Failing to #DropIsrael from the Festival, SA Artists Against Apartheid and BDS South Africa have called on:
- Artists such as Zaki Ibrahim, Spoek Mathambo, Oliver Matudzi, Pops Mohamed and others that are scheduled to perform at the Cape Town World Music Festival to withdraw their involvement from the "compromised" festival. Remaining part of the Festival, whilst the Israeli embassy is still involved, would be to cross the boycott picket line.
- Members of the public, particularly those that were going to go to the Cape Town World Music Festival, are asked to join our call for the Festival to #DropIsrael, and at minimum, to withdraw their patronage from the Festival in protest of its Israeli links.
- You too can play a role. Tweet (http://tinyurl.com/cetr7d7), Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/cshsu5l), email and share our joint letter with the organizers, artists, participants, others involved in this weekend's festival and amongst your networks. Send a polite note and remember to use the hashtag #DropIsrael in your messages! Click here for a list of some contacts that the joint letter can be sent to: http://tinyurl.com/cx6yaoo
Finally, for those claiming that "art" trumps "justice" they only need to be reminded that similar things were said in the 1980s during the boycott of Apartheid South Africa, for example, "sport is beyond politics, don't boycott South Africa". However, art and sport don't take place in a vacuum. We South Africans asked the world to boycott Apartheid South Africa and the oppressed Palestinians are now asking us to boycott Israel. We think that this short spoken-word video makes an excellent case for the boycott: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaGNfKabwfQ&feature=plcp. What do you think?
BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS in SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
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07 NOVEMBER 2012
DEAR ORGANIZERS, PARTICIPANTS, AND PERFORMERS OF THE CAPE TOWN WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL,
“The abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza, and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank coupled with its denial of the rights of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance. For me it means declaring my intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine, but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their governments racist and colonial policies, by joining a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until it satisfies three basic human rights demanded in international law.” Roger Waters, Pink Floyd
We, artists belonging to the South African Artists Against Apartheid collective (www.southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com), and members of BDS South Africa (www.bdssouthafrica.com), are writing to you with great disappointment, but also with hope – hope that you will choose to be on the right side of history.
We have recently learned that the Cape Town World Music Festival (CWM Festival), taking place on the 9th and 10th of November 2012, has crossed and violated the international-boycott-of-Israel-picket-line by:
a) accepting Israeli government support and sponsorship through the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria and the Israeli cultural funding entity, Tararam (see: http://tinyurl.com/cwgpbhs); and,
b) Hosting an Israeli band that is willingly being used by the Israeli government “to boost Israel’s image” abroad (see: http://tinyurl.com/crtpegz) and has not distanced itself from Israel's Occupation and Apartheid policies.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society called for a cultural boycott of Israel as a non-violent method to bring Israel in line with international law and respect basic human rights principles. The Palestinian boycott of Israel has been modeled on our successful boycott of Apartheid South Africa, when we insisted that the rest of the world (not necessarily governments, but peace-loving people together with artists like yourself) boycott all forms of collaboration with Apartheid South Africa.
The boycott against Israel has been issued by the largest and widest grouping of Palestinian civil society (including artists and artist groups) and an increasing number of progressive Israelis also back the boycott. International musicians, artists, and bands who have responded and respected the cultural boycott of Israel include Gil Scott-Heron, Elvis Costello, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, director John Greyson, the Pixies, Massive Attack, Faithless, Gorillaz Sound System, and the Klaxxons.
ISRAELI APARTHEID AND OCCUPATION
“I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches...Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Several of our senior leaders and struggle stalwarts have compared Israel to Apartheid South Africa, including Kgalema Motlanthe, Blade Nzimande, Zwelinzima Vavi, Jeremy Cronin, Ahmed Kathrada, Winnie Mandela, Ronnie Kasrils, Denis Goldberg, Frank Chikane, Alan Boesak, Zackie Achmat, Sam Ramsamy, Elinor Sisulu, Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late Kader Asmal. Most recently the chair of the African National Congress, Ms. Baleka Mbete, said that Israel's treatment toward the Palestinians is not only comparable but also far worse than Apartheid South Africa.
