Lebanon’s Mashrou’ Leila cancels on Chili Peppers
4th September 2012
Internationally acclaimed Lebanese group Mashrou’ Leila today tweeted “we will not be opening for the red hot chili peppers on september 6 in beirut.” mashrou' leila @mashrou3leila
This decision – also announced on their Facebook page – follows mounting calls on the group to cancel after Red Hot Chili Peppers rejected calls from the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to cancel a 10 September show in Tel Aviv.
As early as last Spring petitions and appeals to Red Hot Chili Peppers to cancel began to circulate. However Red Hot Chili Peppers rejected them, issuing a brief video on 28 June which reaffirmed their “joy, pleasure and excitement” at playing in Tel Aviv and their “great love for Israel.” “Come one, come all,” urged Chili Peppers band member Anthony Kiedis in the video. But that is exactly the point of the BDS call: Palestinians living under Israel’s apartheid-like restrictions are not free to attend concerts and face innumerable obstacles as dramatized in a brief video made to illustrate the near impossibility for millions of Palestinians to attend a recent Madonna concert in Tel Aviv.
Notably, the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert will be held in “Hayarkon Park” – the site of the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Jarisha. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued an additional appeal to the group to change its mind and learn from the example of how cultural boycott had helped hasten the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Following Chili Peppers’ refusal to heed the boycott call, activist attention turned to Mashrou’ Leila urging them to “Boycott those who refuse to boycott.” Mashrou’ Leila’s decision to cancel sends a signal to international acts that touring the region and including Israel on the schedule – despite Palestinian calls for boycott – will be met with resistance in Arab countries where public opinion strongly opposes what is often called “normalization.”
Controversy over Red Hot Chili Peppers heats up
09 Sep 2012
I was 10 years old when I stole my older brother's cassette tape of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. In my small town in Massachusetts that fall, I traded in my air guitar for a much cooler air bass, rocking out to Flea's rhythm on the hit single "Give It Away". Twenty years later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still cranking out great music to a huge fan base and were just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On September 10, the Chili Peppers are scheduled to play a concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. The decision has caused quite a stir. More than 7,000 people have signed a petition calling on the band to cancel its performance in Israel. More than a dozen groups around the world have written letters calling on the band to cancel the show. I work with one of those groups. Why would I call on a band I loved so much as a child, a band I still listen to today, to cancel a concert?
In 1948, my pregnant grandmother, countless relatives, and 750,000 other Palestinians were displaced from their homeland, making way for the creation of the state of Israel. My grandmother never saw her birthplace again, never picked another piece of fruit from her orchard, but spoke and dreamed of a dignified return until her final breath in 2009. Palestinians continue to languish in refugee camps; four million live under a system of increasingly brutal Israeli occupation, and 1.5 million Palestinians are relegated to second-class status inside of a state that is falsely presented as a democracy.
Boycott, divest and sanction
In 2005, Palestinian civil society, consisting of more than 170 unions, women's organisations, cultural groups, academic institutions and nearly every other facet of society, called for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the state of Israel until it complied with three basic demands based on international law: an end to occupation, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and equal rights for Palestinians living inside of the state of Israel. Following the ethical, effective, and rights-based approach of cultural boycott against apartheid in South Africa, tens of thousands of voices in support of Palestinian rights have stated clearly: it is time to take action for freedom, justice, and equality.
"The power of art lies with the oppressed, it wrote the freedom songs in South Africa, tuned the humming of prisoners in the H Blocks in Northern Ireland, and laced the chants against despotism in Tahrir Square."
Mashrou' Leila, a Lebanese band scheduled to open for the Chili Peppers in Lebanon, cancelled its lucrative slot after band members were asked to pull out of the concert in protest to the Chili Peppers' decision to play in Israel. A growing list of artists, including Bono, Santana, the late Gil Scott-Heron, Elvis Costello, Cat Power, the Klaxons, the Gorillaz, and the Pixies, have refused to cross the international picket line and have pulled out of scheduled shows. Roger Waters, frontman for Pink Floyd and human rights advocate, said the boycott call is "a perfectly legitimate, nonviolent... political tool" and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated in support of cultural boycott, "Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa... it would be wrong... to perform in Israel."
What I have learned in my years as a spoken word performer is that art is not above politics. Reading my work in the Jim Crow South to an all-white audience would not have upended racism, nor would it have sparked a journey of introspection among the masses. The power of art lies with the oppressed, it wrote the freedom songs in South Africa, tuned the humming of prisoners in the H Blocks in Northern Ireland, and laced the chants against despotism in Tahrir Square.
