June 21 , 2011
Dear Armin Van Buuren,
We are a group of Israeli citizens.
We recently learned that you have been invited to play in Eilat on 30/6.
We realize that cancelling at this late stage may seem drastic, but this should be understood in the context of Israel's policy: Israel has been utilizing 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 play in Israel at this time, you will accept 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.
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 isolated 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 filmmaker 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 the artists who canceled performances after being informed of the BDS call 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].
To summarize, hundreds of artists, academics, filmmakers, and writers worldwide have expressed their support for the human rights based BDS movement, and recognized its pivotal role in the process of bringing an end to Israel's systematic human-rights violations.
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 openly acknowledged 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.
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.
Sincerely on behalf of
Dr. Dorothy Naor
Dr. David Nir