Further, in an official report commissioned by the South African government in 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council found that Israel, by its policies and practices, is guilty of the crime of apartheid (www.hsrc.ac.za/Media_Release-378.phtml). Both in comparison but also as a stand-alone case, Israel is an Apartheid State.
THE ISRAELI BAND, “BOOM PAM”, SCHEDULED TO PERFORM AT THE CWM FESTIVAL
“Overcoming Israel’s unflattering image in the international media is another challenge… booking Israeli acts runs the risk of triggering boycotts…Despite the potential for boycott…Israel’s government should invest more in helping fledgling artists [such as Boom Pam] reach concerts abroad as a way to boosting Israel’s image in an organic way rather than with heavy-handed propaganda…Each of them is an authentic cultural ambassador.” Israel’s Next Export: Edgy Rock?, Joshua Mitnick, The Jewish Week
The quote above is from an Israeli article that specifically discusses the Israeli band Boom Pam, which is scheduled to perform at the CWM Festival, and how the band can be used to promote the State of Israel and undermine the cultural boycott. The article points out that one hurdle that such bands face is “to first get on a plane”. CWM Festival has confirmed to BDS South Africa that Boom Pam’s plane tickets have indeed been paid for by the Israeli embassy.
All Israeli cultural organizations are complicit and therefore boycott-able, unless there is evidence to the contrary. Boom Pam, has not distanced itself from Israel’s Occupation and Apartheid policies. For as long as the band does not distance itself we are forced to understand that the band supports, endorses, and possibly colludes with the Israeli regime. The article quoted above only strengthens the case that Boom Pam is actively working with the Israeli regime, and not against its Occupation and Apartheid policies.
This is similar to inviting a white South African group to London, say, in the 1980s (with or without the group getting Apartheid South Africa government funding) and the group having never taken a public position against apartheid. It would have been boycott-able then and is so now.
The deputy director-general for cultural affairs at Israel's Foreign Ministry has said: “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits [and in] this way show Israel's prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war." (http://tinyurl.com/c4qotr). However, as South African students, lead by the SA Students Congress (SASCO), have put it: "Israel’s image needs no changing; its policies do!" (http://tinyurl.com/acaorsu)
TO THE ORGANIZERS OF THE CWM FESTIVAL:
“While human beings are being wilfully denied not just their rights but their needs for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals [to Israel] that this is either 'normal' or 'ok'. It's neither and I cannot support it.” Maxi Jazz of Faithless on why his band cancelled on Israel
The decision of CWM Festival to accept sponsorship from the Israeli embassy violates the Palestinian cultural boycott of Israel, which states: “Any collaboration with the Israeli embassy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other Israeli institution undermines, in particular, point (3) of the 2010 Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) guidelines: [If an] event is partially or fully sponsored or funded by an official Israeli body or a complicit institution [then] the general principle is that an event or project carried out under the sponsorship/aegis of or in affiliation with an official Israeli body or a complicit institution constitutes complicity and therefore is deserving of boycott. The same may apply to support or sponsorship from non-Israeli institutions that serve brand Israel purposes.” (www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047)
We strongly urge the CWM Festival organizers to re-think the decision to accept Israeli government sponsorship and collaboration. We call on the CWM Festival to openly reject the Israeli embassy collaboration and distance itself from the Israeli embassy. Further, only Israeli bands that clearly distance themselves from Israel’s Apartheid policies and Occupation should be invited to perform. We, as South Africans, expected this from the international community in the 1980s and the Palestinians now expect this from us.
We also urge the CWM Festival sponsors and partners to join people of good conscience in protesting the decision and withdrawing their support for the CWM Festival, should their decision not be changed. Co-sponsoring an event with the Israeli embassy, and being listed as a partner, is at best collaboration and at worst collusion.
