Dear Shakira and Gerard Piqué
We are a group of Israeli citizens and residents, Jews and Palestinians; many of us have been fans of your music.
We recently learned that you have been invited to the Israeli Presidential Conference. We hope that you will allow us to explain why you should refuse to participate in international cultural events facilitated by the Israeli establishment and its most senior leaders.
The Israeli State has initiated a rebrand' campaign in order to distract attention from Israel's ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights and legitimize its senior politicians, like Shimon Peres. Your participation in the Israeli Presidential Conference will endorse this campaign.
We realize that cancelling at this late stage may seem drastic, but this should be understood in the context of Israel's utilization of international cultural events to construct a facade of normalcy to a reality in which 1.6 million Palestinians (44% of which are children under the age of 14) are kept under siege in Gaza[i], 2.5 million are kept under martial-law in the West Bank with no civil rights, and millions more are subject to racially discriminating laws[ii] inside Israel.
If you attend the Presidential Conference, you will accept that that a Palestinian fan of your work living under Israeli occupation will not be allowed by law – and denied by an illegal[iii] wall built on annexed private Palestinian land, fences and military checkpoints – the chance to attend it.
Hundreds of artists, academics, filmmakers, and writers worldwide have expressed their support for the human rights based Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, and recognized its pivotal role in the process of bringing an end to Israel's systematic human-rights violations.
Mobility in the West Bank is just one of the examples which illustrate the environment in which international cultural events in Israel take place. But Israel's human-rights abuses against Palestinians go much further than this: violent nightly incursions[iv] into Palestinian villages, systematic arrests of children[v] as young as 11, the killing[vi] of non-violent demonstrators – these are not single occurrences of atrocities, they are the infrastructure of a system of oppression, practically unaffected by any criticism or international rulings that demand changes.
Israel's violations have been documented by the UN and respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam, and recognized as unlawful by international judicial bodies. The necessity in steady substantial pressure on Israel has also been highlighted in a recent report[vii] by 21 human rights organizations in regard to ensuring "an immediate, unconditional, and complete lifting of the blockade” of Gaza, where Israel implements a policy of “deliberate reduction[viii]” for basic goods – using mathematical formulas to measure the amount of food sufficient to keep Gaza inhabitants alive at a near-malnutrition level[ix]; allowing in an average of less than a third[x] of the needed goods[xi].
Artists United Against Apartheid, who made it unfashionable for artists to play in South Africa, had a huge impact on the South Africa divestment movement; the financial pressure of that divestment movement was instrumental in bringing about the end of apartheid in South Africa. The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions[xii] (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights, was launched in 2005 by over 170 civil society Palestinian organizations. Today, the BDS campaign, backed by almost the entire community of Palestinian cultural workers [xiii], is supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu[xiv], the international alliance Artists Against Apartheid[xv], South-African Artists Against Apartheid[xvi], Creative Workers Union of South Africa, 500 Montreal artists[xvii], 200 Irish artists[xviii], and many acclaimed cultural figures worldwide[xix] including director Ken Loach, musicians Roger Waters[xx] and Brian Eno, and UK duo Massive Attack[xxi]. In the past year alone, dozens of artists, actors, and cultural figures have expressed their support for BDS and canceled their scheduled performances in Israel. Among them are Mike Leigh[xxii], Vanessa Paradis, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello[xxiii], Devendra Banhart[xxiv], Gil Scott-Heron, The Pixies, Tindersticks[xxv], Leftfield, and Faithless[xxvi].
The decision by Palestinian organizations to call for a cultural boycott campaign, as well as that of Israelis to support it, was not taken lightly. Civil society has stepped up its call for boycott because Israel has been utilizing cultural events to whitewash its crimes and render its system of oppression invisible.
In a radio program discussing a new law-proposal that would fine boycott supporters in Israel, an Israeli Foreign Ministry representative announced that their office endorses cultural events “so that people (abroad) will see the humane values of Israel”. Heeding the Palestinian call for boycott is instrumental to the attempts to bring an end to Israel's human rights violations, because it first and foremost opposes Israel's message of 'business as usual' facade.
In addition to the aforementioned reasons for supporting the BDS movement, we must add a few words about Israeli president, Mr. Shimon Peres, with whom you are about to cooperate. Mr. Peres has been a senior member or a propagandist for Israeli governments which have used cluster munitions [xxvii],flechette artillery shells [xxviii] and white phosphorus bombs [xxix] in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza and Lebanon, have built more settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) [xxx], and have imposed separate legal systems [xxxi]for Israeli settlers in the oPt and their Palestinian neighbors. Mr. Peres authorized the kidnapping and ill-treatment of an Israeli citizen in Rome (Mr. Mordechai Vanunu, September 1986), a clear violation of international law. He argues consistently that it is acceptable for (only) one state in the Middle East to acquire nuclear weapons, a situation which necessarily brings about a dangerous arms race in this volatile region. Mr. Peres he authorized, as Prime Minister in April 1996, the mass bombing of villages in Southern Lebanon, explicitly aimed at creating a wave of refugees flooding Beirut. We suspect that he has not learned that it is illegal to inflict lethal collective punishment on a civilian population. Dear Shakira and Gerard Piqué , is this your partner for global activism?
We urge you to heed the call by Palestinian civil society, and we ask that you not undermine the efforts of a rapidly growing human rights based international movement to bring a just solution to the oppressed in Israel/Palestine. We therefore urge you to cancel your participation in the conference!
Please feel free to respond and/or ask for additional information.
Dr. David Nir
on Behalf of
BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within
( contact address: [email protected] )