We are citizens of Israel who support the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel's policies of racism, apartheid and occupation towards the Palestinian people. As we have recently learned about your planned gigs in Tel Aviv in September of 2012, we write in order to ask you not to come.
Our letter is also premised on what we have learned about your activism for human rights throughout the years.
Israel's attempts to mask systematic human-rights abuses and decades-long oppression against the Palestinians largely rely on its ability to maintain a progressive and democratic image in the eyes of the international community. Israel often promotes itself as "the only Democracy in the Middle East". However, Israel's apartheid policies are inherent even to something as seemingly light-hearted and joyous as rock concerts: Palestinian fans of your music living in the West Bank, in a land governed by Israel, are under martial-law and will not be permitted to come to Tel Aviv and enjoy your performance.
The Palestinian people are being denied some of the most elementary freedoms: the freedom of movement, the freedom to access their stolen agricultural land and the freedom to protest without facing life threatening violence: When they demonstrate against the Israeli government, they face brutal treatment. (http://mondoweiss.net/2011/07/lets-stand-with-shireen-al-araj-and-the-co...)
Their relatives in the Gaza strip (44% of whom are children under the age of 14) live under a debilitating siege restricting the badly needed amounts of food, medical supplies, and construction material. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/24/gaza-fishermen-gunboats-isra...)
In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, kids are being abducted from their homes, in violation of international law, and taken to violent police interrogations. (http://www.btselem.org/video/2011/05/child-arrest-silwan)
Numerous 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. However, this has not succeeded (not even with Roger Waters, who now supports BDS). On the contrary; High profile performances, such as your scheduled gig, have served the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes and creating an image of Israel as a “modern state", where celebrities come to perform and see the sights. In reality, some of the sights are situated on occupied land, and over 3 million people, including Palestinian fans of yours, cannot attend concerts in Tel Aviv, even though they are living under Israeli control, namely the occupation.
Another fact to consider is the role of the production company hosting your performance, Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production LTD., in obscuring Israel’s atrocities and enhancing its image in the world.Weiss and the Israeli government have a special relationship. Mr. Weiss as attended parliamentary meetings about outlawing boycotts (http://maxblumenthal.com/tag/shuki-weiss/ , more from that meeting athttp://pulsemedia.org/2011/02/14/the-macy-gray-effect/).
Mr. Weiss has also sent Israeli officials VIP tickets to shows he produces. This is not just corruption within the system, but corruption that serves to whitewash Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people, using international artists such as you:
"Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Shira Koa said that the ministry had agreed with the producers of the concert that the event would be used to promote Israel as a safe tourism destination. "Madonna belongs to an exclusive club of mega stars, who draws thousands of fans from abroad to her concerts. For this reason, the ministry authorized an agreement with the producers that would give the ministry video and stills footage of the singer and her entourage, both during the concerts and her visits to tourist sites in Israel, to be used in international marketing campaigns. They also agreed to have four displays at the concert with films promoting Israel, supplied by the ministry, targeting the thousands of foreign tourists... Such promotion campaigns are regular occurrences both in Israel and abroad." (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/tourism-minister-given-illegal...)
It should be noted that prominent artists and public figures have endorsed the BDS campaign. Some examples follow:
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."
Elvis Costello: " There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.
Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.
cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this. "
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’.”
Alice Walker: " 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."
Devendra Banhart: "Unfortunately, we tried to make it clear that we were coming to share a human and not a political message but it seems that we are being used to support views that are not our own,"
Mike Leigh: "As you know, I have always had serious misgivings about coming, but I allowed myself to be persuaded by your sincerity and your commitment... And it is because of those special qualities of yours that I am especially sorry to have to let you down. But I have absolutely no choice. I cannot come, I do not want to come, and I am not coming. Eight weeks after our lunch, the Israeli attack on the flotilla took place. As I watched the world very properly condemn this atrocity, I almost cancelled. I now wish I had, and blame my cowardice for not having done so. Since then, your government has gone from bad to worse. I need not itemise all that has taken place ... I still had not faced up to the prospect of pulling out until a few weeks ago, but the resumption of the illegal building on the West Bank made me start to consider it seriously. And now we have the Loyalty Oath. This is the last straw – quite apart from the ongoing criminal blockade of Gaza, not to mention the endless shooting of innocent people there, including juveniles ..."
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.”
We have learned that not performing is very effective in promoting justice in the region, as Israeli policy makers are coming to understand that the international community does not approve of their brutal policies towards the Palestinian people. Therefore, we are asking you to re-consider your decision to perform in Israel. It is with great admiration of your art and activism that we suggest that a people oppressing another should not have the benefit of enjoying it or cynically using it as a tool of self-justification. In view of the aforementioned facts, you can make a difference and promote justice and human rights, by deciding not to play in Israel at this time!
If you are interested in what a group of Israeli citizens who support BDS have to say, please let us know. We would be happy to address any comments or questions you may have. We would also recommend going straight to the source and speaking to representatives of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within