Armatrading: Oppose Apartheid Israel as you would have opposed Apartheid South Africa!

Occupied Ramallah, 5 May 2010

The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is deeply troubled to learn that you are scheduled to perform in Israel on June 4th and 5th, in violation of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Call, [1] which calls on people of conscience throughout the world to isolate Israel until it ends its colonial and apartheid oppression against the Palestinian people. We urge you, as a prominent artist known for your commitment to social justice, not to perform in apartheid Israel. [2]

We call on you, as an artist who has been involved in advocacy work on women issues and refugee rights and who has expressed admiration for Nelson Mandela”s struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa, not to turn a blind eye to apartheid in Israel. In your tribute song to Nelson Mandela, “The Messenger,” you praised the way he “fought the demons of oppression” and “freed a nation.” We hope you shall not taint your reputation now by associating yourself with the same form of oppression in Israel. As a woman of colour we are sure that you understand what it means to be racialized, silenced, to have your rights systematically denied and violated at will. For over 60 years, the indigenous Arab population of Palestine have faced the most pernicious forms of racialized oppression; hundreds of thousands have been forced out of their homes and lands, while four million continue to live under a brutal military occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and a life endangering siege in Gaza, while the world has silently stood by and watched. As the global BDS movement gains ground, and as prominent artists join our struggle, most recently progressive artist Gill Scott-Heron cancelled his performance in Israel, we call on you not to ignore the realities of Israel”s policies of ethnic cleansing, colonisation and violent subjugation of the Palestinian people.

You are scheduled to perform in an amphitheatre located in a park that was used in the 1940″s as a training camp by the Irgun, one of the Zionist paramilitary forces that perpetrated the violent ethnic cleansing campaigns of 1948,resulting in the forcibly displacement of the overwhelming majority of the indigenous Palestinian population from their homeland. Today these refugees, the largest outstanding refugee population in the world, are being denied the right to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948. At the same time anyone in the world who claims Jewish descent can take up citizenship in Israel. The Israeli state has institutionalised a system of laws, policies and practices that bestow rights and privileges exclusively onto Israeli Jews while depriving the indigenous Palestinian population of their basic rights. [3]

You will be performing in Israel almost a year and half after its bloody military onslaught against the occupied Gaza Strip during which it killed more than 1,440 Palestinians, of whom 431 were children, and injured another 5380. [4] Israel subjected the besieged population of Gaza to three weeks of unrelenting state terror in which it systematically targeted civilian areas through indiscriminate aerial bombardments and missile strikes. The UN Fact Finding Mission, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, described the attacks as deliberately “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population” and called for investigations of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.[5]

In the West Bank, Palestinians are now confined to a system of bantustans and ghettos, their movement in and out of which is controlled by Israeli checkpoints and its closure system, and many villages are completely encircled by the apartheid Wall that cuts villagers off from their land, resources and markets. As an advocate of women rights, you should know that it is Palestinian women who particularly bear the brunt of these colonial and apartheid policies. Israel”s siege confines Palestinians to their localities, often denying pregnant women access to hospitals and healthcare services. As a result, many Palestinian women are forced to undergo the traumatic, humiliating and extremely risky experience of giving birth at checkpoints, often losing their newborns in the process, under the watchful eyes of apathetic occupation soldiers. Women also account for a large portion of the over 8000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel during the current anti-colonial uprising. Palestinian women face sexual harassment, torture and abuse in prison, and like their male counterparts, they endure lengthy detentions in Israel”s colonial prison system on account of bravely struggling for freedom in their homeland.

If you still have any doubts as to the nature of Israel”s system of oppression then consider the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who recently said “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.” [6] Nelson Mandela, who is also a firm supporter of our struggle, has famously said that justice for the Palestinian people “is the greatest moral issue of our age.”

As in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, where international solidarity played a central role in bringing down apartheid, we believe that the growing global BDS movement is the most effective way to pressure Israel to comply with international law and recognise the Palestinian people”s inalienable rights. Prominent international artists, including Sting, Bono, Snoop Dog, Jean Luc Goddard, Joan Manuel Serrat and Santana have all heeded our call and cancelled performances in Israel.

You believed in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. We ask that you also support the struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine.




[2] A recent academic study sponsored by the South African government accuses Israel’s regime over the Palestinians of constituting occupation, colonization and apartheid. See:

[3] For more on Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid see this important BNC strategic position paper:


[5] “Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.” General Assembly, A/HRC/12/48, 25 September 2009.


Comments are closed.