Sunday, September 15, 2013

Open Letter to Amanda Palmer: There is a profound ethical obligation to refuse to play in Israel

UPDATE: Please see the latest letter to Amanda Palmer from DPAI here:
Amanda Palmer asked to boycott Israel

Dear Amanda Palmer,

We recently became aware that you plan to breach the call by Palestinian Civil Society to boycott Israel. You announced on your website you plan to perform in Tel Aviv on October 23 at the Barby.

We respectfully ask you, as a musician of conscience, not to close your mind to the oppression of the Palestinian people.  There is a profound ethical obligation to refuse to play in Israel, and even though the financial rewards might be considerable, we sincerely hope you choose to respect the boycott.

Recently, the esteemed Professor of Physics, Stephen Hawking, chose to support  the boycott of apartheid Israel publicly.  He joins Desmond Tutu, Roger Waters, Alice Walker, Ahmed Kathrada, Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, John Berger and many others who agree that Israel's system of oppression cannot be brought to an end without ending international complicity and intensifying global solidarity, particularly through boycott.  On the growing list of artists who have joined the boycott are Faithless, Leftfield, Gorillaz, Klaxons, Massive Attack, Gil Scott Heron, Santana, Pete Seeger, Pixies, Tindersticks, Elvis Costello, Three Little Birds, Cassandra Wilson and Cat Power. They understand it takes a boycott to work for justice, and that “dialogue” or performing in Israel while also speaking out against it has failed.

Music cannot “build bridges” between Israel and the millions of Palestinians whom it oppresses.  Bridges can be built through boycott, as was the case in South Africa, with the ultimate result being that the rights of all people are respected.

The purpose of the boycott is to exert pressure on Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians,  by ending its occupation and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; recognising the rights of Palestinian refugees who are prevented from returning to their homes just because they are not Jewish; and abolishing institutionalised discrimination including more than 50 laws [1] preventing equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

This boycott builds on a historical tradition of popular resistance around the world: from within Palestine itself, to the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Historically, boycotts have been proven to work to end injustice.

Roger Waters wrote:

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.  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.[2]

Desmond Tutu has this view:

I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.[3]

“International Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory … Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong … to perform in Israel“.[4]

Today, due to the boycott call and its international magnitude, it is impossible for any international artist to play in Israel in a political vacuum.  If you ignore the boycott, your performance will be interpreted and used by the state of Israel and its supporters as an endorsement of, and propaganda for, Israel’s regime, whether you want it to be or not.

Billions of dollars are lavished on Israel annually by western states, particularly the United States, the UK  and Germany.  Taxpayers in those countries are in effect subsidising Israel's violations of international law at a time when their own social programs are undergoing severe cuts, unemployment is rising, and the environment is being devastated.  

Please join in the effort to end western complicity in Israel's violations of international law and respect the grassroots Palestinian-led call for cultural boycott.[5]  Your solidarity with the boycott would not only support Palestinians’ non-violent struggle for rights, but would also give hope to others around the world working for social justice against perpetual war.


DPAI (Don't Play Apartheid Israel)
We are a group, of over 1300  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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

OPEN LETTER: Peter Greenaway, Boycott the 29th Haifa International Film Festival in Israel

British film director Greenaway asked to boycott Israel
Dear Peter Greenaway,

It is with great disappointment that we have learned you plan to speak and present a masterclass at the 29th Haifa International Film Festival (HIFF) in Israel.

We are hoping you will boycott the HIFF, which runs from September 19-28, 2013.  We urge you to join Mira Nair and other filmmakers who have chosen to boycott this festival. Just last July, Nair tweeted “I stand w/ Palestine for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) & the larger Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Mov't.” [1]

The HIFF bills itself as Israel's leading cinematic event. On its website, the HIFF says its home, the Jewish-Arab city of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast, "has become a symbol of coexistence, tolerance and peace, ideals that the Haifa festival wholeheartedly promotes".  This is a false statement however, as the festival does nothing to stop the intolerance and non-peaceful reality of Israeli apartheid.  In fact, the HIFF receives generous funding from the Israeli government in order to operate as part of a public relations campaign run by the Israeli government called “Brand Israel,” designed to create a sanitised, glittering image to obscure its sordid, ongoing crimes against humanity.  According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson, the objective of this rebranding campaign, which "could include organizing film festivals," is to convey the message that "a better image for Israel and a better performance of that image is part and parcel [of] Israel’s national security. Contrary to popular belief, national security is not just based on military power, it’s also a strong economy and a strong image" [2].

The HIFF might invite filmmakers from Gaza and the West Bank, they might even guarantee them a special permit to enter Israel, as well as highlight their films.  The HIFF will however, remain silent about the illegal siege on the civilian population of Gaza, the brutal military Occupation, the land theft, restriction on education and  hospital access, child imprisonment, administrative detention and other gross violations of international law committed by Israel.  

Acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir explained why she refused the HIFF’s invitation to her to screen Salt of This Sea in Haifa:

“I think its important for artists to insist they are part of their communities.  You can’t give someone special privileges if they participate in your events and then say nothing about the entire rest of the population.  Those are government funded institutions.  If it's private I say, okay, you have to say something, what’s your stance on occupation.  What’s your stance on refugees?  Because if you can’t say you feel refugees have the right to return, then why the hell am I going to screen my film in a place where my own father is not allowed to attend?  You can understand, it’s a bit weird to be invited to screen your film in a place my own mother and father are not allowed to go. “ [3]

Peter Greenaway, would you please join your colleagues, Mira Nair, Ken Loach, John Greyson and John Michael McDonagh in the boycott of Israel? In addition to these filmmakers,  British documentary producer, Stephen Gargan of Gaslight withdrew the film Sunday from the HIFF stating:

‘We are withdrawing our film in support of the boycott and to alert people in Ireland and Britain to the crimes against humanity daily being perpetrated by Israel on the Palestinian people.’ [4]

Peter Greenaway, you have the opportunity today to stand with the Palestinian people’s campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.  Please cancel your appearance at the Haifa International Film Festival.


We are a group, of over 1300 members, representing many countries 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.

[3] Ethan Heitner interview with Annemarie Jacir. pp. 8-12  Jan 2,2012
[4] Gaslight boycotts Israeli film festival, Sept 20, 2002