30 August 2010
Dear Pete Seeger,
We are members of an Israeli group called “Boycott! supporting the Palestinian call for boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) from within”. We are appealing to you because of commitment you have demonstrated during many years to social justice. We have recently heard that you plan to participate this November in the event “With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East”, in benefit of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
You might not have heard initially about the BDS call and movement, a broad coalition of Palestinian organizations that have amongst other things, called on artists not to entertain apartheid Israel. Their call has been joined by Desmond Tutu and Bill Fletcher, Jr. amongst many others. These calls are the direct result of the systematic and ongoing oppression of Palestinians by Israel and Israel's decade’s long refusal to stop violating Palestinians human rights.
It is clear that you believe you are heading to an event that will be promoting peace. This “virtual rally for a better middle east” will be promoting a mainstream Israeli institution that claims to promote cooperation and peace. However this is done in a “non political” context while ignoring the imbalance of power and the daily injustice the Palestinians are enduring. Just very recently in the Negev, Israeli Bedouins had been evicted by force from their lands to make room for whatever seems best to the Jewish majority and authority. This is sadly a common event, one of many faces of the Israeli Apartheid.
The Israeli apartheid is favouring Jews over all Palestinians, including those who are Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel. Palestinians inside Israel's pre-1967 borders are continually excluded and discriminated in every aspect of social life, such as land ownership, housing, education, health, citizenship eligibility and the legal system. Throughout Palestine\Israel and in the Diaspora, millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants are still blocked from returning to their homes, or even homeland, and refused compensation for the enormous loss inflicted upon them by Israel. Most of the Palestinians are stateless and many live in refugee camps. However, as you probably know, any person from Jewish descent can immigrate to Israel, get financial support from the state and a direct path to full citizenship.
It could not be clearer today that staying neutral in the face of the ruthless, criminal oppression of the Palestinians is not an option. Participating in events organised by Israeli institutions sends a message of normalization to the racist, violent and unjust Israeli regime, which has been rightfully described by many as apartheid. Any event that fails to object clearly to the discrimination and extreme lack of consideration to the most basic human rights (including the right to life) of the Palestinians under Israeli rule, is not worthy of your support. If you would like to support grass root activists, Jews and Palestinians who are struggling together for a better future, we would be happy to make some specific suggestions!
Unfortunately, for the majority of Israelis to recognize Palestinian rights requires a fundamental shift of their perspective and mentality. We see, as time passes, our society becoming more and more callous, institutionally racist and economically oppressive towards the Palestinians. After years of attempts to change the minds and hearts of the Israeli public, we believe that this change can now only be achieved through substantial external pressure.
The reluctance of most of the world’s governments to truly pressure Israel continues to embolden successive Israeli governments to commit more violent acts and violate numerous international laws. It is up to us, and people like you, to find ways to pressure Israel into changing its policies and to put an end to Israeli crimes and atrocities.
A few of us grew up listening to your songs, others have discovered them later but we all associate your voice to the call for freedom and justice, sharing the land and being kind to your neighbours. Please don’t change that for us after so many years. Please refrain from entertaining Israeli Apartheid and cancel your planned participation in this pseudo peace fundraising event.
Hoping for your support,
Members of “BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from within”