Jeff Beck, Don’t Play Apartheid Israel!

July 9th, 2010

Dear Jeff Beck,

We are a group of Israeli citizens who respect and promote human rights for all. We call on you to make a conscientious and politically important decision to cancel your performance in Israel, scheduled for October 5th, 2010. We would like you to consider the following:

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are living for the last 43+ years under a cruel Israeli occupation. Their living and basic necessities for water, energy, housing, health and movement are being crushed by a system that either dispossess them or sees them as targets for obliteration by the Israeli army’s prevalent violence. West Bank Palestinians’ entitlement for equality is systematically denied by martial law, hundreds of checkpoints and blockades and the colonization and annexation of Palestinian lands and resources by the Israeli settlement enterprise, house demolitions and evictions and the separation wall.

In recent years Gaza has been functioning as the Israeli-designed open air prison for Palestinians, with new “arrivals” of expelled West Bank Palestinians pouring in on Israeli officials’ whims. Israel – either directly by its military or through its agreements with Egypt – has separated Gaza completely from the rest of Palestine and the outside world, and has put it under a life-costing siege, with frequent bombings, severe lack of medical and other basic necessities and more than 80% of unemployment. The Israeli naval forces are blockading Gaza’s shores as we have seen in the recent deadly raid on the Free Gaza flotilla. The continued illegal siege has caused tremendous Palestinian suffering specifically because it denied Palestinians the ability to rebuild Gaza following its massive destruction during the 2008-2009 Israeli attack and massacre.

Exactly 5 years ago, on July 9th 2005, over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations have issued the Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. The Call represents and aims to secure the rights of all three parts of the Palestinian people: Palestinians under occupation, systematically discriminated Palestinians citizens of Israel and Palestinian refugees. These three parts of the Palestinian people are diversely subjected by Israel to an institutionalized racial oppression, which is the universally recognized definition of apartheid. The Call was signed by a wide range of organizations: workers, trade unions, religious institutions, political parties, human rights organizations, feminist and queer organizations, etc. It is the culmination of a new wave of boycott initiatives against Israel, including notably the 2004 Palestinian Call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel, known as PACBI’s Call.

BDS is not a principle to adhere to and apply in various situations around the world. The BDS Call reflects a resort of large portions of the Palestinian people to non-violent tactics similar to those chosen by black Africans during the struggle against apartheid South Africa. After many years of armed and violent struggle, a Palestinian resort to non-violence should not be taken lightly nor ignored. Especially in light of the Israeli harsh and violent repression against Palestinian leaders of non-violence struggle, including BDS activists – now is the time and opportunity to show true solidarity with the Palestinian people through endorsing or respecting their Call for BDS.

Indeed, the BDS Call has gained global recognition and adherence in a pace that surpasses by far that of similar calls against apartheid South Africa. It is endorsed and promoted by hundreds of organizations and groups: Recent successes were registered at the docks of Sweden, Norway, Oakland, Turkey and India, where a ban on handling Israeli-related cargo was put in place by protesters and dock workers; Artists such as Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, the Gorillaz, the Klaxons, the Pixies, Devendra Banhart and Archive have recently canceled their scheduled performances in relation to this campaign; Many others are not scheduling in the first place, as testified by one Israeli producer; and recently, 500 Montreal artists have expressed their support of this international campaign, adding to many more around the world.

This rising of a local and global civil society’s struggle takes place in the context of the incompetence of the unelected Palestinian Authority (PA) to truly stand for the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, serving mainly as a sub-contractor for the Israeli occupation. A recent example for the PA’s incompetence is its objection to the submission of the UN Goldstone Report on Israel’s attack on Gaza. It was later reported that this objection was a consequence of a threat made by a senior Israeli security official to President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel would launch a Gaza-like massacre in the West Bank if Abbas won’t act as expected of him.

The “peace” negotiations take place between the extremely unequal sides of the PA and Israel. From the outset the Palestinian side is not representing the Palestinian refugees’ inalienable right of return nor the Palestinian citizens of Israel’s entitlement to equal rights – although both are integral part of this colonial conflict. While the PA’s demands anyway has little leverage, this “peace talks” allow only for the continued Israeli colonization and oppression.

The two decades “peace talks” have only excused Israel so far from being sanctioned and truly pressured by world governments and were a key enabler for its fast economic growth, with the subsequent dissolve of the Arab League boycott. Israel enjoys to this day a favoring relation of impunity and exceptionalism from all Western governments, although it is involved from its foundation in a West-East colonial conflict. Israeli aggression against Arabs and Palestinians has not only continued in recent years but intensified, especially in light of the construction of the West Bank apartheid wall, the siege on Gaza and the brutal attacks on Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008/9).

A cultural event such as your scheduled performance, which takes place within the Israeli public sphere, sends a message of normalcy and “business as usual” with the state of Israel. In the context of the already felt impact of the cultural boycott, it is also likely that you will be crowned to a certain extent within the Israeli media and public discourse as a supporter of Israel and at the least indifferent to Israel’s oppressive policies and the Palestinian suffering, just like most Israelis are.

We have noticed you played for an Amnesty International-sponsored benefit concerts (1981), and as lead guitar on many of the Roger Waters’ album “Amused to Death” (1992) tracks. We hope these contributions show that you have the courage to act against war and violent repression and respect the boycott on Israel, being a non-violent widely recognized method of struggle for freedom of the Palestinian civil society. As you may know, Waters himself is a vocal supporter of the Palestinian struggle, has regretted his performance in Israel during the initial steps of the cultural boycott campaign and has since then joined the many artists who respect the boycott. We hope you’ll learn from his experience, heed the Palestinian call and cancel your performance in Israel.

For more information on this campaign, please see PACBI.


Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from within

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