Knowing that you honor your legacy to Herman Melville, as is evident in your stage name, we call on you to consider what your ancestor wrote in his journal in 1857: “all who cultivate the soil in Palestine are Arabs.” While in Palestine, his writings illustrated his respect for the people and the land, resenting foreign missionaries who exploited them. Such is the essence of his book-length poem, Clarel:
Clarel, receptive, saw and heard, / Learning, unlearning, word by word.
Come to Lebanon on July 5th, but, please, in honor of Herman Melville”™s recognition of the rights of and respect for the indigenous, and in honor of the 2005 call from Palestinian Civil Society (http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869), please do not go to Israel on July 12th. Come to Lebanon and learn of the oppression we have endured at the hands of the Israeli army and its collaborators; unlearn the myths Israel propagates. The soil that Arabs have cultivated for centuries, in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, has been militarily occupied for decades by Israel. The people who have cultivated that soil – namely the Palestinians – have been denied their right to return to their land solely because they are not Jewish.
The essence of Israeli colonialism in the region is about control over the land using military mechanisms. Your collaboration with Public Enemy in the powerful song “Make Love, Fuck War,” suggests you understand the dangers of launching wars based on foreign occupation and control of other people”™s land. When Israel launched a war on us in July 2006, Public Enemy”™s Chuck D wrote:
The media pictures of the destroyed cities of Lebanon by expensive war equipment financed and backed by some red, white and blue is a throwback into the caveman fiber that governs lands today. … And the updated data of wreckage of Palestine in 1948, the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza and their military occupation since 1967; the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, with its 17,500 Lebanese and Palestinian dead and the Sabra and Shatila massacres; the continuous assault on Palestinian schools, refugee camps, hospitals, civil installations of every kind have dampened the Israel argument for years. Again this has been a pattern of the destructive past of the western ‘white’ man for lack of a worse term. This is compelled by the fact that if beforehand if there was the concept of takeover, murder, and war , it was probably because of this inner combustible energy of man itself. To build and destroy. To rule and not share. To conquer all with other belief.
It is because these wars and foreign control of our land that numerous bands and artists have already heeded Palestinian Civil Society”™s 2005 Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a reaction to its occupation, apartheid and denial of Palestinian refugees inalienable right to return to their homes, as stipulated in UN resolution 194. Music cannot be isolated from politics. A visit to Israel is viewed by Israel, and internationally, as implicit support for Israeli policies and indifference to the victims of Israeli crimes. Ilan Pappe, an anti-Zionist Israeli historian and strong supporter of the BDS, recently wrote: “The cultural image in Israel feeds the political decision in the west to support unconditionally the Israeli destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians.”
We ask you to follow in the steps of the Pixies, Gorillaz Sound System, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Carlos Santana, Bono/U2, Devandra Banhart, among others, who did not perform in Israel last summer, and to support the call for boycott that was recently embraced by Roger Waters and Pete Seeger. In the letter Roger Waters wrote announcing his support of a cultural boycott of Israel, he said:
My conviction is born in the idea that all people deserve basic human rights. My position is not anti-Semitic. This is not an attack on the people of Israel.
This is, however, a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.
Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa”™s Sun City resort until apartheid fell and whites and blacks enjoyed equal rights.
And we are right to refuse to play in Israel until the day comes – and it surely will come – when “The Wall” of occupation falls and Palestinians live alongside Israelis in the peace, freedom, justice and dignity that they all deserve.
It is not only the Palestinians who have been victimized by Israel. We, in Lebanon, have suffered a great deal. Israeli aggressions against Lebanon began in 1948, with the occupation and annexation of 30 Lebanese villages, and have continued regularly since then. Most recently:
- 2006: More than 1000 Lebanese civilians were killed by Israel in the 33-day most aggressive onslaught by Israel. The July 2006 war was regarded as a crime against humanity and a war crime by a tribunal of international judges.
- 2006 to present: Millions of Israeli cluster bombs (from the July 2006 war) and land mines (from the 22-year occupation) still contaminate Lebanese agricultural land. These bombs continue to kill and injure people, the most recent case being the death of a Lebanese farmer in June 2010 in South Lebanon.
- May 15, 2011: Israeli soldiers shot and killed 11 civilians and injured more than 100. These unarmed civilians were on the Lebanese border with Israel, and had been calling for their legal and legitimate right to return to their homes in Palestine.
- 1948 to present: Israel continues to deprive 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon from their right of return to their homes and land and villages from which they were forced to leave at gun point in 1948. The refugees are not allowed to return only because they are not Jewish!
In response to Israel’s Freedom Flotilla massacre last year, the prominent Scottish writer, Iain Banks, wrote in the Guardian that the best way for international artists, writers and academics to “convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation” is “simply by having nothing more to do with this outlaw state.”
We urge you not to allow your music and talent to be used whitewash the crimes of this outlaw state.
We urge you to remember the position of your ancestor Herman Melville, and the positions of other artists, and to stand with the people of the land in their – our – struggle for equality.
Democratic Youth Union
Syrian Social Nationalist Party – Students
The Youth and Student Sector of the People”™s Movement (Haraket el-Sha”™b)
Aidoun-Center for Refugees Rights
Lebanese Campaign for the Boycott of Zionism
Campaign to Boycott the Supporters of Israel
Youth Against Normalization
Al-Saaha Cultural Club
People’s Movement – Youth Sector