Friday, October 5, 2012

Letter to Harpists of Conscience: Regarding the Israel Contest

Dear Harpist,

We are aware that you plan to compete for first prize at the International Harp Contest in Israel this November.   However, we are writing to you in an effort to persuade you not to participate in the contest as we are saddened to see how music is appropriated and exploited in order to mask the crime of apartheid in Israel.[1]

In conscience, we wish to let you know that no matter how humanistic your personal views are, performing at the International Harp Contest in Israel in the current situation would be perceived inevitably as a political act, namely supporting or condoning one of the most ruthless and anti-democratic regimes in the world: that which Israel imposes on the Palestinian people.

Performing in Israel today means crossing an international picket line, as your performance here will be construed as a vote of confidence in Israel’s oppressive policies.   It is because of these policies, and the silence about them from governments around the world that Palestinians have called for an international boycott of Israel, asking artists to refuse to perform in Israel, that is, to reject being used to uphold the Israeli façade of normalcy.

As we write this to you we are sure that while dealing with the logistics of your trip, your Israeli hosts failed to inform you that barely a one hour drive from where you are scheduled to perform, nearly 2.5 million Palestinians live under a brutal occupation in the West Bank.  They are surrounded by an illegal apartheid wall and are routinely harassed by armed soldiers. These people, who live under an Israeli military regime, will not be allowed to come to hear you play your harp, as they cannot freely travel from the open-air prison in which Israel has enclosed them. The travel restrictions imposed on the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation prevent them from traveling on roads reserved for their Israeli settler neighbors alone [2].  Around five hundred permanent and arbitrary checkpoints created solely for Palestinians dot the West Bank, and so,  though you might be able to visit the West Bank as a privileged foreigner, you would never be subjected to the movement control which Palestinians are on their own land.  



Palestinian walking along apartheid wall Israel illegally built.
Only 70 km South of Tel Aviv, over 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza live in an open-air prison under blockade by Israel.  A recent International Red Cross report on the siege of Gaza demonstrates how terribly damaging it is to Palestinians there while a UN report just released contends that Gaza may become unlivable by 2020. [3]  The siege inflicts heinous human rights abuses. In addition, a UN Report of 2009 found Israel guilty of committing war crimes in its assault on Gaza in 2008/2009, including using white phosphorous on civilians and using human shields. As yet, the people of Gaza have been prevented from rebuilding their homes and their lives.[4]

Travel restrictions are only one aspect of repression of those who live under the Israeli occupation.  In fact, the Israeli military regime in the Occupied Territories conducts systematic land expropriation [5] through the construction of the wall (see picture), collective punishments, house demolitions [6], and mass detainment and imprisonment of thousands of women, men and children, many of whom are the participants in non-violent protests against the Israeli regime, their jailer [7].

We believe that the beautiful music of the harp should not be used in order to silence the oppressed or to camouflage such a silencing. We urge you to heed the Palestinian call for boycott, and join the many artists who have already refused to lend their names to whitewashing Israel’s apartheid policies, by canceling their scheduled performances in Israel.

Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters said:

Where governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For me this means declaring an intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government's policies, by joining the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.  My conviction is born in the idea that all people deserve basic human rights. This is not an attack on the people of Israel. This is, however, a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.

Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa's Sun City resort until apartheid fell and white people and black people enjoyed equal rights. And we are right to refuse to play in Israel until the day comes – and it surely will come – when the wall of occupation falls and Palestinians live alongside Israelis in the peace, freedom, justice and dignity that they all deserve.[8]
 
Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja, explained his reasons for joining the boycott:

I've always felt that it's the only way forward … I think musicians have a major role to play, I find the more I get involved, the more the movement becomes something tangible. I remember going to 'Artists Against Apartheid' gigs, and 'Rock Against Racism' gigs around the same sort of time. Bands like the Clash and the Specials had a lot to do with influencing the minds of the youth in those days.  The boycott is not an action of aggression towards the Israeli people,  It's towards the government and its policies. Everyone needs to be reminded of this because it's very easy to be accused of being anti-Semitic, and that's not what this is about.[9]

We sincerely hope that you will choose to refrain from playing your harp in Israel, until the day comes when Israel’s apartheid ends, and Palestinians are granted equal rights and the opportunity to hear your beautiful harp music with everyone in a just and equal society.  For more information please visit www.pacbi.org.

Warm Regards,


We are a collective, of over 900 members, representing many nations around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.








NOTES
[1] See four references below for documentation on apartheid in Israel:


[2] Israel’s Segregated Roads http://stop30billion-seattle.org/SegregatedRoads.htm
[3] Gaza Closure: Not Another year!  
http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/update/palestine-update-140610.htm
Gaza in 2020, ‘A Liveable Place?’
http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/104094048-Gaza-in-2020-A-livable-place.pdf
[4] UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/9/FactFindingMission.htm
[5] 48 hours of land theft, illegal arrests and violence towards Palestinians
http://mondoweiss.net/2012/08/48-hours-of-land-theft-illegal-arrests-and-violence-towards-palestinians.html
[6] See numerous examples of house demolitions at http://electronicintifada.net/tags/house-demolitions
[7] See thousands of examples of illegal imprisonment and mistreatment of prisoners, esp. women at http://electronicintifada.net/search/site/prisoner
[8] Tear down this Israeli wall, I want the music industry to support Palestinians' rights and oppose this inhumane barrier Roger Water, Friday 11 March 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/11/cultural-boycott-west-bank-wall
[9] Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack tells William Parry why he is boycotting Israel.http://www.newstatesman.com/music/2010/09/israel-interview-boycott-naja