Nov 13, 2010

#BDS: Don't Play Tel Aviv, Johnny Lee Hooker Jr!

Dear Johnny Lee Hooker Jr,
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is writing to you with regards to your upcoming performance in Tel Aviv on November 22. You may know that in 2004, PACBI issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel that was supported by a groundswell of Palestinian unions and cultural groups. [1] Subsequently, in 2005, Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality. [2] The BDS movement is asking artists to heed our call until “Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid" [3]. In light of our call, your upcoming performance would violate the appeal of the Palestinian BDS movement which urges people of conscience throughout the world to isolate Israel until it ends its colonial and apartheid oppression of the Palestinian people, as was done to the apartheid regime in South Africa.
We know that you have been asked to cancel this performance and we would like to further urge you to reconsider your performance in Tel Aviv that would do nothing more than entertain Apartheid and whitewash Israel’s long list of criminal acts. [4]
Israel is a state defined by its brutal practices towards the indigenous Palestinian population of the land. In all places where it wields its power, Israel’s practices have historically worked to nullify the mere existence of Palestinians. Israel, through its unlawful military occupation of the West Bank, restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and speech, denies basic human rights like access to education, and continues a policy of stealing land and sustenance from the occupied Palestinian population. People are arrested without charge and imprisoned without trial as an entire population is terrorized with violence and humiliation on a daily basis. This occupation, with its more than 600 checkpoints placed throughout the West Bank to prevent any kind of normalcy is what keeps Palestinians from traveling to see performances such as yours in cities, towns and lands that they were in fact dispossessed from. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build its Apartheid illegal wall on Palestinian land and to support the ever-expanding network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements that divide the West Bank into Bantustans, also forbidding them to attend your show, or any other cultural performance.
Moreover, in its horrible system of Apartheid towards Palestinian citizens of Israel, segregationary, if not outright fascist, laws and policies afford rights and protections on an exclusivist and ethnically defined basis. While these sorts of racist laws have been condemned throughout the world, they remain standard Israeli practice. You may have also heard of Israel’s illegal and criminal siege of Gaza, where Israeli policy has tragically condemned 1.5 million Palestinians to life under incarceration in the world’s largest open-air prison. From this prison of Gaza, across Palestine and throughout the vast lands of our diaspora, Palestinians have been denied the internationally recognized right of return as refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948. Today, more than seven million Palestinian refugees continue to struggle for their right to return to their homes.
After Israel’s war of aggression against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead [5], predominantly civilians, and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes [6], and after the flotilla massacre, many international artists have refused to conduct business as usual with a country that places itself above international standards. Elvis Costello [7], Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, and the Pixies are but a few of the artists who have refused to perform in Israel in the past year. We urge you to join your peers in canceling your trip and respect our call and our struggle. After the flotilla massacre, Devendra Banhart had this to say upon cancelling his show, which we hope will resonate with you:
Unfortunately, we tried to make it clear that we were coming to share a human and not a political message but it seems that we are being used to support views that are not our own. [8]
Your artistry has been defined by your life and your legacy. Through your music, you have embraced and continued the incredible art that your father once brought to our world. We can hear this legacy in your music. In your career defining performance in Istanbul, you shared this gift with us and allowed us to celebrate your remarkable talent. In Live in Istanbul, you have given us the timeless gift of your music and passion by forever capturing this timeless performance. We are all in Istanbul when we listen, and the love your audience gave you is the gift of this shared passion. After the tragedy of the flotilla massacre and the vicious murder of those who traveled from Istanbul to bravely defy brutal power in an effort to break the siege on Gaza, can you in good conscience break the ties that bind your art to Istanbul and perform in Tel Aviv?

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