USACBI Appeal to Macy Gray: Don’t legitimize apartheid

Dear Macy Gray,

You report on your Facebook page that you are receiving “a lot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians.” And you say that you “don”t know how my NOT going changes anything.”  The answer is that the cultural boycott of Israel is having the same effect on Israel as the cultural boycott of Apartheid South Africa once had in delegitimizing the crime of Apartheid there.

Activists, including a group of courageous Israeli activists, Boycott from Within, are urging you not to go because the effect of your appearing in Tel Aviv will be to send a strong message to Israelis that what they are doing to Palestine is acceptable.  You would be saying that their state and its policies, which systematically discriminate against Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Territories and Gaza, are normal and that Israel is just one democracy among others.

To go to Tel Aviv is to actively lend your support to Israel”s discriminatory and illegal occupation of Palestine, which has been recognized as a form of apartheid by statesmen like Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu, by numerous human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and by millions of ordinary citizens worldwide.

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa has stated in its report that “the three pillars of apartheid in South Africa are all practiced by Israel” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories [OPT]:

The first pillar “derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews”.

The second pillar is reflected in “Israel’s ‘grand’ policy to fragment the OPT and ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory.

The third pillar is “Israel’s invocation of ‘security’ to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement in order to mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group.”

You would be playing in Tel Aviv while Palestinian homes are being demolished, Palestinian olive groves being bulldozed, Palestinian children being denied access to their schools and Palestinian farmers denied the right to cultivate their fields.  You would be singing in Tel Aviv while Palestinians live under the shadow of a gigantic separation wall that cuts villages off from their fields and whole communities from one another.  You would be applauded by Israelis while their bulldozers demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in order to construct illegal settlements for Jewish settlers.

Not to go to Tel Aviv is to send a strong and unambiguous message that Israel”s continuing assault on the Palestinian people, its ethnic cleansing of a people who have lived for centuries on that land, and its illegal occupation and settlement of East Jerusalem and the West Bank are NOT normal and NOT acceptable.  That does change things.  It changes how the world sees what is happening to Palestine, just as Elvis Costello”s refusal to go to Israel changed things.  Change is incremental, always, but you too can do your part.

In 1985, a group of musicians, including Steve Van Zand, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr, Gil-Scott Heron, Nona Hendryx, Pat Benatar, and Miles Davis, formed Artists United Against Apartheid  and vowed never to perform at Sun City in South Africa, because to do so would have been an acceptance of apartheid.

Would you have gone to play in Sun City then? How could you conscientiously play Tel Aviv now?  We urge you to consult your conscience and to decline to play Tel Aviv until such times as Palestinians and Israelis can live on terms of full political and social equality.


USACBI, the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel




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