The following letter to British musician John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, who is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv next month, was issued on 18 July 2010 by the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) and the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP):
Dear John Lydon,
We are academics and students from Gaza representing more than 10 academic institutions therein. Our parents and grandparents are refugees who were expelled from their homes by the nascent Israeli army in the 1948 Nakba. We have since lived in the ghetto of the Gaza Strip refugee camps, like the more than six million Palestinian refugees all round the world. They still have their keys locked up in their closets and will pass them on to their children. UN resolution 194 guarantees our right to return our villages. Many of us have lost our fathers, some of us have lost our mothers and some of us lost both in the last Israeli aggression against civilians in Gaza.
In recent times we have been living in what has come to be a festering sore on humanity’s conscience — the brutal, hermetic, medieval siege that Israel is perpetrating against us, the 1.5 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. We urge you to respond to the call of an unprecedented coalition of Palestinian grassroots groups, trade unions and nongovernmental organizations which in 2005 asked the world to boycott apartheid Israel until it complies with international law. We call up on you to join the other artists of conscience who have said enough is enough, by refusing to perform on the main stage of the Heineken Music Conference Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel on 31 August 2010.
In the 1980s, you like many other artists responded to the call from the anti-apartheid campaign to reject South African apartheid and with Public Image Limited you recorded the song, “Rise” against the ugly racism and torture faced by the blacks of South Africa. Israel, the other western-affiliated regime which exercises the same racism, land dispossession and murderous atrocities, is still going strong today, receiving more support from western governments than that was enjoyed by the South African regime in the ’50s and ’60s. Israel’s policy of occupation, colonization and apartheid has been condemned by anti-apartheid heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kasrils — amongst others — who have described Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians as “worse than apartheid.”
You have said on a BBC interview, “You cannot separate yourself from the audience because of political powers that be.” But like other bands you drew the line on apartheid South Africa. We are now asking you to do the same with Israel, to respond where governments have failed to a country that has been rewarded even more than the South African apartheid regime despite its continuing oppression based on racism and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people.
Even apartheid South Africa did not bombard civilian areas with white phosphorous and DIME bombs killing more than 1,400 people in three weeks over the new year of 2009, including 434 children, leaving 17,000 houses, schools and hospitals severely damaged or destroyed. Judge Richard Goldstone, a name you must be familiar with, called this “a war crime and crime against humanity.”
As anti-apartheid activists used to say, supported by conscientious people all over the world, there was no negotiation with the brutal racist regime of South Africa. As with Israel, it has become apparent that the normal avenues to seek justice and human rights have failed and, therefore, we are left with one option: boycott. You must also be familiar with wise words of Archbishop Desmund Tutu: “if you choose to be neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
We hope that once again you will choose to stand on the right side of history and maintain the pressure already set by an increasing number of musicians refusing to perform in Israel until Palestinians get the same human rights and dignity as anybody else would expect.
You are a great man of words, of that we have no doubt. But we think you would agree, too, that actions speak louder than words. Please do not perform in the Sun City of the Middle East.
The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine (UTAP)