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PACBI-Robert Cray: Stay on the right side of history and say no to Israeli apartheid

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25 March 2015

Robert Cray: Stay on the right side of history and say no to Israeli apartheid

Dear Robert Cray,

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 reportedly plan to perform in Israel on 11 April 2015 [1].  If this information is correct, we are writing to urge you to refrain from playing in apartheid Israel and not to condone Israel’s violations of international law and human rights against the Palestinian people. 
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].
In response to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, of which it’s attack on Gaza this past summer is only a chapter, Palestinian civil society including artists, academics, workers, unionists and teachers called for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid Israel, Palestinians called for a boycott of Israel to non-violently pressure it to respect its obligations under international law. As part of the increasingly effective BDS movement, we urge you not to entertain Israeli apartheid: we urge you not to perform in Israel until it respects international law and Palestinians’ rights.
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 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. 
In the wake of Israel’s repeated assaults on the Palestinians and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy [8]. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign [9], 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.
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.[10]  
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.  
We are calling on you to shun Tel Aviv in the same way that South African activists called on artists to boycott Sun City.  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 [11].  Palestinian civil society is asking this of you as the most essential contribution to our struggle to achieve peace and justice.
 [2] Among world leaders condemning Israel’s atrocities in Gaza in the summer of 2014 as a “massacre” were Brazil’s presiden and France’s foreign minister

Posted on 25-03-2015

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