Open Letter to Jeff Beck: Don’t Condone Israeli Apartheid!!

Occupied Ramallah, 26 August 2010

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is deeply troubled to learn that a highly respected musician such as yourself is scheduled to perform in Israel on October 5th, in violation of the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). [1] Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people through overlapping systems of military occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Inspired by the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, we urge you, as we have appealed to all international artists, not to perform in apartheid Israel.

Although you seem to have ignored an appeal sent to you last month by our Israeli partners, Boycott from Within!, [2] to cancel your performance in Israel, we hope you shall think again about this especially problematic gig.

As a prominent artist you would be inadvertently supporting the official “Brand Israel” campaign, aimed at whitewashing Israel’s violations of international law and projecting a false image of normalcy and civility. [3] You would be sending a message of support to Israel, at a time when it is facing growing international isolation over its systematic and gross violations of Palestinian human rights. Since the shocking flotilla massacre, when Israel attacked a humanitarian ship bound for Gaza and killed nine Turkish activists, a number of influential international artists have refused to conduct ‘business as usual’ with a state that has placed itself above international law and is violently oppressing the Palestinian people. In the wake of the Flotilla attack, Klaxons, Gorillaz Sound System, the Pixies and Faithless all cancelled their scheduled concerts in Israel, [4] and Hollywood superstars Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman cancelled their attendance at the 2010 Jerusalem Film Festival. [5] Explaining his band’s decision, Faithless frontman Maxi Jazz brings into focus why it is morally imperative for artists to refuse to entertain apartheid Israel:

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’. It’s neither and I cannot support it. [6]

In other words, your performance in Israel would not be a neutral act. It would constitute a form of complicity with Israeli policies, in which you would be condoning the suffering and subjugation of an entire people and sending a message to the world that everything is ‘normal’ in Israel. We call on you not to lend such support to a colonial regime that is denying the Palestinian people their freedom.

For over 60 years Israel has unabatedly pursued colonial and apartheid designs to dispossess and ultimately ethnically cleanse the people of Palestine from their homeland. The state of Israel was established in 1948 by forcibly displacing the overwhelming majority of Palestine’s indigenous Arab population from their homes and lands. Today, these Palestinian refugees are prevented from returning to their homes from which they were expelled. In contrast, any person who claims Jewish descent from anywhere in the world may become an Israeli citizen and national under the so-called Law of Return.

In the Israeli occupied West Bank, Palestinians live under a brutal military occupation and are subject to daily humiliation, intimidation, house demolitions, illegal confiscation of their land, incarceration and military violence. Israel’s apartheid wall locks Palestinians into a system of isolated Bantustans and prisons, surrounded by exclusive Jewish colonies. Palestinian movement in and out of their cantons is completely controlled by Israeli checkpoints and its closure regime. Many villages are completely encircled by the wall that dispossesses villagers, cutting them off from their land, resources and markets.

In Gaza, Israel has imposed a life endangering siege. In January 2009, Israel carried out a criminal military assault against the occupied Gaza Strip during which it killed more than 1,440 Palestinians, of whom 431 were children, and injured another 5380. [7] Israel subjected the besieged population of Gaza to three weeks of unrelenting state terror, systematically targeting civilian areas through indiscriminate aerial bombardments and missile strikes. The UN Fact Finding Mission, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, described the attacks as deliberately “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population” and called for investigations of “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.” [8]

You may be particularly interested to know that, as part of its illegal and unethical siege of Gaza, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles, books, crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee and chocolate, but also musical instruments from reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison. [9] Can you entertain such a state with a clear conscience?

Inspired by the struggle against apartheid South Africa, we believe that the growing international BDS movement is the most effective way to pressure Israel to recognize and uphold the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights. Many prominent artists including Bono, Gil Scott-Heron and Elvis Costello have heeded our call and refused to perform in Israel. Major cultural figures such as John Berger, Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, Iain Banks, Alice Walker and many others endorse our boycott against Israel. Most recently, 150 Irish artists, including some of the most prominent, issued a pledge to support the cultural boycott of Israel until it complies with international law. [10] Earlier this year, 500 artists in Montreal had announced their support for the boycott. [11] We hope you will do the same and join the people of conscience throughout the world, who are saying enough is enough! Palestinians have been silenced, ignored, denied their freedom and brutally subjugated for far too long.

We ask you to heed our call for BDS. We hope that you will not turn a blind eye to colonial oppression, but instead will choose to use your musical talents to support the pursuit of freedom, justice, and equal human rights for all.

PACBI

www.PACBI.org

pacbi[at]pacbi.org

[1] http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52

[2] http://boycottisrael.info/content/jeff-beck-dont-play-apartheid-israel

[3] http://www.forward.com/articles/2070/. Ben White provides a comprehensive discussion of the brand-Israel effort in http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11093.shtml

[4] http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/klaxons-and-gorillaz-sound-system-cancel-israel-shows-apparently-due-to-gaza-flotilla-raid-1.294191 http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/06/2919568.htm?section=justin

[5] http://www.jpost.com/ArtsAndCulture/Entertainment/Article.aspx?id=180671

[6] http://www.wallofsilence.org/news.html

[7] http://www.ochaopt.org/gazacrisis/index.php?section=3

[8] “Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.” General Assembly, A/HRC/12/48, 25 September 2009.

[9] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7545636.stm

[10] http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1328

[11] http://www.tadamon.ca/post/5824

I'm a teacher, writer, and activist based in Bangalore. I am dedicated to various issues including #BDS and Palestine, living Zero Waste, and reversing the effects of climate change.

Posted in Boycott, Cultural Boycott, Palestinian Organizing
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