The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urges Jazz performers and fans to boycott the Red Sea Jazz Festival – Winter 2015 in Eilat, running from February 19th to 21st. PACBI believes that this festival, as with similar cultural initiatives supported by Israeli state institutions, is designed to whitewash the crimes of Israeli apartheid. The festival boasts on its website sponsorship by a score of Israeli official organisations, including the Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Eilat Municipality, amongst others.
As the Red Sea Jazz Festival 'returns for the fifth year to the southern city Eilat [for] a weekend of rich musical cultural experience’, only a few kilometres away, the Gaza Strip has not recovered from another vicious Israeli war. In its latest aggression on Gaza, Israel has killed more than 2,168 Palestinians and injured over 10,895 people, predominantly civilians.  Hospitals, ambulances, rescue workers, mosques, churches and shelters for people with special needs have not been spared Israel’s US-supplied “smart” missiles and artillery shells.
Words cannot describe this murderous campaign; Israel has annihilated entire families in their homes, as its warplanes have targeted and bombed house after house.  Over 16,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged in these criminal attacks.  Families have been sought out and murdered in the UN schools where they have taken shelter, often after Israel has been repeatedly given the exact coordinates of the schools – revealing a deliberate intent to kill and terrorize civilians.  Close to half a million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced,  as the Israeli regime expanded its so-called buffer zone to encompass 45% of Gaza’s already small territory, literally “pushing Palestinians into the sea.”  Save the Children has described Israel’s assault on Gaza as a “war on children.” 
This is only the latest episode in Israel’s crimes and violations of the basic rights of the Palestinians. Over the past 20 years, Israel has intensified its construction of illegal colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory under the guise of the “peace process.” Its wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, is still standing and expanding, separating Palestinians from their livelihoods, schools and farms. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities in the Naqab (Negev), occupied East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley was condemned by a ranking UN official as constituting a strategy of exclusion and discrimination .
The policy of using culture to whitewash Israeli violations of international law was openly confirmed by the Israeli government with the launch of a global 'Brand Israel’ campaign. 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" . This language reveals – as did similar endeavours by the South African Apartheid regime – a cynical and systematic attempt at manipulating world opinion. It aims to obfuscate the real nature of Israel’s military occupation and apartheid and to divert attention from its ongoing war crimes by portraying it as a vibrant cultural and artistic hub.
PACBI takes the opportunity to reiterate the call to Jazz performers, artists and cultural workers for a boycott of all cultural initiatives that have sponsorship from Israeli state organs or institutions, whether the events take place in Israel or abroad.  The boycott also extends to any Brand Israel initiative or organization, whose aim is to help the state’s propaganda efforts at “rebranding” Israel by diluting, justifying, whitewashing or otherwise diverting attention from the Israeli occupation and other violations of Palestinian rights and international law.
With Israel's continued disregard for international law and the basic rights of the Palestinian people, the kind of solidarity we expect from people of conscience around the world is to heed the Palestinian civil society call for a boycott of Israel and its complicit institutions, as was done in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Posted on 07-02-2015