Dear Cyndi Lauper,
We recently heard you plan to play in Tel Aviv, Israel on 4th January 2014. At the time you accepted the booking you might have not been aware that there is a widespread boycott of Israel by cultural artists. We’d like to take this opportunity to let you know the background to, and reasons for, the Palestinian call for boycott and solidarity.
The Palestinian people, living as they do under Israeli imposed occupation, apartheid and siege, have called on artists of conscience not to play in Israel, not to cross their picket line.
Playing in Israel violates the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel issued by 170 Palestinian civil society organisations in July 2005, and the call for a cultural boycott issued by Palestinian film-makers, artists and cultural organisations. We sincerely hope you will look into your conscience and join the growing list of artists, academics and sports people heeding the call.
Perhaps you are not aware of Israel’s use of “pinkwashing” to attempt to normalize its crimes, the term refers to Israel’s attempts to cloak its illegal actions against the Palestinian people in a “liberal” cover regarding LGBTQ rights. This is, indeed, merely a smokescreen as Israel treats all Palestinians, LGBTQ or not, as second class citizens within Israel; and occupies, besieges and expels those living in the West Bank, Gaza and the very large Palestinian refugee population. It is very possible that cynical promoters may use this in order to convince you of the bona fides of the state and to manipulate your admirable activism for LGBTQ rights, we hope you see through this. Indeed Al Qaws (Palestinian LGBTQ) activist Sami said:
“Oppressive powers do not differentiate between gay or straight people” --and this is certainly true of Israel. When the bombs are dropping on Gaza, the homes are being demolished in the West Bank, the illegal apartheid wall is cutting off communities from each other and seizing land, the identity of the victims is immaterial to Israel.
According to Rabbis for Human Rights, nearly 2,000 Palestinian olive trees have been either uprooted or burned across the West Bank in recent months alone. Palestinians and their Israeli and international allies are routinely attacked while attempting to harvest olives. All of this is carried out with impunity, absent prosecution from the state and often under the protection of the army. Does such a rogue state truly deserve the epithet “democracy?”
Meanwhile besieged Gaza is flooded with sewage, a disaster resulting directly from the Israeli siege, thousands of people have been made homeless due to flooding and severe weather and the people there are limited to only a few hours of electricity per day, due to the shut-down on the Strip’s only power plant. There is an imminent health catastrophe due to shortages of medical supplies and equipment and machinery such as incubators are now running on unreliable generators. Amnesty International, the United Nations and many other human rights organisations have called on Israel to immediately lift its illegal blockade of Gaza. All this is being perpetrated on the people of Gaza, over half of whom are children, just a few miles from where your concert is scheduled to take place. Already traumatised from regular bombing attacks by Israel, the Palestinians in Gaza are further suffering due to this ongoing blockade.
Performing in a state that practices occupation, colonization and apartheid cannot be regarded as a purely artistic act, if any such act exists. Regardless of intentions, such an act is a conscious form of complicity that is manipulated by Israel in its transparent efforts to whitewash its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. This is because artistic performances in Israel promote a "business as usual" attitude that normalizes and sanitizes a state that has committed war crimes … under a guise of artistic and scientific glamour and a deceptive image of cultural excellence and "liberalism."
An artist who performs in Israel today—just like any artist who violated the boycott and performed in Sun City, South Africa, during apartheid—can only be seen by Palestinians and people of conscience around the world as motivated by profit and personal gain far more than by moral principles. Israeli concert promoters offer large sums of money to lure international performers as part of Israel's "Brand Israel" campaign designed explicitly to hide Israel's criminal violations of human rights. Israel’s Foreign Ministry has explicitly stated that it “sees no difference between culture and hasbara [propaganda]”, and whether you wish it to be represented so or not, your concert will be portrayed as an endorsement of the Israeli state.
On December 10th you asked on your Facebook page: “What are you doing to commemorate Human Rights Day?”. Well, you could take a meaningful stand for human rights by not crossing the Palestinian picket line. As we commemorate the memory of Nelson Mandela and celebrate his struggle against injustice and apartheid in South Africa, it is worth remembering his words: ”We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others prominent in the Anti-Apartheid movement support the boycott of Israel, seeing parallels in the struggles.
Cyndi, please take a stand for human rights and refuse to lend your voice to pinkwash Israeli crimes. Please cancel your performance in Tel Aviv.
We are a group, of over 1000 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.
French translation of the letter here.
French translation of the letter here.