To the Sean Jones Quintet – Please Don’t Play for Apartheid Israel

Sean Jones
The Sean Jones Quintet is being asked to bring hope to people through heeding the anti-apartheid boycott.
Dear Sean Jones, Tim Green, Orrin Evans, Matt Clohesy and Obed Calvaire,

You are probably aware by now that your plan to perform in Israel is a controversial one. We hope you will take a stand as musicians of conscience and honour the Palestinian boycott call until Israel complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights, this call was made in 2005 and calls for a cultural, academic and sporting boycott. We hope this letter will provide you with some of the information you need to make the choice to side with justice and human rights.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine determined last fall in Cape Town, South Africa, that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid.[1] Artists who would have refused to perform for white South Africa during apartheid there should easily understand why the current anti-apartheid boycott is so important.

It is not unusual for jazz artists to refuse to play in front of the segregated audiences at the Red Sea Jazz Festival. In 2011, Eddie Palmieri [2] and Jason Moran [3] both quietly cancelled their gigs. Six member band Tuba Skinny cancelled, stating … when we agreed to play the festival we were not aware that it was largely state sponsored, or that people on the other side of the wall would be denied entry.[5]

In April, Cassandra Wilson graciously bowed out of headlining an Israeli woman’s festival that would have ignored the suffering of Palestinian women and honoured only Israeli women. Wilson said “I identify with the cultural boycott of Israel.” [5]

Roger Waters recently wrote:

Where governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For me this means declaring an intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s policies, by joining the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel. This is [however] a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott. Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa’s Sun City resort until apartheid fell and white people and black people enjoyed equal rights. And we are right to refuse to play in Israel.[6]

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has this view:

I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.[7]

“International Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory … 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 … to perform in Israel“.[8]

Today, due to the boycott call and its international magnitude, it is impossible for any international artist to play in Israel in a political vacuum. Your performance will be interpreted, especially by supporters of Israel, as an endorsement.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said, in 2005 that “We see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and…do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.”[9]

The Red Sea Jazz Festival’s top sponsors are the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport as well as the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

We urge you learn about the boycott, especially by reading the article Educators can’t stay silent about Israeli apartheid by J. K?haulani Kauanui, Robin D.G. Kelley, Bill V. Mullen, Nikhil Pal Singh and Neferti Tadiar. These courageous professors stated:

We refuse to be silent or passive in the face of gross violations of principles of universal human rights that both Israel and the US publicly purport to uphold. As was the case with the US removal of tribal nations, the US South under anti-black “Jim Crow” laws, or South Africa under apartheid, Palestine today is the measure of the meaning and value of human rights in our time.[10]

Learn about why Alice Walker supports the boycott by reading Interview with Alice Walker after She Declines to Publish with Israeli Publisher. Walker writes:

When I was in the West Bank it was shocking to see the apartheid wall, which is immense and forbidding. And to realize that it’s purpose is not only to enforce segregation between Palestinians and Israelis but that it also steals huge amounts of Palestinian land. Land Palestinian farmers need to work in order to feed their families. I sat with a family of four and watched a huge Volvo digging machine dig the deep trench directly in front of their drive that the wall will be placed in. The noise was deafening and the vibrations shook the small house. The children, two young boys, will have to cross three check points each morning to go to school. The youngest boy had been severely beaten the week before our arrival by an Israeli soldier and was still so frightened he hid during most of our visit.[11]

Sean Jones, the boycott is about turning away from the policy of appeasement of the oppressor and instead, standing in solidarity with the oppressed. Please stay true to your words [12] that you want to bring hope to people via sound. By cancelling your two planned performances at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (July 31 and August 1), you would be helping greatly to bring hope to the Palestinian people that there will come an end to this unjust form of apartheid soon.

Warmest Regards,

Don’t Play Apartheid Israel
We are a group, of 850 members, representing many nations around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.


[1] Russell Tribunal on Palestine Findings of the South Africa Session
In its most recent session in Cape Town, South Africa, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that, “Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.”
[2]Latin Jazz Great Eddie Palmieri: Thank You for Cancelling Israel Performance
[3]Jazz Musician Jason Moran Cancels Concert in Apartheid Israel
[4] Tuba Skinny speaks out on cancellation of show at Red Sea Festival
[5] Singer Cassandra Wilson cancels Israel show: “I identify with the cultural boycott of Israel”
[6] Tear down this Israeli wall
I want the music industry to support Palestinians’ rights and oppose this inhumane barrier
[7] Divesting from Injustice
[8] Tutu urges Cape Town Opera to call off Israel tour
[10] Educators can’t stay silent about Israeli apartheid
[11] Interview with Alice Walker after She Declines to Publish with Israeli Publisher
[12] Amazing trumpeter Sean Jones talks about the making of his new CD ‘The Search Within’ (youtube)


Israel subjects Palestinians to a cruel system of dispossession and racial discrimination

Perhaps you are not familiar enough with Israel’s practices, widely acknowledged as violations of international law. If this is the case, then we hope you will reconsider your planned concert after thinking through some of Israel’s trespasses. Your performance would function as a whitewash of these practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual. Concretely, Israel routinely violates Palestinians’ basic human rights in some of the following ways:

  1. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live under a brutal and unlawful military occupation. Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank. All the while, Israel continues to build its illegal wall on Palestinian land and to support the ever-expanding network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements that divide the West Bank into Bantustans.
  2. Palestinian citizens of Israel face a growing system of Apartheid within Israel’s borders, with laws and policies that deny them the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy. These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people’s daily lives. In many ways this system strikingly resembles Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa.
  3. Since 1948, when Israel dispossessed more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form an exclusivist Jewish state, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands. Israel also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev). Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees still struggling for their right to return to their homes, like all refugees around the world.
  4. In Gaza, Palestinians have been subjected to a criminal and immoral siege since 2006. As part of this siege, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles, books, crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee and chocolate, but also musical instruments from reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison.

Israel uses arts and culture to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights.

In December 2008 and January 2009, Israel waged a war of aggression against Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, dead, and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes. In the wake of this assault and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign, as the presence of internationally acclaimed artists from the West is meant to affirm Israel’s membership in the West’s privileged club of “cultured,” liberal democracies. But it should not be business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights.

Your performance would serve this Israeli campaign to rebrand itself and will be used as a publicity tool by the Israeli government.