Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Elvis Costello: His Support for Cultural Boycott of Israel Reaffirmed


Roger Waters reaffirmed Elvis Costello's continued support for the cultural boycott of Israel in his recent article in Salon.com.  Waters asks Robbie Williams, UNICEF’s UK ambassador and a declared supporter of its Children in Danger campaign, not to violate the BDS call by playing in Tel Aviv.  Willams might do well to read Elvis Costello's letter from 2010.  Nearly five years ago Costello cancelled his planned gig in apartheid Israel, and wrote the acclaimed "It is After Considerable Contemplation..." statement on his "Yellow Press" 
blog (1). 
Costello led the way for many other artists to also say YES to the call for a cultural boycott of Israel.  Here's the well-known letter:
It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.
One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.
Elvis Costello:  Boycotts Israel 
Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.
I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.
Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.
I offer my sincere apologies for any disappointment to the advance ticket holders as well as to the organizers.
My thanks also go to the members of the Israeli media with whom I had most rewarding and illuminating conversations.  They may regard these exchanges as a waste of their time but they were of great value and help to me in gaining an appreciation of the cultural scene.
I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.
It is a matter of instinct and conscience.
It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.
I have come to the following conclusions.
One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.
With the hope for peace and understanding.


(1).  Elvis Costello's statement was published on his Web site on 15 May 2010; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Juliette Greco, for the sake of justice, please refuse to whitewash apartheid.

Dear Juliette Greco,

You are an artist who has stood the test of time and whose songs and life story are known to all. With your songs you convey the values of justice and the love of freedom. On many occasions you have carried out acts of resistance, as you did when you bravely sang anti-militarist songs at your concert in Pinochet's Chile.
In the name of those values, we are writing to you today regarding your concert planned for 4 May in Tel Aviv.
Boycott Israel,  Juliette Greco
Israel openly admits that it uses international artists like yourself in an attempt to improve its image. So we sincerely hope that, as you prepare to retire from the stage, you will consider the implications of your appearance in that country and instead choose not to join in the whitewashing and normalisation of Israeli occupation, colonisation and apartheid policies.
Please remember that Israel refuses to respect international law and persists in violating numerous United Nations resolutions, among which are three examples:
- Resolution 194 granting Palestinian refugees their Right of Return
- Resolution 242 demanding that Israel withdraw its army from the Palestinian territories it is occupying.
- Resolution 3236 reaffirming the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.
Israel continues to deprive the Palestinian people of their most elementary human rights. In the West Bank, there are still 150 Israeli colonies and the segregation wall is still standing, despite the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice which denounced its illegality and called for it to be dismantled. Hundreds of military checkpoints and an apartheid-like pass system prevent Palestinians from going to work, children from going to school, farmers from harvesting their crops, pregnant women and the critically ill from reaching hospital. In Gaza, after Israel directed its criminal bombing at the entire civilian population last summer (during which over 2,200 Palestinians were murdered, including 500 children, according to United Nations figures), the Israeli government is still maintaining its blockade and the population goes on suffering enormously.
In East Jerusalem, over 2,000 houses have been demolished by the Israeli authorities; those same authorities have refused to register more than 5,000 children who are therefore prevented from attending school, and tens of thousands of Palestinians have no homes any more, any rebuilding being banned by Israel.
Faced with Israel's impunity, Palestinian civil society, supported by the most progressive fringe of Israeli citizens, launched in 2005 the BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) campaign. This international non-violent campaign was inspired by the similar campaign against South Africa in the apartheid era. It does not target individuals, it targets a political regime and its institutions.
Juliette Greco, you recently stated, when speaking about your final round of appearances, that you wanted to make a beautiful exit. To make that beautiful exit a reality, we appeal to you to hear the call for a cultural boycott of Israel, made by an oppressed people to the world's artists of whom you are one, asking them not to perform there.
We are asking you today not to support these countless violations of universal human rights and to join the personalities who have chosen not to appear in Israel as long as that State refuses to respect international law.
Among the artists who have refused to participate in the whitewashing of Israel's crimes are:Cassandra Wilson, Natacha Atlas, Cat Power, Gilles Vigneault, Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, Annie Lennox, Vanessa Paradis, Llasa, Gil Scott-Heron, Jello Biafra, Massive Attack, as well as Peter Brook, Susan Sarandon, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh....
We are of course at your disposal to provide you with any further information you might
wish to have.

Yours sincerely,