Monthly Archives: January 2011

Macy Gray: “Boycotters are just assholes”

Macy Gray

Recently, commentator Max Blumenthal exposed what happened to black American artist Macy Gray when she asked her fans on Facebook for advice on whether or not to respect the Palestinian boycott of Israel. Unfortunately, she has decided to go ahead and play Israel. Maybe the Zionist reaction to her even debating the issue will encourage her to think again.

I recently wrote to her as Secretary of J-BIG, as follows: 

Dear Macy Gray,

I was excited when you responded directly to the campaigners who asked you to support the Palestinian boycott call by staying away from Israel until it ends its illegal system of discrimination. But now it saddens me that you don’t feel the need to heed the call, even though you say you are appalled by apartheid.

I’m one of many Jews who have joined the boycott movement because, like the millions who stood up against the apartheid regime in South Africa in the past, we insist on the right of ALL people to dignity, justice and equality. These are basic human rights that Palestinians have been systematically denied for the past six decades. They are in serious danger of extermination, and no powerful government or institution stands up for them. There is a mass of information out there making this abundantly clear. I recommend the website of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. It is just one of many hundreds of sources.

The boycott movement is a desperate last ditch stand, a legitimate, non-violent method of political action on the part of civil society, ordinary people who can – as with South African apartheid – help put an end to injustice. The Israeli establishment responds to peaceful protest with violence and criminalisation. It also devotes huge resources to propaganda. A major part of this effort aims to conceal the crimes of the state behind a civilised veneer. Invitations to artists like you are a cynical, conscious part of this propaganda effort. 

You say you do not believe your not performing there is a substantial political act. But the Israeli state certainly does think so! They hail every gig by celebrities who go to Israel as a victory over the campaigners for justice for Palestinians. They are already doing so over your apparent decision to go.

See this link from http://www.ynetnews.com: 

Macy Gray: Boycotters are just assholes 

You are political if you don’t go, but also if you do. It’s not too late to think again.

You say you believe that “coming there in support of peace and change through music will make more of a difference”. This is almost word for word what Paul McCartney told us back in 2008 before he went to Tel Aviv. Within a few short weeks of his bringing his message of peace, Israeli forces began bombarding Gaza and continued for 22 days until 1,400 Palestinians lay dead, including more than 300 children, thousands more were horribly injured, whole communities were ruined and remain so two years later, because the inhuman Israeli blockade remains in force. Killings, house demolitions, arrests, torture, continue throughout the Palestinians lands that Israel illegally occupies, and no sanctions are taken by the world’s great powers. 

Your friends and fans in Tel Aviv may be disappointed if you stay away, but they need to understand that Palestinians have far more fundamental rights than going to a concert denied to them every day of their lives. Your friends have the option of joining those courageous Israelis who see that their state deserves to become a pariah if it does not change its ways, for the sake of their own futures as well as that of the Palestinians.

Maybe it’s true that some boycotters are “assholes”, but the vast majority are decent, sane, caring human beings seeking a non-violent form of protest to end a gross injustice and spiralling violence. Please, meet some of us and then make up your own mind. 

Yours most sincerely,

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

Secretary, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, UK

jews4big@gmail.com

http://maxblumenthal.com/2011/01/israelis-target-macy-gray-with-racist-diatribes-after-she-agrees-to-play-tel-aviv-and-who-are-the-assholes/

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Video of Ahava Demo – 22 January 2011

Despite the Palestine Solidarity Campaign AGM being held, as well as other events going on today, over thirty human-rights demonstrators (plus a few new faces), campaigned, chanted, leafleted and spoke to local residents, shoppers and visitors informing them regarding Ahava’s corporate complicity in violations of international law over the sale of natural resources that are pillaged from illegally occupied territory. More than a few customers decided to impose their own boycott of Ahava after hearing about the human rights abuses committed by the Israeli Government against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

An observation in a previous post entitled The Return of Roberta Moore – that the Zionist Federation-organised counter-demonstration is ‘melting away’ – seems to be coming true. During the first half of today’s picket, no Zionist turned up which demonstrators, the police and even the Israeli security guard employed by Ahava welcomed. Protestors spread out unchallenged in front of the shop and started to leaflet from outside both pens.

