USACBI Open Letter to Joan Armatrading: Don’t Play Apartheid Israel
Dear Joan Armatrading,
What message will you deliver to the Palestinian people?
In April 2000, you sang “The Messenger,” your tribute song to Nelson Mandela, paying homage to the man who would not abide apartheid in his homeland, and devoted his life to ending it. The image of a free Mandela smiling and dancing on stage, next to you, remains sketched in our minds as one of the happier moments in post-apartheid South Africa. Singing to Mandela, you told this icon of the anti-apartheid struggle:
that you delivered
Told us how we should be
We should treat each other
As we would be treated.
Therefore we were shocked to see on your website that you are planning to perform in Israel this summer. For while apartheid has officially ended in South Africa, it lives on in Israel, and Palestine. In 1973, the United Nations developed a legal definition of Apartheid, which sadly depicts the everyday reality of the Palestinian people. According to the UN, apartheid is not restricted to South Africa, but is defined as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
Surely you remember the principled refusal from many artists to perform in South Africa whilst apartheid existed there, and how that cultural boycott helped bring an end to that injustice. Today, Palestinian civil society is calling for a similar boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel — a call that is directed particularly toward international activists, artists, and academics of conscience. This call is supported by stalwart anti-racist activists around the world, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who explained, following his visit to the West Bank, that he was “very deeply distressed” and that “it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.” Archbishop Tutu added:
“I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.”
We urge you to support the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel until it abides by international law and respects Palestinian rights.
Will you send the Palestinian people the right message, a message of solidarity with their struggle against racism and apartheid? Please cancel your scheduled performance in Binyamina and Tel Aviv this June.
The United States Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (www.adalahny.org)
Al-Nakba Awareness Project
American Jews for a Just Peace
Americans Against Apartheid
Artists Against Apartheid
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information
Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights
Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet)
Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (www.columbiasjp.org)
Don’t Buy Into Apartheid
INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, National Steering Collective
Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine
The One Democratic State Group (ODSG)
The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (www.pacbi.org)
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
Students Boycott Apartheid (www.studentsboycottapartheid.com)
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine