Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ACTION ALERT and More on Cultural Boycott of Israel

Dear friends,

I regret that I've written so little while there is so much going on! (I send out information more frequently on my public Facebook page, if you want to "friend/like" me.) I hope people are doing well. Happy New Year to all.

This weekend's release by Al Jazeera and The Guardian of the Palestine Papers have exposed the utter futility of US-brokered peace talks. I am more convinced than ever that the solution lies with listening to the Palestinian people themselves, civil society, and their call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel until it complies with international law and respects Palestinians' human rights.

Below is a variation of a piece/action alert on cultural boycott that I recently sent out on the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation listserv (you can sign up here) in my new capacity as national organizer…

But first, a few invitations/appeals:

1. Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation invite you to a Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day March 6th – 7th in Washington, DC. Additionally, there will be a Campus Organizing Conference Marcy 5th. For more information or to register, click here.

2. Tomorrow is the nation-wide Day of Action to Stop FBI Repression. Since September, 23 antiwar activists have been subpoenaed by the FBI, many of them involved in Palestine solidarity work. Nine of the activists were called to appear at a grand jury tomorrow, so activists will be protesting at federal buildings, FBI offices and other locations around the country in solidarity. Click here to find actions near you!

3. I have a close friend in Palestine who needs help. Due to family issues, she feels she has no choice but to leave Palestine, even though it's the hardest decision she's ever had to make. She is an incredible activist and would be a major asset to any campus or community (she's open to coming to study or to work). Contact me if you think there's a university or employer that might be able to help.

Action Alert & More on Cultural Boycott…

One of the strongest tools of pressure to end South African Apartheid was the refusal of performance artists and other cultural ambassadors to play in the apartheid state. Diverse South Africans of conscience joined with supporters around the world in imploring performers and other public figures not to visit South Africa because to do so would send a public statement of normalization with the apartheid state, thereby implicitly condoning its policies.

Inspired by this example, Israelis of conscience and supporters around the world have joined Palestinians in calling for a similar cultural boycott of Israel until it ends its occupation and discriminatory apartheid policies.

To perform in an apartheid state is wrong, especially considering that those living under apartheid are often blocked from attending performances by checkpoints, discriminatory permit systems and persistent military and police brutality.

In addition, Palestinian artists have been punished for decades. Musical groups have been prevented from performing abroad, they've been arrested based on song lyrics, and they continue to suffer daily under military occupation.

Many artists have responded and cancelled appearances in Israel, including Carlos Santana, Gil Scott Heron, Elvis Costello, the Pixies, Devendra Banhart, the Tindersticks, Meg Ryan, and Dustin Hoffman. These cancelations, along with other boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) victories, send a message that there will be no "business as usual" with an apartheid state; they have caused unprecedented concern amongst Israelis about the growing cost of occupation and apartheid. This is a Palestinian-led nonviolent means of pressure that can work and there's an exciting opportunity to strengthen it right now!

Earlier this week, American R&B/soul singer-songwriter Macy Gray began contemplating the call for boycott and published the following on her Facebook page:

I'm booked for 2 shows in TelAviv. I'm getting alot of letters from activists urging/begging me to boycott by NOT performing in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I wana go. I gotta lotta fans there I dont want to cancel on and I …dont know how my NOT going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?

Well, Macy, we're glad you asked!

Click here to send an email to Macy Gray and her tour managers, urging her to boycott apartheid.

And, if you've got a Facebook account, you can also leave a comment on her official page and to tell her what you think! (You have to "Like" her page first.)

Cultural boycott of Israel is part of a larger call launched in 2004 by dozens of Palestinian unions, federations, associations, and civil society organizations: the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Read the call and learn more about the campaign here.

Note that cultural boycott applies not only to foreigners presenting or showcasing their work in Israel, but likewise products or events sponsored either by an official Israeli body (governmental, municipal, etc) or by a non-Israeli institution serving to re-brand Israel in a positive or normal light, thereby whitewashing its illegal state actions. Products or events that promote "false symmetry or `balance'" between the occupier and the occupied are also boycottable according to PACBI's carefully explained guildelines here.

Want some examples of other cultural boycott actions? Groups in five cities did some creative street protesting last year when the Israel Ballet came to town. Israeli activists put on this flash mob when the Cape Town Opera performed in Israel.

Confused or conflicted about cultural boycott? You may find it useful to read the letter sent to Macy from Israeli citizens in BOYCOTT!: Supporting the Palestinian Call from Within.

Confused or conflicted about the Apartheid analogy? I strongly recommend reading the excellent booklet, "Is Israel An Apartheid State?," from member-group Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – USA, summarizing a legal study commissioned by the government of South Africa on Israel's policies in the West Bank and Gaza.

Once again, if you haven't yet, click here to send an email to Macy Gray, asking her not to sing for Apartheid!

Thanks for reading,


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