Last month, Ahava shop manager Rita made it clear that she considered the Zionists’ presence unwelcome and their behaviour detrimental to Ahava’s trade.  So perhaps Zionist Federation Co Vice-Chair Jonathan Hoffman spent his Saturday in the pub, called it quits and admitted that his Ahava cause is a lost one.

In a new low, only TWO embarrassed-looking Zionist Federation counter-demonstrators eventually turned up which made their cause look even worse (if that’s possible) when compared to the over thirty human-rights demonstrators present who were campaigning for altruism, equality, compassion and freedom, as well as the closure of the illegal settlement company Ahava.

Boycott roundup: Ahava products off the shelves, for now

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 20 January 2011

Boycott activists protest the sale of Ahava products at a US store (Steve Rhodes).

Canadian and United Kingdom solidarity activists have scored recent victories towards deshelving cosmetics made in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (CPJME) reported that on 11 January, Canadian retail chain The Bay dropped Ahava products from its stores. Ahava cosmetic products are made from materials from the Dead Sea in the West Bank, assembled in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, and are labeled “made in Israel.”

The company itself is partially owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another settlement, Kalia. An international campaign focusing on the boycott of Ahava products has been making waves across Europe and North America over the last two years.

CPJME stated that The Bay dropped Ahava products because they had not “been meeting expectations,” and that the company had “quietly informed” its customers who had objected to the store stocking Ahava products that they would not continue to do so (“The Bay drops controversial AHAVA products,” 13 January 2011).

However, two days later, The Bay (known also as HBC), issued a joint statement with Canada-based Jewish groups who had immediately protested the retail chain’s decision. The move to drop Ahava products was “solely for commercial reasons,” and that “at no point did political considerations enter into” the decision, the statement claims (“The Bay drops Ahava, but not because of boycott,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency,” 14 January 2011).

The announcement adds that Ahava products will be rebranded and will be back on shelves across Canada by this spring. The Bay “neither subscribes to nor endorses politically-motivated boycotts of merchandise from countries with which Canada has open and established trading relationships, including Israel,” the statement says.

The Stolen Beauty campaign, which has been a key organizer of international boycotts of Ahava products, released an action alert this week encouraging boycott supporters to thank HBC, regardless of its future plans and reasons for stopping its sales of Ahava. “Your message of thanks is crucial as right-wing, pro-occupation groups berate and pressure The Bay to reinstate sales of Ahava,” the alert stated (“Thank you for dropping Ahava products!“).

Nevertheless, The Bay’s decision followed a similar move by British retail chain John Lewis, which had publicly announced on 7 January that it has stopped stocking and selling Ahava products.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign issued a press release welcoming John Lewis’ decision, and reprinted part of a letter drafted by the company to the activist group (“John Lewis stops stocking Ahava products in Britain,” 14 January 2011).

Andy Street, John Lewis’ managing director, wrote: “As a socially responsible retailer, John Lewis takes very seriously the treatment of workers and their working conditions. We expect all our suppliers not only to obey the law, but also to respect the rights, interests and well-being of their employees, their communities and the environment … In relation to your specific enquiry about Ahava Dead Sea products, I can confirm that John Lewis has ceased stocking these particular products.”

Sarah Colborne, director of operations with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, stated that Ahava and other companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation are being sent a clear message by consumers.

“Although governments, including our own, are failing to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, we can all take action by refusing to buy Israeli goods and joining the movement for [boycott, divestment and sanctions],” Colborne said. “The [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] will continue to ensure that companies which profit from Israel’s occupation pay the price for their complicity in Israel’s crimes.”

Meanwhile, across the world, solidarity activists continue to campaign with the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Ireland artist join boycott pledge

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) announced that two hundred Irish artists have signed onto its Israel boycott pledge, with singer-songwriter Dylan Walshe joining as the latest signatory.

