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Israeli citizens to Israel Festival participants: don’t whitewash segregation, racism and occupation

Created on 22 May 2012

We are citizens of Israel who support the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel's policies of colonialism, occupation and apartheid towards the Palestinian people. We have recently learned of your planned concert at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, and therefore write in order to urge you not to come.

boycottboycott

Please hear us out.

Israel's attempts to mask systematic human-rights abuses and decades-long oppression against the Palestinians, relies on its ability to maintain a progressive and democratic image in the eyes of the international community. Israel often goes as far as promoting itself as "the only Democracy in the Middle East". Israel's apartheid policies, however, are inherent even to something as seemingly light-hearted and joyous as a concert: Palestinian fans of your music living under the brutal Israeli military occupation of the West Bank or the hermetic siege of the Gaza Strip will be prohibited from coming to  West Jerusalem and enjoying your performance.

Palestinian Freedom Riders have recently challenged Israeli segregated buses which they are not allowed to travel on. These buses carry instead Israeli settlers to and from their homes, illegally built on stolen land.[1][2][3]. Prominent figures, including many musicians and artists, have come here to witness for themselves the treatment of Palestinians living under Israeli rule, and have vowed not to lend their legitimacy to these racist policies.

Alice Walker made the following comments on her visit to Palestine: "Going through Israeli checkpoints is like going back in time to American Civil Rights struggle...I am a big supporter of BDS. I frankly think that it is the best, absolutely the best way."[4]...One of the things so painful to remember about the segregated south is that no matter what white people did to them black people were not allowed to fight back, not even with a word or a glance, hence the expression “reckless eye-balling” which led many a black person to be beaten or killed. The idea that the people of Palestine are not even supposed to fight back... To collectively punish them (by bombing and starvation) for electing their own government in a democratic election acknowledged by most observers to have been fair, is sadistic as well as internationally condemned as illegal."[5]


Professor Robin Kelley whose last book was about Thelonious Monk offers this analysis: “... And so for people of my generation, the Israel-South Africa nexus, dispossession of Palestinians ... these were the key questions for anyone politically active in the 1980s. … witnessed a level of racist violence that I hadn’t even seen growing up as a black person here in the States  (laughs), I have to say, and I’ve been beat by the cops. The level of racist violence from the settlers is kind of astounding. … The key thing was the kind of engagement that helped us better understand why the boycott is central... And part of what the boycott does is it delegitimizes the claim that this is a normal situation. It’s not a normal situation, it’s a settler-colonial situation, a situation of oppression."[6]

Cassandra Wilson recently canceled her gig at another Israeli government-sponsored Festival in Israel 2 days before her scheduled performance. Following appeals by BDS activists and fans via Twitter asking her to respect the Palestinian call for boycott, she took a bold public political stand just before she was due to board a plane to Tel Aviv. Wilson announced: “as a human rights activist, I identify with the cultural boycott of Israel”, and did not back down despite Israeli threats.  [7]


The Palestinian people are being denied some elementary freedoms: the freedom of movement, the freedom to access their stolen lands and the freedom to protest injustice without facing brutal repression.[8] Those living in the Gaza strip (56% of whom are children) live under a debilitating siege, limiting their access to water, medical supplies, and construction material.[9] This unimaginable situation takes place only an hour away from your scheduled performance. In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, 40 minutes away from the scheduled venue, kids are being abducted from their homes, in violation of international law, and taken into violent police interrogations with no access to their parents or a lawyer.[10]

Representatives of Palestinian civil society, including over 170 different organizations such as women, academic and workers organizations, have called for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s policies. International artists are asked not to perform in Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law and reverses these policies.[11] The call is all the more relevant for a concert such as yours, which is sponsored by the Israeli ministry of tourism, the municipality of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Foundation [12].

Please note that the Israeli government will endeavor to use your name to legitimize and promote the current oppressive and racist order through social media. [13] Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, former deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, stated “We see culture as a hasbara [Israeli advocacy] tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture.” [14]


Many artists have come to perform here with the good will and intention to use their art as a means of changing Israeli public opinion and spreading the message of peace. One such example would be that of Roger Waters (please see below). These artists have later come to realize that their performance, as well-meaning as it was, has been hijacked and used to send a green light to the ongoing Israeli policies of oppression.

Some prominent artists have stated:

-Roger Waters: “In my view, the abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza, and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), coupled with its denial of the rights of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance. For me it means declaring my intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine, but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their governments racist and colonial policies, by joining a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until it satisfies three basic human rights demanded in international law.”[15]

-Faithless: “We’ve been asked to do some shows this summer in your country and, with the heaviest of hearts, I have regretfully declined the invitation. While human beings are being willfully denied not just their rights but their needs for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that this is either ‘normal’ or ‘ok’.” [16]

-Macy Gray: “I had a reality check and I stated that I definitely would not have played there if I had known even the little that I know now.”[17].

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa said:“International Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory … Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong … to perform in Israel.” [18]

Understanding that the picket line has clearly been marked and that one cannot avoid taking a political stand on this matter, we are now asking you to take a moral stand. We ask that you reconsider your participation in whitewashing Israeli apartheid, please stand against oppression and for liberation, against deep rooted racism and in favor of justice and equality for all.

We will gladly address any question or comment you may have.


Sincerely,


BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within
  
(http://boycottisrael.info/)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.