Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Metal-Washing Israel: Napalm Death Concert in Apartheid Israel


UPDATE:  Napalm Death ignored the call to boycott apartheid Israel.  We sincerely hope that their experience playing in the apartheid state opened their eyes to the injustice, and that they will decide not to play in Israel again.
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ORIGINAL POST: People of conscience across the world are asking the metal band Napalm Death to cancel their June 17, 2011 concert in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Only 7 days away, and with limited resources, it is amazing that this open letter has already been read and signed in over 5 different countries, in less than 24 hours.  For those skeptical, about BDS, please read the letter.  Napalm Death is not being asked to do anything heroic, they are merely being asked to refrain from crossing the picket line, we hope they will show their true commitment to human rights. 

OPEN LETTER
Dear Mark "Barney" Greenway, Shane Embury, Danny Herrera, & Mitch Harris of Napalm Death,
We were recently made aware of your planned concert in Israel, and this letter is a plea to you to cancel your plans for your concert. We hope to explain to you why we feel it is so important at this time, to cancel.  
Right now, hundreds of your fans, many more activists, and other organisations are taking on the cause of working to see justice served to the people of Palestine.  Napalm Death is noted for being a band that stands up for justice, that is anti-fascist, and cares for the people of the world who are oppressed.  Through Napalm Death's strong lyrics and actions, many young people have been inspired.  
In 2005, Palestinian Civil Society, almost unanimously, called for international artists to refuse to perform in Israel as part of the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign which is a non-violent method of holding Israel accountable to standards of equality and human rights that nations such as ours are accustomed to.  Your performance in Israel would be a rejection of that appeal, made not just by the Palestinian BDS movement, but by the Global BDS movement.  
Some artists feel they do not have enough information to heed the BDS call.  We'll try to help by giving you some background if you feel you fall into this category. Playing in Israel says "its okay to conduct business as usual with Israel, even though human rights violations occur on a daily basis.”  Your concert would help legitimize the following violations:
A. The unlawful military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.   Israel restricts Palestinian' freedom of movement and of speech, and their right to an education.  Access to their own property, to health care, to their schools, are blocked.  Leaders and human rights activists are imprisoned without a charge or a trial.  Over 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks divide and strangle the West Bank.   The atrocious "Wall" that Roger Waters has condemned continues to be built, even though it has been declared illegal  by the International Court of Justice at the Hague.  The "Wall" supports the huge network of illegal, exclusively Jewish settlements that separate the West Bank into isolated ghettos.  
B. Palestinian citizens of Israel are subject to a two-tiered system of segregation within Israel's borders.  They are denied rights that their Jewish neighbors are guaranteed.  Inequalities are most striking in issues such as education, land ownership, housing, employment, and marriage.  The Israeli system has been compared to former South African apartheid, and to the former "Jim Crowe" laws of the American South.
C.  Palestinians in Gaza are subjected to a criminal and immoral siege that began in 2006.  Over 1.5 million people live in the open-air prison camp that is the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on Earth.  As part of the siege, Israel has prevented many items from reaching Gaza.  Examples of items refused entry include various types of medicines, candles, light bulbs, books, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee, and musical instruments.
D.  In 1948, Israel dispossessed over 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form a nation that was intended to be exclusively for Jews.  These refugees and their children have an internationally recognized right to return to their homes and lands, yet Israel continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and in the Negev.  As a result, today Palestinians comprise the largest group of refugees on earth today, at over 6 million. Like all refugees, they still struggle for the right to return to their homes, and leave the squalor and poverty of the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, and especially Gaza.
Do you want Napalm Death's name to be associated with support for such a state?
Know that time really "Waits For No Slave," and please do not play in Israel. Help eliminate injustice and dedicate your cancellation to promoting the rights of all the oppressed women and children of Palestine.  Many mothers have lost their children: 24 Palestinian children were killed in April 2008 alone by the Israeli occupation army; 34 were killed in the Gaza Strip in March 2008 in what the Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Villnai threatened to become a "bigger Holocaust."  And 327 Palestinian children are still in prison.  So far, more than 180 terminally ill people and premature babies have died within four months in Gaza as a result of the siege imposed by the country you are planning to play in.  In December 2008 and January 2009 Israel waged a deadly war against the besieged people of Gaza.  Almost all of the 1,400 deaths were of civilians, and hundreds of children were left dead.  This led to the United Nation's "Goldstone Report"   in which it was declared that Israel had committed war-crimes, including using white phosphorus on a captive population.  
Noteably, top British architects including Richard Rogers, Charles Jenckes and 60 other British architect and planners, major Trade Unions in Britain including “UNISON” with around 1.4 million members, and unions in South Africa, Ireland and Canada, have all heeded the Palestinian distress call and considered applying effective pressure on Israel to promote peace and justice through boycott initiatives.  Just last month the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS), the largest coalition of the Palestinian trade union movement, was formed calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel for its ongoing violation of Palestinian rights.
In its "Brand Israel" campaign, Israel uses arts and culture to attempt to salvage its image and cover up its violations of international law and human rights.  The appearances of internationally acclaimed artists from the West is meant to show that Israel is a normal western-style democracy where business as usual goes on in the form of the exchange of art and culture.  Your concert would serve as another publicity tool for the “Brand Israel” campaign that is being used by the Israeli government.
Since 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. Vocal supporters of the BDS movement also include Roger Waters, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, current South African minister Ronnie Kasrils, John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Adrienne Rich, Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, and Alice Walker, and Maxi Jazz (Faithless front-man and member of OneWorld) 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.”


