Open Letter calling on Czech Ministry of Culture to respect international law and withdraw partnership with Days of Jerusalem

Dopis česky zde.

Mr Daniel Herman
Minister of Culture
Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic
1 Maltézské náměstí
118 11 Praha 1

Prague, 15 June 2015

Case: Request for respecting international law and withdrawing partnership with Days of Jerusalem

Dear Mr Herman,

We are writing with regard to the controversial festival Days of Jerusalem to be held in Pilsen and Prague during June 2015. The Ministry of Culture is one of the festival’s main partners. We request that you adhere to your respect for international law and withdraw your partnership with the festival.

The festival Days of Jerusalem is being promoted as a cultural and apolitical event. However, in promotional materials and in media coverage the festival refers to a unified Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. Under the pretence of a cultural event the festival thus whitewashes the reality of Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem. The publicity also omits the illegal de facto annexation of Jerusalem by Israel. The festival can be seen as part of Israel’s cultural diplomacy, because its partners include the municipality of Jerusalem and Israeli embassy in Prague. As confirmed by articles in Czech media and alluded to in a joint declaration by the governments of the State of Israel and the Czech Republic [1], the aim of the festival is to introduce Jerusalem as an Israeli city. The Ministry of Culture also referred to the Days of Jerusalem as a “representative and concise overview of Israeli culture aimed at international audiences” [2]. This aim, however, contravenes international law as well as the stance of European Union on this matter. The EU has never accepted annexation of Jerusalem by the State of Israel.

We take this opportunity to refer to the UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194 that confirmed Jerusalem to be Corpus Separatum, an international city which does not belong to any particular state. In 1967 Israel annexed East Jerusalem together with the surrounding 28 villages illegally; and in 1980 it declared Jerusalem „eternal and indivisible capital of the State of Israel“ – both acts violated international law and the relevant UN resolutions. The UN Security Council declared the proclamation as invalid.

The festival Days of Jerusalem deploys ostensibly apolitical means to manipulate the Czech public into accepting the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem. It is therefore unacceptable for the Czech Ministry of Culture to maintain a partnership with the festival. It is equally unacceptable for the Czech government to maintain support for the festival as expressed in the joint governmental declaration. The partnership and support are not in line with international law and with the stance of the European Union on this matter. Ironically, the partnership takes place under the label European Capital of Culture, co-financed by the EU.

As a democratically elected representative of the Czech Republic and Minister of Culture you have an undeniable responsibility towards international law. Partnership with a festival which introduces Jerusalem as an indivisible Israeli city jeopardises this responsibility and the credibility of the Ministry of Culture. Your responsibility extends towards the Czech public being manipulated by the festival organisers.

The festival justified its claim to appear on the official programme of the European Capital of Culture, Pilsen 2015, by stating that Jerusalem represents “the source of European culture values” [3]. Taking European values such as respect for international law and respect for universal human rights seriously prevents us from supporting demolitions, segregation walls and expulsions of the population as tools of illegal occupation.

We are convinced that the partnership between the Ministry of Culture and the Days of Jerusalem is highly inappropriate. We are therefore asking you to withdraw your partnership with the festival.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.


This open letter is endorsed by the following signatories:

Jan Kavan, former Foreign Minister and former chairman UN General Assembly
Vladimír Laštůvka, former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies Parliament of the Czech Republic
Zuzana Uhde, sociologist
Roman Sikora, theater critic and playwright
Matěj Stropnický, journalist, representative of the capital city of Prague (Green Party)
Filip Outrata, theologian, editor and publicist
Milan Daniel, journalist
Vít Klepárník, political scientist
Milan Kohout, performer and university lecturer
Czech Young Greens
Czech Socialist Solidarity

On behalf of the conveners of the open letter:

Vojtěch Srnka, student of international relations
David Kocman, sociologist
Petra Šťastná, International Solidarity Movement Czech Republic (ISM ČR)
Zdeněk Jehlička, of the initiative Not in our name! – For just peace in the Middle East
Libor Von Schönau, the Czech Boat to Gaza – part of Freedom Flotilla heading now to Gaza with humanitarian aid
Shadid Bessisso, Palestinian Club in the Czech Republic
Jana Ridvanová, Friends of Palestine, Czech Republic
Prokop Singer, student of international relation and European studies at MUP
Naďa Kotaishová, student of journalism at AAU


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