PACBI mourns the loss of John Berger


The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) mourns the loss of the venerable author and world-renowned art critic John Berger whose commitment to justice was unwavering.

As a celebrated artist, author, philosopher and critic, John Berger was one of the first cultural figures to join the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in 2006. Endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel in a letter to The Guardian and urging cultural workers to not visit, exhibit or perform in Israel, the Booker-Prize winner comments on his boycott appeal as “a very personal call ... a way of encouraging the very courageous Israelis who oppose their government and an encouragement to Palestinians to somehow go on surviving.”

Standing on the side of justice, Berger has translated his commitment into action and stood with the plight of Palestinians against settler-colonialism and apartheid unabashedly. The Berger letter of 2006 aptly states : “It is now time for others to join the campaign ; as Primo Levi asked : If not now, when ?”

Berger’s words continue to ring true even today, over a decade since he wrote them. Thanks to his brave support, and that of other artists that followed him, the cultural boycott of Israel has grown impressively since Palestinians launched it in 2004, sending a strong message to Israel that there is no business as usual with a state practicing colonial oppression and apartheid.

Berger described his support of the cultural boycott as a “way of not staying silent.” With Israel’s increased human rights violations against Palestinians, and in specific Palestinian cultural institutions and artists, it is the moral voices such as Berger’s that help in the fight against injustice and entrenched complicity with a colonial regime.

Often described as a storyteller, Berger elucidates in Tilda Swinton’s documentary Seasons in Quincy : Four Portraits of John Berger “if I’m a storyteller, it’s because I listen.” Indeed, beyond storytelling, Berger has listened to the Palestinian appeal to not allow culture to whitewash Israel’s grave human rights violations, proving his outstanding moral values.

To borrow filmmaker Swinton’s depiction of the late writer, he is indeed a “radical humanist.”

We at the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel are grateful for John Berger’s principled stance and mourn the loss of such an honorable individual. May we all continue in the path of ethical resistance to injustice and all forms of oppression.