Artists were targeted and shamed when they played Sun City in South Africa and lent aid to the image of the apartheid regime. This is why Boycott From Within, a group of Israelis, has called on the Chili Peppers to cancel their show. When art is used to bolster support for an oppressive state, when it is used to "present Israel's prettier face" as an official for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs proclaimed in the New York Times, and when it used as a form of propaganda as stated by a former Israeli Foreign Ministry official - "I do not differentiate between hasbara [propaganda] and culture" - it is time for artists to end complicity.
"It is an easy choice to stand on the wrong side of history, when the history books have yet to be written. It is easy to call a show in Israel just another show when few accurately label Israel an apartheid state. "
Art alone cannot break down a wall that appropriates Palestinian land and resources, it cannot uproot illegal settlements, it cannot tear down checkpoints that restrict freedom of movement, it cannot release prisoners from administrative detention, and it cannot rebuild water wells. But artists and their art can inspire millions to take conscientious action against occupation and discrimination.
As the Chili Peppers concert date approaches, there are millions of people under Israeli rule who are unable to reach the concert simply because they are Palestinian. The Chili Peppers will not meet with Palestinians who worked in cultural centres attacked by the Israeli army, they will not hear the work of young recording artists who are separated by walls and checkpoints, and they won't meet with the Palestinian hip hop artist who cancelled his tour because he was denied the right to leave his open-air prison. These details are left out of concert planning, but they are the daily reality for occupied, displaced, and oppressed Palestinians.
While I may not be that young kid strumming my air bass on my parents' deck in Massachusetts, I still turn up the radio when the Chili Peppers come on. That is what makes writing these words so difficult. It is an easy choice to stand on the wrong side of history, when the history books have yet to be written. It is easy to call a show in Israel just another show when few accurately label Israel an apartheid state. At the moment, it still takes little effort to ignore the plight and call of millions of occupied Palestinians. But it is not the just stand. Martin Luther King once proclaimed, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice". King was right. This week, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have the option to bend toward justice or enable oppression.
Remi Kanazi is the author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine, the editor of Poets For Palestine, and an organising committee member for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Stevie Wonder to perform for IDF Popular American musician to take part in annual gala of Friends of IDF organization in Los Angeles
25th Nov 2012
The annual gala of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) organization will be held on Thursday, December 6. The event will be hosted by Cheryl and Haim Saban and is expected to be attended by more than 1,000 members of the Los Angeles Jewish community. The gala is considered one of the organization's flagship events and is known to raise millions of dollars.
The world's leading artists have performed at the event over the years, and this year Saban managed to recruit Stevie Wonder. Last year the audience had the privilege of listening to Barbra Streisand, and the year before they enjoyed a performance by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
According to Haim Saban, "The annual FIDF Western Region Gala has become a tradition and a must-attend event for the Los Angeles Jewish community. The event connects the warm community to the IDF's soldiers, and this is our opportunity to thank the soldiers who defend the State."
Sickening. Stevie Wonder was arrested in 1985 for his part in campaigning against South African apartheid, and yet here he is supporting not only Israeli apartheid, but the thugs who enforce it.
Iain Banks: why I'm supporting a cultural boycott of Israel This week writer Iain Banks announced he has cancer and may have just months to live. Here he explains why, in 2010, he decided his novels would no longer be published in Israel
Iain M Banks
Friday 5 April 2013
I support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign because, especially in our instantly connected world, an injustice committed against one, or against one group of people, is an injustice against all, against every one of us; a collective injury.
My particular reason for participating in the cultural boycott of Israel is that, first of all, I can; I'm a writer, a novelist, and I produce works that are, as a rule, presented to the international market. This gives me a small extra degree of power over that which I possess as a (UK) citizen and a consumer. Secondly, where possible when trying to make a point, one ought to be precise, and hit where it hurts. The sports boycott of South Africa when it was still run by the racist apartheid regime helped to bring the country to its senses because the ruling Afrikaaner minority put so much store in their sporting prowess. Rugby and cricket in particular mattered to them profoundly, and their teams' generally elevated position in the international league tables was a matter of considerable pride. When they were eventually isolated by the sporting boycott – as part of the wider cultural and trade boycott – they were forced that much more persuasively to confront their own outlaw status in the world.
