Philly BDS asks local artist McCoy Tyner to cancel Israeli gig

The Philly BDS Coalition sent the following letter to artist McCoy Tyner, calling upon him to cancel his planned gig in Petah Tikva and respect the BDS Call:

Dear McCoy Tyner,

We are a group of Philadelphians who support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. We oppose our involvement in Israel”s policies of ethno-racial segregation and apartheid, and we strongly believe that international pressure is essential in bringing these crimes to an end and creating an equal and just society for all who live in this region. We are therefore asking you to cancel your performance in Petah Tikva on March 10th.

The state of Israel is divided along ethnic-racial lines, whereby Israelis and Palestinians are segregated and live under different legal systems. While Jewish-Israelis are governed by democratic law enforced by a civil police force, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live under military law, and are governed by the Israeli military. Under this regime the Palestinian people are denied some of the most elementary freedoms that their Jewish-Israeli counterparts enjoy: freedom of movement, freedom to access their agricultural land and the freedom to protest without facing life threatening violence[1]. Over 5,000 Palestinians are imprisoned for years in Israel, including 283 that are kept under administrative detention without charges or the right for a trial[2]. While in Tel Aviv and Petah Tikva Jewish-Israelis attend musical performances, residents of the Gaza strip live under siege restricting food, medical supplies, and materials for construction[3]. Palestinian citizens of Israel living within its borders are treated as second class citizens and face severe discrimination in all aspects of life[4].

As you know, Jazz is a uniquely American art form, and is a product of the similar, racially based policies of our government over the years. You have played an integral part in the shaping of Jazz and have not shied away from playing music that directly commented on Jim Crow, like John Coltrane”s “Alabama.” You have also cited Dr. Martin Luther King as an influence. We at Philly BDS share that inspiration with you and by standing with Palestinian civil society are trying to continue that legacy. The Montgomery bus boycott wasn”t meant to erase Alabama, but bring attention to, and end the injustice of segregation. Likewise, the call for a cultural boycott of Israel is meant to bring attention and an end to the injustice of occupation.

Performing in Israel today would be lending your voice and image to the normalization of military occupation, systematic inequality and violation of international law. Many artists and public figures are already supporting the cultural boycott of Israel, which is backed by almost the entire community[5] of Palestinian cultural workers. Among the prominent artists who stand in support are Roger Waters[6], David R Randall[7] and Maxi Jazz of Faithless[8], Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack[9], filmakers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh [10], 500 Montreal artists[11], over 200 Irish artists[12], prominent activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu[13], South-African Artists Against Apartheid[14], Creative Workers Union of South Africa and the international alliance Artists Against Apartheid. Other artists canceled their performances in Israel in response to growing appeals, including Elvis Costello[15], the Pixies, actors Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman, the Tindersticks, American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron and Mexican-American rock guitarist Carlos Santana.

The BDS Call was issued in July 2005 by over 170 civil society organizations representing the three sectors of Palestinian society: the refugees, those living under military rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and those who are residents and citizens of Israel.[16]

Please hear the Palestinian call and help bring an end to occupation and apartheid by refusing to send a green light to the continuation of such policies. We would greatly appreciate it if you stand with us, Palestinians and Israelis and the international community, who are struggling for justice and equality for all people in this region. This non-violent campaign asks all artists not to perform in Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law and ends its occupation of Palestinian land, recognizes full equality for its Palestinian citizens and respects the rights of the refugees. We believe that standing for these basic rights is an essential component for a better future here and that being the privileged – it is also our duty to do so.

The Philly BDS Coalition

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