Dear Thomas Quasthoff,
We are a group of Israeli citizens, writing in support of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine's (BRICUP) open letter to you. We support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by international law and ceases its systematic violations of Palestinian human rights; as such, we would like to share with you our concerns regarding your scheduled performances in Israel and urge you to cancel them.
BDS is a rapidly growing non-violent, human-rights based Palestinian-led movement. It was launched by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, and amongst its many worldwide supporters – including directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, 180 Irish artists, 500 Montreal artists, and the international alliance Artists against Apartheid – are Jews and citizens of Israel who object to Israel's attempts to construct a facade of normalcy over its constant violation of Palestinian human rights.
In his report to the United Nations General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk notes that the tendency of the international community to overlook Israel's encroachment on the rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military control in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has resulted in the apartheid features of Israel's current day de facto occupation. Mr. Falk points out that Palestinians are, for instance, barred from using the same roads as the residents of their neighboring Jewish-only settlements; their mobility is restricted even between their own villages, and sometimes within them, by military checkpoints, fences and a 26 ft. high cement wall, resulting in denied access to adequate medical services and work; their private agricultural lands are illegally confiscated and annexed to expanding Jewish settlements, and violent settlers attacks on their olive groves and mosques are systematically overlooked. In the context of your performances, Israel's apartheid policies also mean that a Palestinian fan of yours living under Israeli occupation is not allowed by law – and denied by walls, fences and checkpoints – to come hear you perform in Tel-Aviv.
Those who suggest to you that your performance in Israel might in some way “strengthen the notion of co-existence” are either ignorant of the situation in Israel/Palestine or are intentionally overlooking it so as to make sure their own lives are not inconvenienced by publicly acknowledging it. Almost every international performance – large as small – is understood amongst the Israeli public as condoning this reality of systematic ethnic oppression and making a statement against the necessity of changing it.
Going through with your scheduled performances in Israel will bring a message of support for Israel's policies of apartheid and oppression. A recent report by Amnesty, Oxfam and other respected human rights organizations, also highlights the need for steady substantial pressure on Israel “to ensure an immediate, unconditional, and complete lifting of the blockade” of Gaza: recently revealed official documents have demonstrated that in the case of the Gaza blockade Israel has implemented “a policy of deliberate reduction” for basic goods, calculating the amount of food allowed to enter the Gaza strip using mathematical formulas to measure the amount of food sufficient to keep Gaza inhabitants alive at a near-malnutrition level threatening the health and well being of children, women and men (allowing in an average of less than a third of the needed goods). Goods “of a rehabilitative character” were shown to have not been allowed to enter the Gaza strip, thus preventing the reconstruction of schools, hospitals and homes.
As Mr. Falk notes, “the BDS campaign seeks to respond to the failure of Israel to uphold its obligations under international law with respect to the Palestinian people”. For decades, the international community has played into Israel's attempts to render a reality of brutal oppression – keeping millions under the rule of martial law in the West Bank, illegally blockading Gaza, and denying Palestinian 1948 refugees the UN sanctioned right of return and compensation – normal.
International performances in Israel at this time elicit a message of 'business as usual' -- that nothing has to be changed because things are fine the way they are. Last month, the Israeli cabinet agreed on a bill requiring that non-Jews who seek Israeli citizenship must swear an oath of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. Last week, dozens of Israel's Chief Rabbis issued a public bill ordering against the selling or renting of property to Arab citizens of Israel, constituting 20% of Israel's population. We urge you to cancel your performances in Israel and not grant your seal of approval to Israel's ongoing crimes and human rights violations.
On behalf of Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from within
1As noted in the report of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/gaza_agriculture_25_05_2010_press_release_english.pdf
2As noted in UNICEF 2009 report http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/media_49515.html and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' current data base http://www.ochaopt.org/GazaCrossings.aspx?id=1010003