Gilberto Gil, Don't Undermine the Palestinian Struggle for Freedom: Cancel Show in Israel!

February 3, 2011

Dear Gilberto Gil,


We are members of a group of over 200 Israeli citizens who support the Palestinian-led cultural boycott of Israel. As an artist who was himself imprisoned and exiled by a military regime in your country, we heard with dismay about your scheduled April 14 concert in Tel-Aviv. The Palestinian Call [1] for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was issued in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in order to counter racism and such oppressive mechanisms as mass unlawful expulsion and imprisonment. We are aware that you visited Israel in the past. It is not much due to the act itself but due to its current context that we urge you now to heed the Palestinian Call and cancel your scheduled performance in Israel. By doing so you will stand by a globally growing, human rights-based and non-violent civil society Palestinian initiative.


The BDS Call is the most unitary Palestinian political initiative today. It represents people of all sections who used to live in historic Palestine: Palestinians living under military siege and occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; Palestinian citizens of Israel, who were subjected to a military regime until 1966 and since then have been facing an apartheid-like systematic racist discrimination by Israel; and Palestinian refugees who were looted and expelled by Israel in 1948 and live with their descendants in refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank or in exile (some of whom live in Israel). Rather than falsely addressing the colonial conflict in Israel\Palestine in terms of a mere territorial dispute, and refraining to prescribe solutions, the BDS Call is focused on international law and on the rights of the Palestinian people and individuals, which should be the basis for any just and peaceful solution.


The BDS Call is inspired by similar campaigns launched by the indigenous people of South Africa in order to overthrow apartheid there, a struggle in which cultural boycotts played a crucial role in raising global attention to the oppression of the South-Africans. The Call is endorsed by almost the entire community [2] of Palestinian cultural workers and many international supporters. It also inspires and is endorsed by unarmed popular struggle activists such as Bil'in's Abdallah Abu Rahmah who is held for over a year now in an Israeli military prison for the vague accusations of “incitement” and “organizing illegal demonstrations”. Abu Rahmah's imprisonment sparked wide international condemnation: Amnesty international labeled him a prisoner of conscience [3] and the EU repeatedly condemned [4] his persecution. In a letter from prison he encourages his supporters: “you amplified our popular demonstrations in Palestine with international boycott campaigns and international legal actions under universal jurisdiction” [5].


Another human rights activist held in an Israeli prison and recently sentenced to 9 years is Ameer Makhoul. Makhoul is a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel and General Director of Ittijah, an umbrella organization for about 80 civil society NGOs, which was established by Palestinian citizens of Israel and is one of the signatories of the 2005 BDS Call. Makhoul was brutally arrested by the Israeli Shabak, tortured and denied his legal rights, among them meeting his lawyers. His case was also media gagged at the same time. In his letter from prison he states [6]:


“Based on my experience and on the findings regarding 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the Shabak having no evidence does not mean the end of the game. They have their secret weapon, which is the so-called 'secret evidence.' They present it to the judges, but neither me nor my lawyers are allowed to know what it is about. The Israeli system will never blame the state or the Shabak, but will blame their Palestinian victims.“


Makhoul was convicted of making contact with 'a foreign agent', a term so vague in the Israeli security lexicon, as he himself explains: “Israel will never allow its court to declare me as innocent. On the other hand, every Palestinian refugee of Arab friend or partner in the Arab world is potentially considered a so-called 'foreign agent.'”Amnesty International condemned Makhoul's persecution as well. [7]


In order to end such injustices and their inequality-rooted causes, many international artists recently cancelled their scheduled performance in Israel. Some of them and many others explicitly pledged support for the cultural boycott. Here are some of the names and petition lists of such artists: Carlos Santana, Gil Scott Heron, Elvis Costello, Devendra Banhart, Dave Randall [8] and Maxi Jazz of Faithless, Vanessa Paradis, Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack[9], 200 Irish artists [10], 500 Montreal artists [11], the international alliance Artists against Apartheid [12], South-African Artists Against Apartheid [13] and Creative Workers Union of South Africa.


In honor of your anti-racist and human rights legacy, we hope you will add your name to this important and growing international effort.




Ayala Shani

Liad Kantorowicz

Ronnie Barkan

Shir Hever

Ofer Neiman

Ronnen Ben-Arie

Ohal Grietzer

Dorothy Naor

Yael Oren Kahn

Renen Raz

Rachel Giora

Neta Golan


On behalf of

Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from within