Lady Gaga, Don't Sustain Israel's Poker Face

The below letter was published on November 17, 2011 in response to media reports that suggest Lady Gaga went on and scheduled a performance in Israel on summer 2012

May 4, 2011


Dear Lady Gaga,


We are a group of about 250 Israeli citizens who support the human rights-based Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) [1]. We learned through the media that Israeli producers try to lure you into performing this summer in Israel, thus undermining a growing international movement to end Israel's impunity and promote a just solution that respects human rights and international law in Palestine\Israel. We therefore would like to urge you not to perform in Israel at this time.


About a year ago Palestinian demonstrators in Hebron (Al-Khalil) danced to your song [2], “Poker Face”, to counter Israeli propaganda, video-clipped in their own forcefully closed and evacuated Shuhada street. In this area Israel dispossessed tens of thousands of people from their homes to allow for a Jews-only settlement of a few hundreds. The dance was held in front of the gates of that same closed street. The song's choice was a cry for the world to stop buying into Israel's branding of itself as “advanced” and “enlightened”, a branding which is maintained also by international performances in Israel. Just a few weeks after that dance, the Israeli army locked down adjacent shops [3], collectively punishing Palestinian shopkeepers in the Old City. It also banned the peaceful demonstrations from the area. The demonstrations are led by a local youth group [4] which is committed to complete non-violence.


Performing in Israel means lending your voice and image to sustain and promote a “business as usual” attitude towards a military occupation and siege, a systematic inequality and a continued mass banishment of refugees. Many artists and public figures who realized that are now publicly supporting the cultural boycott of Israel, which is backed by almost the entire community [5] of Palestinian cultural workers. Among those supporters are Roger Waters [6], David R Randall [7] and Maxi Jazz of Faithless [8], Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack [9], filmmakers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh [10], 500 Montreal artists [11], over 200 Irish artists [12],, prominent activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu [13], South-African Artists Against Apartheid [14], Creative Workers Union of South Africa and the international alliance Artists Against Apartheid [15]. Other artists cancelled their performances in Israel in response to growing appeals, including Elvis Costello [16], the Pixies, actors Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman, UK band Tindersticks, American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron and Mexican American rock guitarist Carlos Santana.


July 9th this summer marks the 6th anniversary of the Palestinian United Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights [17]. The BDS Call was issued by over 170 civil society organizations of all three parts of the Palestinian people: refugees, citizens of Israel and West Bank and Gaza residents. It is a non-violent initiative inspired by a similar campaign of the indigenous people of South Africa against the apartheid regime there. Unlike its predecessor the Palestinian BDS movement does not target Israeli individuals, but rather focuses on public events that promote a facade of normalcy and on complicit institutions.


You may be aware of some of the abuses carried out by Israel against the Palestinian people:


In 2008-2009 Israel launched a vicious attack against the besieged 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, killing over 1434people [18] (including 434 children) and wounding thousands while targeting mostly civilians and destroying homes of thousands of people. Israel performed numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity in that attack. Among those crimes is the siege on Gaza itself, which remains intact to this day, preventing all air, sea and ground movement of people; restricting severely imports into the Strip and banning exports almost completely. As part of this siege, “access to around 35% of Gaza’s farmland and 85% of maritime areas for fishing remains restricted by the Israeli ‘buffer zone'”, as attested by a recent human rights report [19]. Dozens of civilians were shot dead by Israeli forces when present around those areas inside the Gaza Strip.


In 2004 the international court of Justice in The Hague ruled that the Israeli-built West Bank separation wall, which annexes vast Palestinian land and most of East Jerusalem - is illegal. Yet, Israel has not dismantled it and is on the course of completing its construction, a process that typically involves uprooting Palestinian olive trees and destroying homes and orchards.


Palestinians inside the West Bank are also kept under sieges of sorts, which deny them free movement outside their “confined areas” by checkpoints and the separation wall. While this means that they – just as Gazan Palestinians - could not come to your show, this also has the much graver effect of a suffocating economic repression. While Jewish settlers enjoy their privileged status as citizens of the state and can travel freely in and out of the West Bank, sometimes in their own designated roads (for Israeli citizens only), Palestinians living in the same areas are governed by a military regime and subjected to a poorly standardized military legal system designed to keep them repressed. Settlers' violence against Palestinians enjoys the protection of both the state and army, and is thus encouraged by them [20].


Inside proper Israel the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel face institutionalized racial discrimination implemented by over two dozen laws [21]. While dozens of new Jewish communities and towns were established since the formation of the state, not one Palestinian new community or town was allowed to be built. Instead, Israel repeatedly destroys the villages and houses of the indigenous population of the Naqab, [22] (Negev), Lyd, [23] (Lod) and other communities. Israel has neglected its Palestinian citizens in all social areas: education, health, transportation, municipal services, etc. As a whole, they are unequivocally the poorest citizens of a state which excludes them by its very definition and structure as a “Jewish state”.


In spite of the clear declaration [24] of Palestinian popular demonstrations “that we do not harm human lives”, the Israeli army violently attacks them, killing dozens of protesters, and wounding, maiming, and imprisoning hundreds in just a few years. House and sometimes entire village demolitions are used as another repression mechanism against the Palestinian population.


During the 1948 Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine [25] Israel expelled 800,000 Palestinians and took over their houses and properties. Until this very day most of the Palestinian people are refugees. Many live in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and in other Middle East countries, awaiting their international law-anchored and UN sanctioned return and compensation, which are forcefully withheld by Israel.


As was in the case of white South-Africans, most Israelis believe today that complying with the Palestinian basic demands “will be the end of us”. The lessons from South-Africa, however, are to the contrary. White people there do not enjoy the privileged legal and institutional status by the state as they used to, but they still, by and large - especially in economic terms - form the elite and upper classes of society, far from fitting into the nightmare scenarios of being “kicked out to the sea” as many Israelis would put it. What the BDS Call specifies are in fact minimal requirements: to end the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, to cancel the apartheid inside Israel, and to respect and promote the right of return and compensation for the refugees.


We hope that you will not ignore the Palestinian BDS Call and refrain from performing in Israel until there's peace and justice here.




Noa Abend

Oshra Bar

Adi Dagan

Neta Golan

Ohal Greitzer

Iris Hefets

Shir Hever

Liad Kantorowicz

Assaf Kintzer

Gal Lugassi

Haggai Matar

Edo Medicks

Dorothy Naor

Ofer Neiman

David Nir

Jonathan Pollak

Leehee Rothschild

Emily Schaeffer

Herzl Schubert

Ayala Shani

Tal Shapira

Jonatan Stanczak

Yana Ziferblat


On behalf of

Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from within


[2]“Palestinians dance to Lady Gaga in Hebron, to counter video made by IDF troops”:

[3]“Israeli army close down shops opposite Shuhada street in Hebron”:

[5]“Palestinian Filmmakers, Artists and Cultural Workers Call for a Cultural Boycott of Israel”:

[10] “PACBI Salutes Mike Leigh's Moral Courage”:

[18] “Israeli Soldiers Allege Indiscriminate Killing in Gaza”:,8599,1886856,00.html#ixzz17SVTTlyX

[19] “Dashed Hopes”: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade.

[22] “A JNF Drive To Make the Desert Bloom Means Destruction for a Bedouin Village”:

[23] “The days of ‘48 have come again.” 15 minutes from Tel Aviv, Israel creates a new refugee camp.