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PACBI-Gregory Porter: Live up to your words and do not commit musical genocide

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3 March 2015

Gregory Porter: Live up to your words and do not commit musical genocide

In your latest album Liquid Spirt, you sing 'I do not agree, this is not for me, no musical genocide. I will not commit, nor will I submit to a musical genocide, I will not let it be’.
We are writing to you from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Palestine, to urge you to cancel your Tel Aviv gig of March 20th [1] and not to play for Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid, as lending your name to this regime is tantamount to committing what you call a “musical genocide.”
Performing in Israel today, just as performing in South Africa during apartheid, cannot be viewed by the victims of Israel’s oppression as mere music.  Regardless of intentions, playing in a country with such a horrific record of human rights violations and persistent breaches of international law cannot but be seen as a whitewash of these crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.  We all remember how leading musicians played a prominent role in enforcing a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 1980’s when they refused to play Sun City.  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. 
We are certain that you are aware of Israel’s latest massacre [2] in Gaza, where Israel killed more than 2,168 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, and injured over 10,895 people, predominantly civilians [3].  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 [4].  Over 16,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged in these criminal attacks [5].  Close to half a million Palestinians were forcibly displaced, 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” [6].  Save the Children has described Israel’s assault on Gaza as a “war on children” [7].
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 territories 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 [8]. 
Israel maintains more than 50 racist laws [9] 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 [10].
Performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing for the oppressors in South Africa during the apartheid era. 
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. 
Two weeks ago, about one thousand cultural figures in the UK announced a cultural boycott of Israel.  Among the signatories are some of Britain’s top musicians, filmmakers, writers and other artists.[11]  
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, 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.  
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].  Standing in solidarity with struggles against racism, as in the case of the civil rights movement in the US and the fight against apartheid in South Africa was powerful in bringing about emancipation and liberation.  Be part of the fight against Israel’s occupation and racism and do not commit “musical genocide.”
[2] Among world leaders condemning Israel’s atrocities in Gaza in the summer of 2014 as a “massacre” were Brazil’s president and France’s foreign minister





Posted on 03-03-2015

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