We are writing to you from the Besieged Gaza Strip to express what your decision to perform in Israel means to us Palestinians, the victims of Israel’s racist segregation and war on our civilian population across the Middle East.
To begin with, two weeks from now marks the second anniversary of the 22-day Israeli onslaught on Gaza. These 22-days of intensive, indiscriminate land, sea and air bombardment by Apache helicopters, F16s, F15s, F35s, Merkava tanks, naval gunboats, and illegal White Phosphorous, resulted in the killing of 1434 civilians including 434 children and left around 5,300 injured, some permanently.
In what could be called the bloodiest and most violent offensive in the history of the Israeli occupation, 83 people were killed on the first day of the attacks, many of whom while inside their homes, workplaces or schools. The Israeli occupation forces bombarded houses, wiping out some whole families in the process as they sheltered in their homes. Many people were killed by Israeli snipers who situated themselves on top of houses and some were shot while fleeing their homes or attempting to seek refuge. They bombed mosques, schools, cars, universities, factories, agricultural land and even animals were not spared. During the first few days, our streets were full of dead donkeys, horses, unidentifiable body parts alongside burnt out schoolbags that were strewn along the streets.
On the 4th of January, 2009, during the land invasion, the Israeli Occupation Forces entered the Zeytoun neighbourhood in Gaza city and began shooting at civilian houses. A number of family members were instructed by the IOF to move into their adjacent relatives’ house. The next morning the IOF warplanes bombed the house killing 29 of these family members in what came to be called the Sammouni family massacre. The next morning in the Tal el Hawa area in Gaza City, the IOF repeated this atrocity against members of the Al-Dayeh family and killing 23 of them. A day later the Israelis bombed an UNRWA school where civilians whose houses had already been bombed sought shelter. The bombings resulted in the killing of 24 people, eight of whom were children, and injuring 50 others.
After the attacks, Ha’aretz published an interview with one of the IOF soldiers who had the following to declare:
That's what is so nice, supposedly about Gaza. You see a person walking on a road... He doesn't have to be with a weapon, you don't have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him. With us it was an old woman on whom I didn't see any weapon. The order was to take that woman out, the moment you see her.
After visiting Israel and the occupied lands, icons of the South African struggle against apartheid such as Desmond Tutu said that what Israel had done to the Palestinians is far worse than what the apartheid regime did to Black South Africans. “They remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, 'Why are our memories so short?' said Tutu.
In Israel, the 1948 Palestinians have had Israeli citizenship imposed on them and are subjugated to unequal housing and health policies compared to their Jewish Israeli counterparts. Their only fault is that they belong to the “wrong religion”. Moreover, the West Bank is witnessing a process of Bantustanization with more than 600 checkpoints separating its villages and towns not to mention settlement expansion, home demolition and land expropriation.
We urge you from under a hermetic siege in Gaza for four years now, to join the growing global BDS movement by not entertaining a system of occupation, and colonization. Do not turn a blind eye to Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Many courageous artists, musicians, actors and writers have refused to entertain apartheid such as The Pixies, Carlos Santana, the Klaxons and Gorillaz, Elvis Costello, John Berger, Adrienne Rich, Massive Attack, Faithless, Gill Scot-Heron, Devendra Banart, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Meg Ryan, Arundati Roy, and around 180 Irish artists, and 100 Norwegian academics and intellectuals, in addition to the South African Artists Against Apartheid.
By boycotting the Red Sea Festival and refusing to entertain apartheid you will be refusing to equate between the oppressor and the oppressed. The only way to confront the arrogance of apartheid Israel is to isolate it like it isolates the Palestinians in Gaza and until it “withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid.”
Desmond Tutu has famously said, “if you choose to be neutral in situations of injustice then you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We are asking you to not side with the oppressor by performing at the Red Sea Festival. Don’t let your music normalise the racist brutality and the ethnic cleansing Palestinians suffer day in day out under the control of the Israeli Apartheid regime. Instead, let your music stand on the right side of history. If you do so, you will to look back on with a clean conscience when the day arrives that we Palestinians are granted the same human rights as anyone else.
Besieged Gaza, Palestine
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
University Teachers’ Association
Association of Alquds Bank for Culture and Information
Arab Cultural Forum
Posted on 11-12-2010