Open Letter

Palestinian Cultural Institutions to Shakira: Whenever, Wherever Music Covers Up War Crimes, It Is Just Wrong!

Dozens of Palestinian cultural organizations and local administrations urge Grammy Award-winning pop star and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira to cancel her show in Israel.


Shakira poses for a picture after attending a press briefing on the early childhood development at the United Nations in New York City on Sept. 22, 2015. Photo: Anthony Behar

A message to Shakira from Palestinian Cultural Institutions

Occupied Palestine, 24 May 2018

Dear Shakira,

We, Palestinian cultural institutions operating in the occupied Palestinian territory and in exile and Palestinian municipalities, appeal to you to cancel your performance in Tel Aviv, scheduled for 9 July 2018. Performing in an apartheid state, whether South Africa in the past or Israel today, in defiance of the voices of the oppressed always undermines the popular struggle of the oppressed to end oppression. Doing so on the heels of a full-fledged Israeli massacre against our people in Gaza is a morally reprehensible whitewash of the crime.

In its attempt to suppress overwhelmingly peaceful mass demonstrations by tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, striving for freedom and their UN-stipulated rights, Israel has implemented what Amnesty International describes as a shoot-to-kill-or-maim policy. As a result, more than 100 Palestinian civilians have been killed since March 30th and more than 10,000 injured, many by live ammunition. The UN has called for an independent investigation into Israel’s “unlawful, calculated killings” in Gaza.

As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, does it concern you that at least 12 Palestinian children have been slaughtered by Israel’s military in these peaceful demonstrations, including the 8-month-old Laila Ghandour, who was asphyxiated by Israeli tear gas dropped on her family more than 1 kilometer away from the fence?

Will you have any pangs of conscience if you perform in Tel Aviv while some 60 kilometers away 2 million Palestinians are caged by Israel in Gaza which, the UN says, could become uninhabitable by 2020, mainly due to Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade?

Does it bother you that a recent World Health Organisation report found that 54 Palestinians died in 2017, mostly cancer patients, while waiting for Israeli permits to leave Gaza for medical treatment?

In 2010, opposing a performance by a South African group in Tel Aviv, anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated: “Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel.”

Major performances by international artists like you are regularly and openly endorsed by the Israeli government, which uses them to art-wash Israel’s decades-old oppression of Palestinians.

While Israeli leaders will welcome your show, it will contribute to covering up Israel’s brutal and systematic attacks on Palestinian culture. Israel has shuttered Palestinian cinemas and theatres, banned cultural events, denied Palestinian artists travel permits, and detained others without charge. Israeli soldiers have repeatedly forced young musicians to “perform” at military checkpoints that dot the occupied West Bank denying Palestinians their right to freedom of movement.

Can you really sing “Hips don’t lie” when Israel is lying in front of the world about its war crimes?

We appeal to you to do no harm to our human rights and our struggle to achieve them. We call on you to join the world-renowned artists who have refused to lend their names to art-washing Israel’s regime of oppression including Lorde, Lauryn Hill, Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, the late Gil Scott-Heron, Faithless, Roger Waters, Bjork, Zakir Hussain, Jean-Luc Godard and Snoop Dogg.

A few kilometers from the Park Yarkon where you are scheduled to perform, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli jails. One of them is a brave young girl named Ahed Al-Tamimi (17-year-old) who danced to the tune of your hit song “la la la" with her two relatives and dreamt of growing up to become a football player. Our children, like all other children, deserve freedom, justice and equality. We ask you not to “la la la” to the system of injustice that is denying them their human rights and very dreams.

  • The Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA), representing over 400 Palestinian municipalities and local councils in the occupied Palestinian territory
  • Ramallah Municipality
  • Palestinian Performing Arts Network (PPAN)
  • The Freedom Theatre
  • El-Funoun Dance Troupe
  • Ashtar Theatre
  • Yes Theatre
  • Qafilah Movingstage Theatre
  • Popular Art Centre
  • Sareyyet Ramallah
  • Al Kamandjati Association
  • The Palestinian Institute for Cultural Development-Nawa
  • Naqsh Popular Art Center
  • The Palestinian National Theatre - Al Hakawati
  • Ibdaa Cultural Center
  • Theatre Day Productions
  • Palestinian Circus School
  • Nawa for Culture and Arts Association
  • Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society
  • Al-Harah Theater
  • Baladi Centre for culture and Arts
  • Oushaq Art Centre
  • Al-Anqaa Palestinian Dance Troupe, Gaza
  • Culture and Free Thought Association, Gaza
  • Al-Awda Centre, Tulkarem refugee camp
  • Khotwa Association for Community development
  • Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre
  • Asayel Dance Troupe
  • Shafaq -Jerusalem Art network
  • Al-Ma'mal Foundation for Contemporary Art
  • The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music
  • Palestinian Art Court-Al Hoash
  • Palestinian National Theatre
  • Yabous Cultural Center
  • Al Hannouneh Society for Popular Culture, Jordan
  • Al Quds Group for Palestinian Folklore, Jordan
  • Muhtaref Al Qindil Al Saghir, Ain al-Hilweh Refugee Camp, Lebanon
  • Jafra Dance Troupe, Palestinian Cultural Center, Lebanon


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