Open Letter

PACBI wrote to Carlos Santana days before his scheduled concert in Israel

Carlos Santana did not respond to numerous appeals from conscientious fans and went ahead with his Tel Aviv concert

15 July 2016

Dear Carlos Santana,

We are not writing to you, days before your scheduled concert in Tel Aviv, to support the cultural boycott of Israel, a part of the nonviolent Palestinian-led, global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights that is endorsed by the absolute majority of Palestinian civil society, including the most prominent cultural figures. But we are writing to appeal to you to respect our picket line, even if you do not yet agree with it. More basically, we are asking you to fulfill your profound moral obligation to do no harm. Is that too much to ask for?

Your concert in Tel Aviv would indeed do harm similar to the that done by artists who crossed the boycott picket line in apartheid South Africa and played Sun City. Tel Aviv is the Sun City of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid, and no concert in it today, while this regime of abject denial of human rights continues, can claim to be “apolitical” or “above politics.” It is always a political statement of the worst type to apathetically play under conditions of persistent human rights violations, not in solidarity with the oppressed but to entertain the oppressors. This is true whether in anti-immigrant Arizona, in apartheid South Africa, in the Azerbaijani dictatorship, or in the epicenter of Israeli apartheid and colonial rule—Tel Aviv.

There is a very compelling reason that drove Doctors without Borders (MSF) to turn down your offer to donate to them the proceeds of your Tel Aviv concert and for parents of children in the Israeli Hand in Hand bilingual schools to do the same. While both clearly appreciate the generous support that your foundation has given each of them over the years, neither of them can, with a good conscience, accept money tainted with human rights violations of the scale committed by Israel against Palestinians, and against our children in particular.

As the Hand in Hand concerned parents wrote to your foundation:

“As parents, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinian children in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, who are so often denied the basic right to education, movement, shelter, access to water and basic infrastructure, health, and protection under the law.”

We hope you have received the open letter of our Israeli partners, Boycott from Within, which explains why your association with the so-called “Stand with Us” or “Creative Community for Peace” -- two facades of the same organization, and one of the most Islamophobic, racist and propagandistic parts of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. at that -- is beyond unfortunate. It betrays the principles that you have expressed in your music as well as your philanthropic community work.

Israel’s lobby group, Stand with Us, is trying to convince you that your music, which we all admire, can help bring about “peace.” The only peace that can come out of trying to whitewash Israel’s grave injustices is the peace of mind of the oppressors that they can use your art to further subdue the voices of the millions of Palestinians denied basic rights under their regime of oppression.

Real peace, the one that Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and many other brave leaders throughout history have sought is one that is predicated on freedom, justice and equal rights for all humans, precisely what our BDS movement is seeking.

Instead of entertaining apartheid, we call on you to think of the day after you do so, if you go ahead with your plans. Can you live with a clear conscience the day after, knowing that you will have contributed to entrenching injustice and furthering freedom?

Desmond Tutu once wrote, “If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Far from being an ostensibly “neutral” act, performing in Tel Aviv today, while millions of Palestinians are denied their freedom and dignity by the same state, institutions, banks, and corporations that are making your concert possible and many who will attend the concert and dance to your tunes, is a conscious act of siding with the oppressor. It is tantamount to premeditatedly choosing to stand on the wrong side of history.

You and your brilliant art most certainly deserve to be remembered better in the future.


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