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PACBI-Robbie Williams: Do not play apartheid Israel

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23 December 2014

Robbie Williams: Do not play apartheid Israel

Dear Robbie Williams,

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Palestine, has learned that you plan to perform in Israel on 2 May 2015 [1].  We are writing to urge you to refrain from playing in apartheid Israel and not to lend your name to covering up Israel’s grave violations of international law and human rights against the Palestinian people. 

In its latest assault on Gaza, Israel killed more than 2,168 Palestinians and injured over 10,895 people, predominantly civilians [2]. Hospitals, ambulances, UN schools, rescue workers, mosques, churches and shelters for people with special needs have not been spared Israel’s US-supplied high-precision missiles and artillery shells.
Words cannot describe this televised massacre; Israel annihilated entire families in their homes, as its warplanes targeted and bombed house after house [3]. Over 16,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged in these criminal attacks [4]. Close to half a million Palestinians were [6], as the Israeli occupation forces expanded their so-called buffer zone to encompass 45% of Gaza’s already small territory, literally “pushing Palestinians into the sea” [7]. Save the Children has described Israel’s assault on Gaza as a “war on children” [8].

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 [9]. 

Israel maintains more than 50 racist laws [10] that discriminate against its “non-Jewish” citizens, the indigenous Christian and Muslim Palestinian citizens of the state. This was condemned by international and local human rights organizations and even by the U.S. Department of State, which censured Israel’s system of “institutional, legal and societal” discrimination against Palestinian citizens of the state [11].

Why would you accept to perform in a country that is so deeply involved in war crimes and human rights violations?  Performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing for the oppressors in South Africa during the apartheid era. We all remember how leading musicians played a prominent role in enforcing a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 1980’s. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard, and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils have repeatedly declared, Israel has created a worse system of apartheid than anything that ever existed in South Africa. 
PACBI and the broader BDS movement, representing the absolute majority of Palestinian civil society, appeal to you to respect our human rights and our strategy of nonviolent resistance aimed at regaining them.  All we are asking is for you to refrain from crossing a picket line called by Palestinian society, endorsed by international organizations, and increasingly supported by progressive-Israelis [12]. Palestinians are calling upon you to cancel your May 2015 performance in Tel Aviv. If you cannot support our struggle for freedom, justice and equality, at least do not undermine it.



Israel uses arts and culture to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights.  

In December 2008 and January 2009, Israel waged a war of aggression against Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, dead [13], and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes [14].  In the wake of this assault and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy [15]. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign [16], as the presence of internationally acclaimed artists from the West is meant to affirm Israel’s membership in the West’s privileged club of “cultured,” liberal democracies. But it should not be business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights. 
Your performance would serve this Israeli campaign to rebrand itself and will be used as a publicity tool by the Israeli government.


Numerous distinguished cultural figures and public intellectuals have joined the call for BDS.

Today, many international artists, intellectuals, and cultural workers have been rejecting Israel’s cynical use of the arts to whitewash its apartheid and colonial policies. Among those who have supported the BDS movement are distinguished artists, writers, public intellectuals and anti-racist activists such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Judith Butler, Naomi Klein, Ken Loach, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Mira Nair.
World-renowned artists, among them Roger Waters, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless, Zakir Hussain, Stevie Wonder, Mike Leigh, Coldplay, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo school of Medicine, Mireille Mathieu, Oumou Sangaré, Cassandra Wilson, Cat Power, Lenny Kravitz, Carlo Mombelli, and Stanley Jordan have also cancelled their performances in Israel, often citing its human rights record.  

Maxi Jazz had this to say as he maintained his principled position not to entertain apartheid,

While human beings are being willfully denied not just their rights but their needs for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that [performing in Israel] is either 'normal' or 'ok'. It's neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have. [17]

Significantly, you may have already heard of the boycott spreading to the academic realm, with several U.S. academic associations now coming out publicly in support of academic boycott [18].  The movement is spreading and the taboo to speak out against Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid is being shattered.  People in all quarters are no longer afraid to speak out.










[18] These associations include the Association for Humanist Sociology (AHS), Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS), American Studies Association (ASA), Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), African Literature Association, Peace and Justice Studies Association (US and Canada), Critical Ethnic Studies Association, among others. 

Posted on 23-12-2014

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