IPSC launched its national campaign in August 2010 in an effort to encourage Irish cultural workers to “avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel, nor to accept any funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights (“Irish artists’ pledge to boycott Israel reaches 200 signatories,” 13 January 2011).”

Walshe joins high-profile Irish artists who have committed to the boycott, such as actor Stephen Rea and musician Christy Moore. Raymond Deane, IPSC Cultural Boycott Officer and contributor to The Electronic Intifada, stated in the press release that “[a]s the Israeli state becomes ever more racist, expansionist and oppressive, we have seen the growth in its isolation by international civil society through the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

Deane, who is also a composer and himself a signatory to the pledge, added, “[t]he success of this boycott pledge is indicative of wider feelings toward Israel, both in Ireland and around the world. Indeed, similar pledges and initiatives are being organized in many other countries.”

Boycott of Israel Philharmonic’s US tour urged

Palestine-based activists with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a statement on 16 January calling for US solidarity groups to boycott the upcoming American tour of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, scheduled for February (“Boycott the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on its US Tour!,” 16 January 2011).

PACBI said the orchestra is scheduled to perform in Palm Beach, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. “We urge activists to continue the principled tradition of activists in New York and Los Angeles in 2007, when they protested the [orchestra’s] appearance in their cities,” states the press release.

“As befits an institution that identifies with the Israeli state, the [Israel Philharmonic] proudly announces its partnership with the army under a scheme whereby special concerts for Israeli soldiers are organized at their army outposts,” PACBI adds. “The orchestra has lent itself to the official Israeli propaganda campaign titled Brand Israel, which aims to divert attention from Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights to its artistic and scientific achievements.”

PACBI encourages boycott activists in the US to protest and boycott the orchestra’s concerts, saying that as long as it continues to partner with the Israeli government in “planning, implementing and whitewashing war crimes and international law violations,” Israel’s cultural establishment “cannot be exempted from the growing boycott movement.”

Israeli activists initiate boycott campaigns

Activists with the Israeli group Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call From Within (BFW) drafted a letter to British Telecom (BT) on 18 January, calling for the company to cut ties with the Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq International (“Boycott From Within’s letter to BT,” 18 January 2011).

In January 2010, BT incorporated Bezeq International, a subsidiary of Bezeq Israel, into its Global Alliance. The Bezeq corporation provides telecommunication services to illegal Israeli settlement colonies in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Thousands of British customers of BT have already joined a campaign calling for the companies to cut ties.

“We are saddened and dismayed by your company’s complicity in severe breaches of international law and the violation of human rights through your relationship with Bezeq International, and call on you to end this relationship at once,” states the activists’ letter. “By partnering with Bezeq, [British Telecom] is supporting the infrastructure which enables illegal Israeli settlements, built in violation of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to exist,” the letter adds.

“We maintain that such willful blindness to Israeli crimes is not only immoral, but is also in contrast to [British Telecom’s] fiduciary responsibility to its investors, as it may put the company’s high-regard in the international community at risk.”

Meanwhile, BFW activists say they helped play a key role in the recent decision by French pop star Vanessa Paradis to cancel a planned concert in Tel Aviv.

After the group drafted a letter urging Paradis and her partner, American film icon Johnny Depp, to cancel their upcoming visit, the singer announced on 15 January that her performance was cancelled.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that insiders close to the star claimed that Paradis “acceded to calls to cancel the show made by Palestinian solidarity groups” (“Did pop star Paradis cancel Israel concert over politics?,” 16 January 2011).

BFW activists have launched a similar campaign directed at American singer Macy Gray, who this week posted on her Facebook page that she was considering canceling her performance in Tel Aviv due to Israel’s “disgusting” treatment of Palestinians.

“I’m getting alot [sic] of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians,” Gray posted on her page.

