Boycott of Apartheid Israel Is For Human Rights, Justice and Freedom

Members of the Irish media absorbed in pillorying human rights activists who called on Irish band Dervish to boycott apartheid Israel might instead consider the declaration of South African Artists Against Apartheid below. It appears these Irish ‘journalists’ are incapable of reading the threads on Dervish’s facebook wall in order to ascertain the facts about where the ‘avalanche of negativity’ referred to by singer Cathy Jordan actually emanated from – in fact, it oozed from fanatical defenders of Israeli apartheid after the band announced its respect for boycott.

Cathy Jordan of Dervish said “I abhor all violence for whatever reason. I loathe any violations of people’s human rights and dignity, and I believe that all citizens have the right to live in peace, free from persecution. I’m an idealist, a pacifist, a humanitarian.” Her words resonate well with the principled boycott of Israel which addresses non-violently the apartheid state’s crimes against humanity. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is inspired by the successful boycott of apartheid South Africa, and the call to the international community by Palestinian people to boycott is grounded solidly in international human rights law, affirmative of justice, freedom and equality. It was in this positive humanist spirit that Dervish was encouraged by human rights activists to cancel its date with apartheid Israel.

Adding weight to the call of Palestinian people for boycott of Israel until they attain their full rights, South African Artists Against Apartheid made the following supportive declaration in November, 2010.

As South African Artists and Cultural Workers who have lived under, survived, and in many cases resisted apartheid, we acknowledge the value of international solidarity in our own struggle. It is in this context that we respond to the call by Palestinians, and their Israeli allies, for such solidarity.

As artists of conscience we say no to apartheid – anywhere. We respond to the call for international solidarity and undertake not to avail any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel. Nor will we accept funding from institutions linked to the government of Israel. This is our position until such time as Israel, in the least, complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. Until then, we too unite with international colleagues under the banner of “Artists Against Apartheid.”

Apartheid and Collaborating with it

Collaborating with institutions linked to the state of Israel cannot be regarded as a neutral act in the name of cultural exchange.

In an official report commissioned by the South African government in 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel, by its policies and practices, is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Numerous others, including South Africans who have a deep familiarity with racial oppression (and resistance to it), have spoken of life in the shadow of Israeli repression as akin to or worse to that under apartheid in South Africa.

Artistic performances in Israel promote a “business as usual” attitude that normalizes and “whitewashes” a state that is guilty of daily forms of exclusion, violence and war crimes. Operation Cast Lead in Gaza saw over 400 children killed by the Israeli military; and the unconscionable attack by Israel in international waters aboard the Freedom Flotilla resulted in the death of nine humanitarian aid workers. (Both have been described as crimes in violation of international law – the former by the 2009 Goldstone report and the latter by the UN Human Rights Council.)

As artists of conscience we can act to resist the normalization of Israel’s apartheid policies. Some may hide behind the excuse that art is apolitical. However, artists have not been hesitant in taking a position against racism and inequality. As South Africans we benefited from such a position of conscience. For example, members of the British Musicians’ Union, pledged not to perform in South Africa as long as apartheid was in effect. Numerous organizations and artists in film, television, theatre and other arts fell in line against the South African regime and contributed to the denormalisation of South African apartheid which eventually led to that regime’s demise – and to the birth of a free and democratic country, for all.

Joining the International Momentum

Inspired by the boycott of Apartheid South Africa, Palestinians have made a call for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign of Israel. This call has been actively supported by Israelis as well.

British writer John Berger, Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, US poet Adrienne Rich, British film director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty are just some of the prominent voices that have joined this call. In a movement that continues to gain momentum, a string of artists have recently either cancelled shows or pledged their refusal to be complicit in Israeli Apartheid. Some names include: Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Dustin Hoffman, Meg Ryan, Faithless and Massive Attack. For futher details, refer to the attached Record Sheet.

When the Cape Town Opera proposed to perform in Israel, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said:

“Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel.”

“Cape Town Opera should postpone its proposed tour next month until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances.”

“the thickest-skinned South Africans would be comfortable performing before an audience that excluded residents living, for example, in an occupied West Bank village 30 minutes from Tel Aviv, who would not be allowed to travel to Tel Aviv, while including his Jewish neighbours from an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian territory.”

“The Tel Aviv Opera House is state sponsored. By luring international artists to perform there, it advances Israel’s fallacious claim to being a ‘civilized democracy’. Yet, every day, millions of citizens are denied the right to educational and cultural opportunities in Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies.”

“Please, fine singers of the Cape Town Opera: Much as it offers you opportunities to travel abroad and show the world what we can do, listen to your conscience. God loves Jews and Muslims equally. To perform Porgy and Bess, with its universal message of non-discrimination, in the present state of Israel, is unconscionable.”

Israel uses culture shamelessly and deliberately to promote its political branding, to obscure its crimes against humanity given impunity by the failure by governments to enforce international law. Soon after the Palestinian boycott was called in 2005, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, a deputy director general from the Israeli Foreign Ministry said: “We are seeing culture as a hasbara tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between hasbara and culture”.

Artists who are intending to play in apartheid, colonial Israel should discover for themselves the unconstrained, horrific nature of Israel’s crimes against humanity and support the unified call of Palestinian people to boycott, lest they are conscripted as tools of Israeli propaganda and contribute to the terrible harms committed against oppressed Palestinians by the racist, criminal Israeli regime.

Related Links

Another BDS win in South Africa – “BDS spokesman Muhammed Desai said in a statement that Ayee’s announcement came at the request of students and staff, as hosting Finkelstein would have violated the “academic boycott” of Israel. ” That’s Yaakov Finkelstein, deputy ambassador.
SA university pulls plug on Israeli Embassy

‘Professor Ayee’s announcement came after the university was called on by students and staff to cancel the hosting of Finkelstein as it would have violated the “academic boycott” of Israel. Palestinians issued a call to the international community in 2005 for a program of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until Israel abides by international law and basic human rights.

Early last year, another SA University, the University of Johannesburg, became the world’s first university to impose an academic boycott on Israel by ending its institutional relation with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. In addition several student movements, including the South African Students Congress (SA’s largest and oldest studdent body), have publicly backed the academic boycott and BDS call.

UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi commented:”This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like Apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with – including academics and students. It can be safe to assume that UKZN’s cancellation represents the general sentiment among students and staff”.’

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