Why artists should not perform in Israel

Why artists should not perform in Israel

Comment: To perform in Israel is to ignore the Palestinian people's call for boycott, and it flies in the face of the struggle for social justice, writes Huda Ammori.
5 min read
20 Jul, 2017
A lack of sanctions has allowed Israel to continue its policy of illegal settler-colonialism [AFP]
Radiohead performed in Israel last week despite vocal protests by Palestinians, artists, fans and activists. In doing so, the band has deliberately ignored the call for boycott from the Palestinians; a population that has been oppressed for 70 years. Here are three reasons why artists with integrity should respect the call for boycott from Palestinian civil society:

A call from the Palestinian people 

The 1.5 million Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel face more than 50 laws that discriminate against them, although they form 20 percent of the population of Israel. The two million Palestinians living in Gaza face a decade-old blockade, and they are being of stripped of their civil liberties and basic human rights:

They have limited access to water, medicine, electricity and freedom of movement. They are placed in what is regarded as the largest open air prison in the world, and are susceptible to bombings and military brutality at any moment.

As a response to decades of oppression, the Palestinian people have called on the international community to support their fight for freedom. BDS is a call from the Palestinian civil society for the international community to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel as a non-violent means to pressure Israel into complying with international law and the universal principles of human rights.

The three basic demands of BDS are to give Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes, to end the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory since 1967 and to dismantle the discriminatory laws towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Read more:  Israel bars US activists under controversial anti-BDS law

Critics of the BDS movement often argue that there are no campaigns to boycott other countries that also violate human rights, such as Canada or the US. By the same token, there are no calls for boycott from oppressed populations from these countries.

There has, however, been a call from Palestinian civil society for the international community to boycott Israel.

The BDS movement seeks to build a global popular response to the ongoing injustice in Palestine

As a result, performing in other countries does not constitute ignoring a call for boycott from an oppressed population, unlike in Israel, where performing is a clear violation of the call of the Palestinian people.

If artists truly hold integrity and support social justice struggles, then they shouldn't ignore one of the most oppressed populations on Earth.

Absence of international sanctions 

Since the beginning of the occupation, international governments have failed to impose sanctions on Israel, despite the long track record of war crimes committed by the state of Israel.

Western governments currently impose sanctions on over 42 countries, but none on Israel. This has allowed Israel to continue their system of illegal settler-colonialism, racism, ethnic cleansing, imprisonment of children, military brutality and denial of Palestinians human rights for almost seven decades.

There are currently 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including hundreds of children. Palestinians are constantly under threat of being detained without charge, and subject to Israeli military brutality. Palestinians voices are being silenced, making it imperative for the international community to speak up against this injustice.

A call for boycott remains a powerful non-violent strategy for peace

Current international support sustains Israel's system of apartheid. While international governments continue to fail the people of Palestine in their quest for freedom, a call for boycott remains a powerful non-violent strategy for peace, justice and equality.

Artists who defy this call, deliberately ignore the suffering of the Palestinians and rather endorse the normalisation of their oppressor, Israel.

When such clear injustices continue to remain unpunished, it becomes imperative that the international community stands with the oppressed and demand justice. 

Abolition of apartheid in South Africa

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on his visit to Palestine that Palestinians are "being oppressed more than the apartheid ide­o­logues could ever dream about in South Africa". Archbishop Tutu and other anti-apartheid heroes are now calling for a boycott of the Israeli apartheid system.

The Palestinian-led global BDS movement, which is modelled in part on the successful campaign against apartheid South Africa, is based on a simple argument: The Palestinian people are entitled to the same basic human rights as everyone else.

Israel's system has only been possible with major international support

For decades Palestinian human rights have been violated by Israel's brutal system of settler colonialism, apartheid, and occupation; a system which has only been possible with major international support. The BDS movement seeks to build a global popular response to the ongoing injustice in Palestine in order to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

Artists who chose to boycott Israel will be contributing to a means to an end to Israeli apartheid - like many artists before them - making them part of a people's movement; a movement which chooses people before profits.

They would be respected and appreciated by people of conscience across the world, especially the Palestinians. And perhaps most importantly, history will appreciate and remember those who stood with the oppressed.

Huda Ammori is leading the student-led BDS campaign at the University of Manchester. She is a British student with Palestinian and Iraqi heritage.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.