Gil Scott Heron announces cancellation of Tel Aviv concert: Artist won’t play in Israel “until everyone is welcome there”

Palestine Solidarity Committee’s contribution to the successful campaign below this statement.

Gil Scott Heron Boycott Israel Campaign press release

Fans of revolutionary poet and singer-songwriter Gil Scott Heron welcomed his decision tonight to cancel the concert he had been scheduled to play in Tel Aviv this May. Heron announced the decision during his set at London”s Royal Festival Hall, the opening date of his World tour.

Activists from the Gil Scott Heron Boycott Israel Campaign had picketed the event earlier in the day, attracting considerable public interest and support. Ten activists from the Campaign then continued their protest inside the concert, raising the issue of Israeli apartheid right at the start of Heron”s set and after the first song.

The activists were great admirers of the artist who were shocked by Heron”s decision to play Israel, given his longstanding commitment to equality and civil rights in both the USA and South Africa.

The Campaign is now awaiting confirmation from Gil Scott Heron”s management that the concert has indeed been cancelled.

Emory Douglas, renowned artist of the Black Panther Party, commented “My choice to join the voices opposed to your going [to Tel Aviv] wasn’t personal, but the right thing to do. I will be one of the first in line at your next concert in my town. May you continue to inform and inspire.”

For more information on the campaign, please contact:


Dear Gil-Scott Heron,

A respectful message from Johannesburg.

Those of us in South Africa who fought against Apartheid took strength and courage from your music. The song “Johannesburg” became somewhat of a resistance anthem in the aftermath of the Uprising of June 16, 1976. It was thus a shock and a disappointment to hear that you might be performing in Tel-Aviv, defying the cultural boycott against Apartheid Israel.

For those of us who lived under Apartheid and continue to face its legacy we see many parallels with the treatment of Palestinians. It has been fifty years since the massacre at Sharpeville where 69 people were killed at an anti-pass protest. Palestinians are still forced to carry passes and face daily violations of their fundamental human rights. Palestinian civil society organisations have called on Israel to be boycotted until such time as it abides by international law [1]. We see many similarities with the treatment of Palestinians; indeed, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) a parastatal supported by the South African government, has released findings that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in Palestine [2].

Israel was founded and still exists on racist principles and it has created the largest refugee population (more than 6 million people) in the world. Israel has consistently flouted international law and has throughout its over 60 years of military occupation colonized and annexed more and more of Palestinian land. Today Palestinians have less than what the apartheid regime in South Africa allowed Black South Africans to own in the Homelands or Bantustans. The Israeli state also continues to erect what many refer to as the “Apartheid Wall”, despite the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision in 2004 that it is illegal. This wall further annexes and turns Palestinian land into bantustans.

Your performing in Israel actually supports an initiative by Israel to “rebrand” itself. This “rebranding” campaign, launched after the attack on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 where more than 1400 Palestinians were massacred [3], is aimed at making Israel appear to be a liberal democracy and to whitewash its ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Your music has always been deeply politicized and scathing of inequality and structural racism. It is in the light of this that we call on you to cancel your event in Israel. We remember your lyrics, “I know that their strugglin’ over there ain’t gonna free me, ?but we all need to be strugglin’ ?if we’re gonna be free”. Have you heard, brother Gill, that most of us in Johannesburg say, apartheid anywhere is apartheid everywhere. Or in the words of Nelson Mandela, “South Africa will not be free until Palestine is free”.

The Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa
Natasha Vally

Comments are closed.