Activists with BFW stated that “[c]oming to perform in Israel has become a political act, a statement of support for the State of Israel’s ongoing crimes and human rights violations. It is also an act against a rapidly growing nonviolent, human-rights based civil society Palestinian movement (“Macy Gray, Performing in Israel is Already Political – Stand for Human Rights and Cancel!“).”

BDS Movement Victory: John Lewis Stops Stocking Ahava Products

From CommonDreams.org

WASHINGTON – January 14 – Ahava’s goods, processed on stolen Palestinian land, are becoming too hot to handle. Leading British retail business John Lewis is now refusing to stock this toxic brand. Canadian retailer The Bay has also confirmed that it had also discontinued sales of Ahava products.[1]

No Love for Ahava

John Lewis’ decision signifies yet another victory for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Consumers are refusing to buy goods from companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation.

John Lewis’ Managing Director, Andy Street, wrote to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in a letter dated 7 January:
‘As a socially responsible retailer, John Lewis takes very seriously the treatment of workers and their working conditions. We expect all our suppliers not only to obey the law, but also to respect the rights, interests and well-being of their employees, their communities and the environment.’
He ended by stating:
‘In relation to your specific enquiry about Ahava Dead Sea products, I can confirm that John Lewis has ceased stocking these particular products’. 
Sarah Colborne, PSC’s Director of Campaigns and Operations, said: 
‘PSC welcomes John Lewis’ decision to stop stocking Ahava products. Israel’s continued attacks on the Palestinian population – whether living under a brutal blockade in Gaza, under illegal occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or under constant assault inside Israel, has led to a seismic shift in public opinion, with the movement for peace and justice for Palestinians gaining massive support internationally.
 
‘Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics company, has its manufacturing plant and visitors’ centre based in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank. The company is 44 per cent owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another settlement, Kalia, so Ahava’s profits subsidise these illegal colonies.
 
‘Ahava’s manufacturing plant is in an illegal Israeli settlement, on stolen Palestinian land. Its beauty products can’t conceal the role Ahava plays in Israel’s dirty occupation. Ahava, and other companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation, are being sent a clear message by consumers who are refusing to buy their products. Although governments, including our own, are failing to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, we can all take action by refusing to buy Israeli goods and joining the movement for BDS. The PSC will continue to ensure that companies which profit from Israel’s occupation pay the price for their complicity in Israel’s crimes’.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for international boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel. PSC launched its national boycott campaign in 2002, and supports fortnightly protests outside Ahava’s store in Covent Garden, London.
 
[1] The Bay has confirmed that it had discontinued sales of Ahava products – with their CEO Bonnie Brooks saying on 13 January 2011: ‘the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) discontinued sales of AHAVA beauty products, primarily because of sales results which had been declining for several years.’ It acknowledged that ‘Although this decision was made by HBC solely for commercial reasons, it occurred at the same time as an aggressive campaign by several groups advocating a boycott of AHAVA products.’
 

TAKE ACTION!

Thank John Lewis for taking this decision:

By email

By telephone
Call their Customer Service team on 08456 049 049, any time between 7am and midnight, 7 days a week. (Local rate number for BT users only. As mobile and other network call charges may vary, please refer to your service provider for more details.)

By post
Write to: Customer Services, John Lewis plc, PO Box 19615, Erskine PA8 6WU.

A Victory!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Canadian Retailer ‘The Bay’ Drops Cosmetics Line as Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories Admits Declining Sales and Attempts to Rebrand; Victory for Human Rights Boycott Campaign

Yesterday was an amazing day when, in open recognition of declining sales and the toxicity of the brand, the CEO of giant Canadian retailer The Bay, together with the heads of Canada’s main pro-Israel lobby groups, let slip that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli cosmetics manufacturer based in an illegal settlement in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, is pulling its products off the shelf, curtailing international distribution of its signature line and attempting to rebrand its now tarnished image.

