Alicia Keys, Put the Spotlight On the Plight of Palestinian Children: Boycott Apartheid Israel!

Dear Alicia Keys,
 
We are citizens of Israel who oppose Israel’s continuing displacement and oppression of the Palestinian people via military occupation and apartheid policies [1]. this policy has been described as apartheid by notable and knowledgeable human rights activists such as Bishop Desmond Tutu [2]. It is disheartening for us that you have ignored the impassioned appeals to you to cancel your concert in Israel, but we insist on making this call, in the name of equality, justice and human rights, which at this time are brutally violated by Israel. We are aware of, and admire your activism for children with AIDS, and we ask that you allow us to raise your awareness of the Palestine issue as well, so that you may be able to make an informed decision. 
 
While Israel's military rule over the Palestinian population affects all Palestinians, we would like to focus for  a moment on Palestinian children living under Israel's drones, tanks, guns, and prisons . According to UNICEF [3], Israel arrests, interrogates and detains approximately 700 Palestinian children each year between the ages of 12 and 17. In the past 10 years, some 7,000 children  were held, an average of two children each day. The UNICEF report documents extreme abuses such as arrest in the middle of the night, threats and physical beatings. 
 
The Defense for Children International Palestine Section mentions the following routine  Israeli practices against Palestinian children, which amount to torture, which have long-term effects on the children's development [4]:
 
"Frequently, we hear of cases where children are forced to sign confessions, where they are beaten and handcuffed, or subjected to positional abuse, or shabeh (see fact sheets for more). Meanwhile, children deprived of their liberty are often denied access to health care and education, adequate nutrition, hygiene and recreation time. Family visits are a rare privilege due to travel restrictions on the Palestinian population and frequent detention within Israeli military bases or settlements. Not surprisingly, psycho-social studies indicate that the impact of imprisonment and the horrific experiences suffered by child prisoners has a significant impact on their future development as individuals." 
 
 
Beyond the systematized incarceration of children, the daily violence of the Israeli army and Israeli settlers also plays a destructive role in the lives of Palestinian childrenMédecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports [5] that 54% of mental health patients at MSF clinics in the Gaza Strip were under the age of 12 in 2010, and over a third of the cases MSF treats in Gaza and over half in Nablus, in the West Bank, are severe, and affect the functioning of a person in daily life:
 
"Children and adolescents have particular symptoms of psychological distress, like bed wetting, nightmares, learning difficulties [reading and speech], concentration and memory problems and therefore academic failure, or even aggressive behavior."
 
Academic failure, however, is not just an indirect result of Israel's occupation, but one of its clear goals. In 2007, Stop the Wall issued a report documenting the systematic erosion of Palestinian education in the West Bank and Israel's discriminatory polices of its Palestinian citizens [6]:
 
In the West Bank, both children and teachers are cut off from their schools by the apartheid wall, military checkpoints, and when they are able to make that long walk to schools, they are often in need of accompaniment to protect them from military and settler harassment and violence. Schools and kindergartens are demolished by the army under the pretense of "no permit", and under the guise of "security" are raided and expensive equipment such as computers and documents are confiscated. 
 
Within the 1948 armistice lines, the state discriminates against the Palestinian communities on all levels. Pertaining to children's education, schools are almost completely segregated. According to Human Rights Watch [7]
 
"… the Israeli government reported in February 2001 that in 1991, the total government investment per Palestinian pupil was only 60% that of a Jewish child, and because of the lower socio-economic status of Palestinians in general, the total educational investment per Palestinian child was only one- third that of a Jewish child… While schools for Jewish children may be equipped with theatres, playgrounds, art studios, gymnasiums, and more, schools for Palestinian children usually have few specialized facilities. Furthermore, one third of Palestinian children study in flammable and dangerous structures… Even access to schools can be limited and difficult. Often, children will have to walk far distances to reach school or even the school bus stop. If buses are provided, they are usually dangerously crowded and are not provided with seat belts." 
 
Furthermore, The besieged Gaza strip is home to 1.7 million people, over half of which (53%) are children [8]. Gazan schools are just part of the civilian infrastructure targeted by the Israeli army, and during the 2009 Israeli onslaught known as "Cast Lead", Amnesty International reported that 280 schools were damaged and 18 were completely destroyed [9]: 
 
"Repairing the damaged schools has proved extremely difficult because of the blockade and the continuing restrictions on the entry of construction materials. .. At the start of the 2009-2010 school year, many pupils in Gaza had to study without textbooks or writing supplies, as truckloads of classroom materials were held up by Israel at the Kerem Shalom crossing point."
 
All this provides just a glimpse of Israel's systematic oppression of the Palestinian people. 
 
The production elements in your concert are strongly involved in Israeli propaganda efforts. As you know, the concert is locally produced by Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production LTD. The company collaborates with the Israeli government by gifting Israeli officials VIP tickets to shows [10]. This is not just corruption within the system, but corruption that serves to whitewash Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people, using international artists such as you:
 
"Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Shira Koa said that the ministry had agreed with the producers of the concert that the event would be used to promote Israel as a safe tourism destination. "Madonna belongs to an exclusive club of mega stars, who draws thousands of fans from abroad to her concerts. For this reason, the ministry authorized an agreement with the producers that would give the ministry video and stills footage of the singer and her entourage, both during the concerts and her visits to tourist sites in Israel, to be used in international marketing campaigns. They also agreed to have four displays at the concert with films promoting Israel, supplied by the ministry, targeting the thousands of foreign tourists... Such promotion campaigns are regular occurrences both in Israel and abroad."
 
Mr. Weiss has also attended parliamentary meetings about outlawing boycotts [11], which has resulted in the delegalization of the democratic tool of boycott [12], rendering this letter to you a potentially illegal act, subject to heavy fines.
 
Dear Alicia Keys, Music is indeed a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love. However, Israel practices apartheid, and your audience will be its beneficiaries. As a rule, Palestinians living under Israel's occupation in the West Bank are not even allowed to come to Tel Aviv, let alone attend concerts.  
 
In light of all this, we hope that you respect the BDS call made by Palestinian civil society [13] and postpone your concert in apartheid Israel, until our government respects the most basic human rights principles. The call was made so that people of your celebrity stature will put the spotlight on the plight of Palestinian children!
 
 
We will gladly address any questions or comments you may have.
[7] HRW