 Roger Waters wrote a letter announcing his support of a cultural boycott of Israel, he said that in his "view, the abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza, and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, 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."

Other musicians and artists who have cancelled concerts or decided to apply effective pressure on Israel to promote peace and justice include poet and activist Michael Rosen, August Burns Red, Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy, Gil Scott Heron, The Gorillaz, The Pixies, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Vanessa Paradis, Pete Seeger, and Devandra Banhart.  (Note that Faithless also cancelled their planned concert for July, 2010)
If this letter still has not convinced you to cancel your concert, and if you think that a cultural boycott of Israel might hinder your freedom of expression to go to Israel to annouce to your audience that they should stand up for change, then read these words by Enuga S. Reddy.  He was the Director of the United Nations Center Against Apartheid, and in 1984 he responded to a similar argument 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. “(See http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/mayjune08/positions.cfm ‘12 Positions on Cultural Sanctions’)

This is a call by Palestinian society and by thousands of people worldwide, including progressive young Israelis* and it merely stems from the commonly held belief that all people deserve basic human rights. You are only being asked one thing:  To refrain from crossing the picket line.

Respectfully,


Councillor Gino Kenny (People Before Profit Alliance), South Dublin County Council 
Merton PSC
Remi Kanazi, Palestinian Poet and Activist, USA
Niall Smyth, Ireland
Sahand Arshadmansab, HRJ Palestine Collective, USA
Grace Alfar Zgraphix.org, USA
Don’t Play Apartheid Israel
Zoë Lawlor, participant on Freedom Flotilla 2 -Stay Human
Ms. Sylvia Benini, Director, The Austin Center for Peace and Justice,  Austin TX
Yael Kahn,  Israeli Human Rights Activist
Sylvia Posadas, Australia
Limerick Branch of the IPSC
Birgit Althaler, translator, Palästina-Solidarität Basel
Alexandra Lort Phillips, UK (2010 Flotilla participant, on the Mavi Marmara)
 Stephanie Westbrook, Italy 
Dario Rossi, Italy
Jenny Brazil
Susan Wood
Mary Beaman
Anne Dyas
Mr. Pity Band
Sara Swerdlyk, Canada
B. Black, Toronto, ON, Canada
David Parsons, Toronto, Canada
Tin Alvarez, Philippines