This victory for the Stolen Beauty Ahava boycott was made possible by the extraordinary efforts of grassroots human rights campaigners from North America, The United Kingdom, France, The Czech Republic, South Africa, Israel, and Palestine, among others countries, to hold Ahava accountable for its violations of international law and its unconscionable occupation profiteering.

But even with this acknowledgement of the success of our campaign, now is not the time to let up the pressure. In the same statement announcing its rationale for dropping Ahava from its inventory, The Bay announced that Ahava would be back with a new, re-branded product line in the spring. This attempt to fool international consumers with a repackaged brand will not go unchallenged, and our campaign will continue.

Background on Ahava’s illegal business practices
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetics company that has its manufacturing plant and visitors center near the shores of the Dead Sea in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. The company is 44% owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another settlement, Kalia, so that the company’s profits are subsidizing these illegal colonies. Although its goods are manufactured in the West Bank, Ahava labels them as “products of Israel,” a practice that is illegal under European Union law and is currently being investigated in the UK and Holland.

The growing influence of the international boycott campaign
Since its launch in July 2009, the Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott has scored a number of successes. The first victory came after pressure on Oxfam, an international human rights organization, which had publicly condemned all Israeli settlement products, to suspend its Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis from publicity work for the duration of her contract as Ahava spokeswoman. Davis, best known for her work on HBO’s Sex and the City, allowed her contract with Ahava to expire a few months later. Abroad, coalition partners in London engaged the UK’s Camden Trading Standards Office to investigate the legality of Ahava’s labeling. Dutch activists and a Minister of the Parliament succeeded in convincing the Dutch Foreign Ministry to launch its own investigation of Ahava’s business methods. Partners in Paris have recently filed suit against the cosmetics chain Sephora for carrying Ahava products, and activists with Open Shuhada Street in South Africa filed a police complaint against a local retail chain that carries Ahava.


Part of a growing international movement
Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel was created in 2005 in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights. The BDS movement has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed over 1400 Palestinians. The Stolen Beauty campaign is a part of this growing international movement. Says Rae Abileah, a Jewish American of Israeli descent and a campaigner with CODEPINK, “Ahava means love in Hebrew, but there is no love in occupation. We are part of a grassroots effort to bring about a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

TAKE ACTION!

Email ‘The Bay’ and tell them why they should not stock Ahava products (form letter – very easy!).

Wigmore Hall Picket: Israel Piano Trio

A Stephen Pollard lookalike was there too!

Open Letter to Jon Bon Jovi: Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

It is with great disappointment that the undersigned organizations learned of your scheduled performance in Israel set for 2011 as part of your “Circle Tour” [1].  Given that Israel is involved in grave violations of international law and human rights, particularly as indicated in the UN Goldstone Report, we urge you to cancel this gig until the time comes when Israel is in compliance with its obligations under international law and fully respects Palestinian rights.

We were particularly surprised by news of your planned performance given your deep involvement in affordable housing and homelessness issues [2]. As part of its ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people, Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes and entire villages, including the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib, which was destroyed seven times this year [3].  Indeed, the entire modern history of the Palestinian people is based on dispossession and homelessness as more than 750,000 people were made refugees to enable the creation of the state of Israel, then kept in permanent refugee status despite the requirements in international law that they be allowed to return to their homes.  In your commitment to effect change you have understood that your position as a respected and prominent musician can weigh on politics and contribute to advancing freedom, justice and human rights.  It is in this spirit that we address you.

Don’t be Complicit in Entertaining Apartheid

In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a call for boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid [4].  We wish, in our letter to you, to stress the importance of this Palestinian call, and underscore the rationale for the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The 2004 Palestinian call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel appealed to international artists to refuse to perform in Israel or participate in events that serve to equate the occupier and the occupied [5] and thus contribute to the continuation of injustice.  Following this, in 2005, an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing BDS campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality [6].  The BDS movement adopts a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights standards as other nations. It is asking artists to heed the boycott call until “Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid.” [7]

Your performance in Israel would constitute a rejection of the appeal from over 170 civil society organizations that comprise the Palestinian BDS movement.  It would also seem like a rejection of your own sentiments, as expressed in your song in response to a newspaper report about “a young boy in the West Bank living smack in the middle of the conflict between Palestine and Israel” [8].

