The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure– in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.
The following Open Letter to the Rolling Stones appeared on the site of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.
This Open Letter was republish in the Electronic Intifada on May 21, 2007 and reprinted here with permission.
Dear Rolling Stones,
The Palestinian arts community received in disbelief media reports of your upcoming performance in Israel, at a time when Israel continues unabated with its colonial and apartheid designs to further dispossess, oppress, and ultimately ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homeland. If the news is accurate, and we sincerely hope it is not, we strongly urge you to cancel your plans to perform in Israel until the time comes when it ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and respects fundamental human rights as well as the relevant precepts of international law concerning Palestinian rights to freedom, self-determination and equality.
Performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa during the apartheid era. We all remember how leading Rolling Stones musicians played a prominent role in enforcing a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 1980’s, and participated in recording the timeless song, Sun City, which had a singular influence on raising public awareness about apartheid and its injustices. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard, and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils have repeatedly declared, Israel has created a worse system of apartheid than anything that ever existed in South Africa.
Indeed, Israel’s policies throughout its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory, which have surpassed their South African counterparts, include house demolitions; Jews-only colonies and roads; uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees; indiscriminate killings of civilians, particularly children; incessant theft of land and water resources; denying freedom of movement to millions under occupation, cutting up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans, some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks. Sixty years since the Nakba, Israel’s planned campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people, and 40 years into its military occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territory, Israel has consistently and relentlessly violated basic human rights and relevant precepts of international law with utter impunity. Moreover, Israel’s war of aggression against Lebanon last year caused more than one thousand civilian deaths, not to mention massive destruction to infrastructure and decimation of entire residential neighbourhoods.
The resounding failure of the international community to date in ending Israel’s occupation, collective punishment, and other forms of oppression was what prompted Palestinians to appeal to international civil society to bear its moral responsibility to put an end to injustice, just as it did against apartheid South Africa. To this end, Palestinian civil society has almost unanimously called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with international law and recognizes the fundamental human rights of the people of Palestine. A specific call for cultural boycott of Israel was issued last year, garnering wide support. Among the many groups and institutions that have heeded the Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel are the Church of England; the US Presbyterian Church; a group of top British architects; the British National Union of Journalists in the UK; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario; Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger; and Palme d’Or winner director Ken Loach. Is it too much, then, to expect conscientious artists like the Rolling Stones to similarly uphold the values of freedom, equality and justice for all by supporting the growing boycott against Israel?
We appeal to your moral principles and your record of standing up for human rights and human dignity. If the reports are true, we sincerely hope that you shall cancel this ill-conceived and particularly harmful concert in Israel. If they are not true, we urge you to issue a statement to clarify where you stand on this issue of principle.
List of signatories is in preparation and will be posted shortly
An Israeli site announced the following:
The Rolling Stones to make their debut in Israel
May. 06 – After over a year of speculation, Israeli media reported over the weekend that The Rolling Stones are expected to perform in Israel for the first time ever. They will perform at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park around Rosh Hashana in September. According to the paper Ma’ariv, promoter Shuki Weiss said that the negotiations were in the final stages. The reports also said that Britney Spears was expected to perform in the country a month after the Stones.
As a footnote, earlier in April 2005, there was a rumor that the Rolling Stones would perform in Israel in that year, but the producer, who said he had no contacts with the group, denied it.
We shall see whether this aging rock group, a product of the musical scene of the 1960s albeit with no obvious interests in promoting the civil/human rights issues of the era, beyond acknowledging the influence of Black music, will respond.
UPDATE from Mark Elf at Jews sans frontieres (with permission):
I just took a rare look at the zionist Engage website. Apparently asking the Rolling Stones to boycott Israel amounts to bullying. And suggesting that having another performer move a gig from Tel Aviv to Neve Shalom is a victory, amounts to dishonesty.
The boycott campaign wants to bully the Rolling Stones to cancel their planned concert in Israel in September. They are doing this by pretending that Israel is an “apartheid” state like the old South Africa and they ask:
“Is it too much, then, to expect conscientious artists like the Rolling Stones to similarly uphold the values of freedom, equality and justice for all by supporting the growing boycott against Israel?”
Be ready for a campaign to denounce the Stones as racists, pro apartheid, pro imperialist etc. etc. when they stand up to the boycott campaign.
When Roger Waters (ex Pink Floyd) wanted to play a gig in Israel, the boycotters tried to intimidate him, tried to make him cancel, tried to characterize him as a supporter of Israeli human rights abuses. But they failed. He went to Israel nevertheless, he played, he voiced his protest against Israeli policy, and the boycotters dishonestly tried to portray this as a victory.
Who says so? Alf Green says so. Well Alf Green is a pseudonym for an academic so lectures are his business. But lectures in integrity? Come now Alf…..
Ha’aretz also has this story here:
A Palestinian group lobbying for boycotts against Israel has urged the Rolling Stones to cancel their scheduled September performance in Israel, comparing performing in Israel to performing in apartheid South Africa and noting that the legendary rock band had supported the boycott of South Africa in the 1980s.
An open letter calling on the Rolling Stones not to appear in Israel was sent to the band by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) on Sunday.
Note how a self-declared zionist Israeli newspaper refrains from the shrill allegations levelled by the “non”-zionist, Dr David Hirsh.