Some of the world's biggest stars – from Madonna to the Red Hot Chili Peppers – are being accused of putting profit before principle in a growing backlash against artists performing in Israel.
Campaigners angry at human rights abuses against the Palestinian people – symbolised by Israel's policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians and allowing Israeli settlers to take over their land – are demanding a boycott of Israeli venues in a campaign that echoes the 1980s protests against South Africa and the infamous venue Sun City.
Last week Madonna came under fire for her decision to perform in Israel to kick off her world tour last Thursday. "
By performing in Israel, Madonna has consciously and shamefully lent her name to fig-leafing Israel's occupation and apartheid and showed her obliviousness to human rights," said Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Attempts by Madonna to deflect criticism by offering free tickets to local campaigners backfired, with a number rejecting the offer. Boycott from Within, an Israeli campaign group, accused the singer of "a blatant attempt at whitewashing Israeli crimes".
Mr Barghouti added: "As we've learned from the South African struggle for freedom, entertaining Israeli apartheid should never be mislabelled as singing for peace." The star's publicist did not respond to requests for comment.
Boycott is a response to a call from Palestinian civil society, which is seeking to mobilise international civil society as a way of realising their basic rights.
A fortnight ago, dozens of actors, playwrights and directors called on The Globe to cancel a planned performance by Israel’s national theatre company Habima, to avoid complicity with “human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land”.
Along with Emma Thompson, Mike Leigh and Caryl Churchill, opposition to the invitation includes Mark Rylance, founding artistic director of The Globe. The letter follows on from an earlier call by ‘Boycott From Within’, a group of Israelis who support the Palestinians’ Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Since then, the letter’s critics have responded in an over the top fashion, successfully missed the point.
Howard Jacobson reached for absurd clichés (“Kafkaesque”, “McCarthyism”) while Simon Callow and Louise Mensch signed a letter describing the boycott call an example of “the continued persecution of Jews”.
“Theatre ban ‘like Nazi book burning’ say West End stars” ran a headline in The Jewish Chronicle, whose editor Stephen Pollard compared pro-Palestinian protesters at the Proms to “Nazi party members” in “Weimar Germany” (as did Labour MP Denis MacShane who recently linked the murders in Toulouse to Palestine solidarity motions in UK trade unions).
This shameless blustering ignores the specific reasons for the Habima boycott call, namely that the company performs in illegal West Bank settlements – colonies that form a key part of Israel’s apartheid regime – and indeed promised Israel’s Minister of Culture that it would “deal with any problems hindering such performances”.
Yousef Munayyer - New York Times
What exists today is one state, under Israeli control, where 1.5 million Palestinians are second-class citizens, and four million are not citizens at all.
I am a Palestinian who was born in the Israeli town of Lod, and thus I am an Israeli citizen. My wife is not; she is a Palestinian from Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Despite our towns being just 30 miles apart, we met almost 6,000 miles away in Massachusetts, where we attended neighboring colleges.
A series of walls, checkpoints, settlements and soldiers fill the 30-mile gap between our hometowns, making it more likely for us to have met on the other side of the planet than in our own backyard.
Never is this reality more profound than on our trips home from our current residence outside Washington.
Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport is on the outskirts of Lod (Lydda in Arabic), but because my wife has a Palestinian ID, she cannot fly there; she is relegated to flying to Amman, Jordan. If we plan a trip together — an enjoyable task for most couples — we must prepare for a logistical nightmare that reminds us of our profound inequality before the law at every turn.
Even if we fly together to Amman, we are forced to take different bridges, two hours apart, and endure often humiliating waiting and questioning just to cross into Israel and the West Bank. The laws conspire to separate us.
If we lived in the region, I would have to forgo my residency, since Israeli law prevents my wife from living with me in Israel. This is to prevent what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once referred to as “demographic spillover.” Additional Palestinian babies in Israel are considered “demographic threats” by a state constantly battling to keep a Jewish majority. (Of course, Israelis who marry Americans or any non-Palestinian foreigners are not subjected to this treatment.)
Eamonn McCann - The Belfast Telegraph
Why pick on Israel when there's so much injustice in the rest of the world? The answer is to be found in the specific circumstances which gave rise to the launch of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign in July 2005.
The wall provided security for armed bands of Jewish settlers establishing colonial outposts, while corralling and controlling Palestinians minded to oppose their dispossession.
The BDS campaign aimed not at the destruction of the Israeli state, or the expulsion of its people, but at an end to the occupation of Arab lands, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and formal recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and properties from which they had been expelled.
Its declaration was endorsed by Palestinian political parties, trades unions, cultural and community groups, women's and youth organisations, religious denominations, professional associations and others representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and refugees in camps scattered across the Middle East. The strategy reflects the wishes of the people in whose name it is carried out.
Prompted by recent media attacks on human rights activists the Irish Anti War Movement today issued a statement expressing its full support of the cultural boycott campaign which asks artists not to perform in apartheid Israel. The statement noted that the cultural boycott is part of an International Campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). It was called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005 in response to the failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its illegal and brutal occupation of Palestinian lands.