Your song, “Hook me up”, proclaimed that “everybody’s waiting for someday” [9]. What better moment is there than this one for you to answer the call coming from the Palestinian people?  Years after you wrote that song, they are telling you that they are hooked up, they have a voice, and they are asking to be heard.  Indeed, in light of your song, your performance in Israel would appear as tragicomedy!

Israel subjects Palestinians to a cruel system of dispossession and racial discrimination

Perhaps you are not familiar enough with Israel’s practices, widely acknowledged as violations of international law. If this is the case, then we hope you will reconsider your planned concert after thinking through some of Israel’s trespasses.  Your performance would function as a whitewash of these practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual.Concretely, Israel routinely violates Palestinians’ basic human rights in some of the following ways:

  1. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live under a brutal and unlawful military occupation.  Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank.  All the while, Israel continues to build its illegal wall on Palestinian land and to support the ever-expanding network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements that divide the West Bank into Bantustans.
  2. Palestinian citizens of Israel face a growing system of Apartheid within Israel’s borders, with laws and policies that deny them the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy.  These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people’s daily lives. In many ways this system strikingly resembles Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa.
  3. Since 1948, when Israel dispossessed more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form an exclusivist Jewish state, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands.  Israel also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev).  Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees still struggling for their right to return to their homes, like all refugees around the world.
  4. In Gaza, Palestinians have been subjected to a criminal and immoral siege since 2006. As part of this siege, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles, books, crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee and chocolate, but alsomusical instruments from reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison [10].

Could you possibly perform in such a state with a clear conscience?  In a country in which Palestinians living just minutes away in the West Bank and Gaza will not be able to attend?  Are we back to the Jim Crow South?

Israel uses arts and culture to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights. 

In December 2008 and January 2009, Israel waged a war of aggression against Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, dead [11], and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes [12].  In the wake of this assault and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy [13]. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign [14], as the presence of internationally acclaimed artists from the West is meant to affirm Israel’s membership in the West’s privileged club of “cultured,” liberal democracies. But it should not be business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights.

Numerous distinguished cultural figures and public intellectuals have joined the call for BDS.

After the Gaza assault and even more so after the flotilla massacre in May 2010, many international artists, intellectuals, and cultural workers have been rejecting Israel’s cynical use of the arts to whitewash its Apartheid and colonial policies. Among those who have supported the BDS movement are distinguished artists, writers, and anti-racist activists such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu [15], John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Adrienne Rich, Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, and Alice Walker [16].

World-renowned artists, among them Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless and the Pixies have also cancelled their performances in Israel over its human rights record.  Maxi Jazz (Faithless front-man) had this to say as he maintained his principled position not to entertain apartheid,

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 [performing in Israel] is either ‘normal’ or ‘ok’. It’s neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have. [17]

Please say no to performing in Israel.

If you remain unconvinced because of claims that a cultural boycott of Israel may infringe on freedom of expression and cultural exchange, may we recall for you the judicious words of Enuga S. Reddy, director of the United Nations Center against Apartheid, who in 1984 responded to a similar criticism voiced against the cultural boycott of South Africa by saying:

It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms… to the African majority… should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime. [18]

Today, Palestinian civil society groups are calling on artists to shun Tel Aviv in the same way that South African activists called on artists to boycott Sun City.  All we are asking is for you to act consistently in the spirit of your past social actions, and to refrain from crossing a picket line called by Palestinian society, endorsed by international organizations, and increasingly supported by progressive-Israelis [19].  Palestinian civil society is asking this of you as the most essential contribution to their struggle to achieve peace and justice.  We urge you to hear their call.

