, Bedouins in the south, in fact all over Israel and Palestine; and the assaulting of worshippers in Al Aqsa Mosque by Israeli military. As we speak Israel has declared war on Palestinian people, calling it “Law and Order” aiming at arresting 500 Palestinians inside Israel who have shown support for Gaza or Sheikh Jarrah. Israeli incarceration special forces with the militarized police and army reserve have been called to ‘deal with’ the Palestinian people.

The violence of Israel’s systematic ethnic displacement of Palestinians and the apartheid regime it has imposed in Palestine/Israel has been ongoing since the founding of the state. The situation in Palestine constitutes repeated instances of acute injustice. Palestinians are protesting against heavily armed Israeli police and soldiers who are using tear gas, stun grenades, coated steel bullets, skunk water and live bullets to suppress those who call for liberation. Like the West Bank, the Gaza strip has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967, where the suffocating siege and naval blockade, condemned as ‘collective punishment’ of the entire population, has been named a ‘war crime’ by the UN and human rights organizations. For further information on what is happening please visit these resources and suggested readings we have collected here.

We channel our anger, mobilize our grief, and manage our actions. It is in our hands to dismantle apartheid and all forms of racism and oppression. Once again, we urge you to issue a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality; to participate in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and to use your power and resources to apply pressure on the Finnish government to condemn Israel’s settler colonisation of Palestine and to demand an end to the violence.

  1. BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.