A sporting boycott of Israel would make relatively little difference to the self-esteem of Israelis in comparison to South Africa; an intellectual and cultural one might help make all the difference, especially now that the events of the Arab spring and the continuing repercussions of the attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla peace convoy have threatened both Israel's ability to rely on Egypt's collusion in the containment of Gaza, and Turkey's willingness to engage sympathetically with the Israeli regime at all. Feeling increasingly isolated, Israel is all the more vulnerable to further evidence that it, in turn, like the racist South African regime it once supported and collaborated with, is increasingly regarded as an outlaw state.
I was able to play a tiny part in South Africa's cultural boycott, ensuring that – once it thundered through to me that I could do so – my novels weren't sold there (while subject to an earlier contract, under whose terms the books were sold in South Africa, I did a rough calculation of royalties earned each year and sent that amount to the ANC). Since the 2010 attack on the Turkish-led convoy to Gaza in international waters, I've instructed my agent not to sell the rights to my novels to Israeli publishers. I don't buy Israeli-sourced products or food, and my partner and I try to support Palestinian-sourced products wherever possible.
It doesn't feel like much, and I'm not completely happy doing even this; it can sometimes feel like taking part in collective punishment (although BDS is, by definition, aimed directly at the state and not the people), and that's one of the most damning charges that can be levelled at Israel itself: that it engages in the collective punishment of the Palestinian people within Israel, and the occupied territories, that is, the West Bank and – especially – the vast prison camp that is Gaza. The problem is that constructive engagement and reasoned argument demonstrably have not worked, and the relatively crude weapon of boycott is pretty much all that's left. (To the question, "What about boycotting Saudi Arabia?" – all I can claim is that cutting back on my consumption of its most lucrative export was a peripheral reason for giving up the powerful cars I used to drive, and for stopping flying, some years ago. I certainly wouldn't let a book of mine be published there either, although – unsurprisingly, given some of the things I've said about that barbaric excuse for a country, not to mention the contents of the books themselves – the issue has never arisen, and never will with anything remotely resembling the current regime in power.)
As someone who has always respected and admired the achievements of the Jewish people – they've probably contributed even more to world civilisation than the Scots, and we Caledonians are hardly shy about promoting our own wee-but-influential record and status – and has felt sympathy for the suffering they experienced, especially in the years leading up to and then during the second world war and the Holocaust, I'll always feel uncomfortable taking part in any action that – even if only thanks to the efforts of the Israeli propaganda machine – may be claimed by some to target them, despite the fact that the state of Israel and the Jewish people are not synonymous. Israel and its apologists can't have it both ways, though: if they're going to make the rather hysterical claim that any and every criticism of Israeli domestic or foreign policy amounts to antisemitism, they have to accept that this claimed, if specious, indivisibility provides an opportunity for what they claim to be the censure of one to function as the condemnation of the other.
The particular tragedy of Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people is that nobody seems to have learned anything. Israel itself was brought into being partly as a belated and guilty attempt by the world community to help compensate for its complicity in, or at least its inability to prevent, the catastrophic crime of the Holocaust. Of all people, the Jewish people ought to know how it feels to be persecuted en masse, to be punished collectively and to be treated as less than human. For the Israeli state and the collective of often unlikely bedfellows who support it so unquestioningly throughout the world to pursue and support the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people – forced so brutally off their land in 1948 and still under attack today – to be so blind to the idea that injustice is injustice, regardless not just on whom it is visited, but by whom as well, is one of the defining iniquities of our age, and powerfully implies a shamingly low upper limit on the extent of our species' moral intelligence.
The solution to the dispossession and persecution of one people can never be to dispossess and persecute another. When we do this, or participate in this, or even just allow this to happen without criticism or resistance, we only help ensure further injustice, oppression, intolerance, cruelty and violence in the future.
We may see ourselves as many tribes, but we are one species, and in failing to speak out against injustices inflicted on some of our number and doing what we can to combat those without piling further wrongs on earlier ones, we are effectively collectively punishing ourselves.
The BDS campaign for justice for the Palestinian people is one I would hope any decent, open-minded person would support. Gentile or Jew, conservative or leftist, no matter who you are or how you see yourself, these people are our people, and collectively we have turned our backs on their suffering for far too long.
Extracted from Our People by Iain Banks, from Generation Palestine: Voices from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, edited by Rich Wiles, published by Pluto Press. To order a copy for £11.99 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846
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