Respectfully,

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

pacbi(at)pacbi.org www.PACBI.org

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel

info(at)adalahny.org http://adalahny.org

South African Artists Against Apartheid

www.southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com

Creative Workers Union of South Africa (Affiliate of the Congress Of South African Trade Unions)

European Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI)

Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (Occupied Ramallah)

Info(at)ncm.birzeit.edu http://ncm.birzeit.edu/

Yabous Productions (Jerusalem)

Info(at)yabous.org http://www.yabous.org/

Popular Art Centre (Al-Bireh, Occupied Ramallah)

Info(at)popularartcentre.org http://www.popularartcentre.org/

Oriental Music Ensemble (Occupied Ramallah)

Palestinian Students for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PSACBI)

BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israeli BDS activists)

http://boycottisrael.info/

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)

info(at)palestinecampaign.org www.palestinecampaign.org

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC)

Info(at)ipsc.ie http://www.ipsc.ie/

British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

http://www.bricup.org.uk/

US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)

uscom4acbi(at)gmail.com http://usacbi.wordpress.com/

Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP)

Aurdip(at)aurdip.fr http://www.aurdip.fr/

International Jewish anti-Zionist Network

ijan(at)ijsn.net http://www.ijsn.net

British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP)

http://bwisp.wordpress.com/

Artists Against Apartheid (International Alliance)

action(at)artistsagainstapartheid.org www.artistsagainstapartheid.org

Americans AGAINST Apartheid UK

http://americansagainstapartheid.wordpress.com/contact/

Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign

info(at)leedspsc.org.uk http://www.leedspsc.org.uk/

International Solidarity Movement-France (ISM-France)

http://www.ism-france.org

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods

Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) UK
info(at)mpacuk.org http://www.mpacuk.org/

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

quaia.toronto(at)gmail.com http://queersagainstapartheid.org/

Boicotisrael-Madrid

contacto(at)boicotisrael.net http://www.boicotisrael.net

Educators for Peace and Justice (Toronto)

Tadamon! Montreal

www.tadamon.ca

Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right To Return Coalition

Info(at)al-awdany.org www.al-awdany.org

New York City Labor Against the War

www.nyclaw01.wordpress.com/

Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI)

BDS Group Berlin

Action Group at KTH for Boycott of Israel (Sweden)

www.psabi.net

United4Palestine

U4P.co.uk

Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (Toronto)

endapartheid(at)riseup.net http://www.caiaweb.org/

Australian Artists Against Israeli Apartheid (Australia)

Italian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (ICACBI)

icacbi.pacbi(at)gmail.com https://sites.google.com/site/icacbi/

Belgian delegation for the academic boycott of Israel

belgium.acbi(at)gmail.com

Berlin Academic Boycott (BAB)

bacademic.b(at)googlemail.com http://berlinacademicboycott.wordpress.com/

Comissió Universitària Catalana per Palestina (CUNCAP)

http://cuncap.wordpress.com/

Notes:

*Original lyrics are “This one goes out to the ones in need” from Bon Jovi’s hit song We Weren’t Born to Follow on their album The Circle.  See: http://www.bonjovi.com/release/albums/the_circle-6#1

[1] http://www.jpost.com/ArtsAndCulture/Music/Article.aspx?id=199684

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh7acTe-vnA&feature=player_embedded

[3] http://www.icahd.org/?p=6559

[4] http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

[5] http://pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047

[6] http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52

[7] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=868

[8] http://www.amazon.com/Jon-Bon-Jovi-Laura-Jackson/dp/0806526009/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1292800029&sr=1-1

[9] http://www.bonjovi.com/release/albums/bounce#7

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

[11] http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGMDE150212009

[12] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=91&LangID=E

[13] http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/05/13/truth_and_advertising

[14] http://mondoweiss.net/2009/03/ny-times-offers-the-rationale-for-the-cultural-boycott-of-israel.html

[15] http://www.timeslive.co.za/world/article675369.ece/Israeli-ties–a-chance-to-do-the-right-thing

[16] http://usacbi.wordpress.com/endorsers/

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

[18] http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/mayjune08/positions.cfm

[19] http://boycottisrael.info/