TO THE ARTISTS SCHEDULED TO PERFORM AT THE CWM FESTIVAL:
“I think musicians have a major role to play […] the boycott is not an action of aggression towards the Israeli people…it’s towards the government and its policies." Del Naja of Massive Attack
We urge all artists that are scheduled to perform at the CWM Festival to follow the example of South African Hip-Hop artist, Iain “Ewok” Robinson, who last year withdrew his participation from the Hilton Arts Festival, due to that festival’s Israeli collaboration and funding. In withdrawing he said, “I cannot in good conscience willingly participate in any event that enjoys the support and patronage of the Israeli Government in any form. I believe that this is an endorsement of the criminal acts of oppression and human rights abuses consistently perpetrated by this entity against the Palestinian people… it is my responsibility as a South African who enjoys the democratic rights that were fought for so valiantly by my parents’ generation of anti-apartheid activists, to participate in the similar Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel.”
We understand how difficult it would be for you to reject an opportunity to share your enthusiasm and talents with others. Unhappily, matters are not so simple in this context. Art does not simply take place in a vacuum. The belief that cultural activities are “apolitical” (or that you are simply performing music, not getting involved in politics) is a myth. By you performing in a festival that is sponsored (to whatever degree) by the Israeli embassy will be a slap in the face of Palestinians (who have, since 2005, asked international artists not to collaborate in any form with the Israeli regime) but it will also be tacit support for the Israeli regime and its practices of apartheid. Having invited an Israeli performer that has not distanced themselves from Israel’s apartheid policies is itself a political statement.
We, urge you to join us on calling on the CWM Festival to respect the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel by refusing sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy and to only invite Israeli artists that are clear in their condemnation of Israel’s apartheid policies and Occupation. If the CWM Festival refuses this, then we call on you -realizing the difficulties- to withdraw your involvement in a compromised festival.
TO ALL PEACE-LOVING PERSONS, THE PEOPLE OF CAPE TOWN, AND THOSE THAT WERE PLANNING TO ATTEND THE CWM FESTIVAL:
"The issue of a principled commitment to justice lies at the heart of responses to the suffering of the Palestinian people and it is the absence of such a commitment that enables many to turn a blind eye to it…. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu
We urge you, members of the public, especially those that were going to go to the CWM Festival to join us on calling on the CWM Festival to respect the Palestinian people’s call for a cultural boycott of Israel by refusing sponsorship from the Israeli Embassy and only invite Israeli artists that are clear in their condemnation of Israel’s apartheid policies and Occupation (which, to peace-loving people, is not something difficult to do). We ask you to protest the CWM Festival and at minimum to boycott the CWM Festival in protest of its Israeli collaboration.
One might wonder what purpose refusing to perform on a platform supported by the Israeli embassy might serve? Or share a stage with an artist that does not condemn and distance themselves from the Israeli occupation and its Apartheid policies? As a people whose parents and grandparents suffered under (and resisted) Apartheid in South Africa, our history is testament to the value and legitimacy that the international boycott had in bringing an end to the Apartheid regime in our country. When artists and sportspeople began refusing to perform on platforms that Apartheid South Africa was sponsoring, the world’s eyes turned to the injustices that were happening here. When ordinary people boycotted and disrupted platforms that collaborated or hosted sports team and music bands from Apartheid South Africa, the world’s eyes turned to the injustices that were happening here. This then created a wave of pressure, which ultimately contributed to a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa. The same is not only possible for Palestine-Israel, but also inevitable. The question is: On which side of history do you want to be?
Performing on a platform sponsored by Apartheid South Africa, or with a band from Apartheid South Africa, during the 1980s was to be on the wrong side of history. Today, performing on a platform sponsored by Israel, or with a band from Israel, is choosing to be on the wrong side of history.
Be on the right side of history, don’t entertain Apartheid, and don’t collaborate with an Occupation regime. The power is in your hands.
Over to you.
Carrie Schwartz and Muhammed Desai for BDS South Africa
Iain "Ewok" Robinson and Aslam Bulbulia for South African Artists Against Apartheid
www.southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com | www.bdssouthafrica.com
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