PACBI Statement

The Pixies: Stay on the right side of history and say no to Israeli apartheid

January 2, 2014

Following Israel‘s 2008-09 massacre of more than 1400 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip and its bloodbath against the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010, you, along with other prominent music bands and artists, cancelled [1] your scheduled performance in Tel Aviv.

Following Israel‘s 2008-09 massacre of more than 1400 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip and its bloodbath against the Freedom Flotilla in May 2010, you, along with other prominent music bands and artists, cancelled [1] your scheduled performance in Tel Aviv. Palestinian civil society as well as Israeli [2] and international human rights activists had appealed to all artists to refuse to lend their names to Israel’s propaganda efforts to cover up these and other grave crimes. Now the Israeli right-wing media is bragging about your plan to perform in Tel Aviv in June 2014 [3]. What has changed in between? Has Israel ended its occupation, apartheid and colonial rule over the Palestinian people? Has it complied with its obligations under international law and ended its grave violations of Palestinian human rights?


Quite the contrary. Israel has intensified its construction of illegal colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory. It continues to bomb and kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza and maintains its medieval siege of 1.7 million Palestinians there. Its wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, is still standing and growing, separating Palestinians from their schools, farms and livelihoods. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of whole Palestinian communities in the Naqab (Negev), East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley was condemned by a ranking UN official as constituting a strategy of exclusion and discrimination [4].  Its policies of home demolitions, uprooting trees and denial of freedom of movement have intensified in recent months. It still maintains more than 50 racist laws [5] that are condemned by international and local human rights organizations.


Why would you accept to perform in a country that is so deeply involved in crimes and human rights violations? Would you have performed in apartheid South Africa? Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote to a South African music group that violated the Palestinian cultural boycott of Israel saying:


“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.” [6]


The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the broader BDS movement, representing the absolute majority of Palestinian civil society, appeal to you to cancel your June 2014 performance in Tel Aviv.


If you remain unconvinced because of claims that a cultural boycott of Israel may infringe on freedom of expression and cultural exchange or that “art is above politics,” may we recall for you the judicious words of Enuga S. Reddy, director of the United Nations Center against Apartheid, who in 1984 responded to a similar criticism voiced against the cultural boycott of South Africa by saying:


It is rather strange, to say the least, that the South African regime which denies all freedoms... to the African majority... should become a defender of the freedom of artists and sportsmen of the world. We have a list of people who have performed in South Africa because of ignorance of the situation or the lure of money or unconcern over racism. They need to be persuaded to stop entertaining apartheid, to stop profiting from apartheid money and to stop serving the propaganda purposes of the apartheid regime. [7] 




Israel uses arts and culture to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights.  


In December 2008 and January 2009, Israel waged a war of aggression against Gaza that left 1,400 Palestinians, predominantly civilians, dead [8], and led the UN fact-finding team of experts to declare that Israel had committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity [9].  In the wake of this assault and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy [10]. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign [11], as the presence of internationally acclaimed artists from the West is meant to affirm Israel’s membership in the West’s privileged club of “cultured,” liberal democracies. But there should not be business as usual with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights. 


Your performance would serve this Israeli campaign to rebrand itself and will be used as a publicity tool by the Israeli government, as has been well documented with other artists that crossed our BDS picket line.




Numerous distinguished cultural figures and public intellectuals have joined the call for BDS.


Today, many international artists, intellectuals, and cultural workers reject Israel’s cynical use of the arts to whitewash its apartheid and colonial policies. Among those who have supported the BDS movement are distinguished artists, writers, public intellectuals and anti-racist activists such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Berger, Arundhati Roy, Judith Butler, Naomi Klein, Adrienne Rich, Ken Loach, Alice Walker, Angela Davis and Mira Nair.


World-renowned artists, among them Roger Waters, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless, Zakir Hussain, Mike Leigh, Coldplay, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo school of Medicine, Mireille Mathieu, Oumou Sangaré, Cassandra Wilson, Cat Power, Lenny Kravitz, Carlo Mombelli, and Stanley Jordan have also cancelled events in Israel over its human rights record.  Maxi Jazz had this to say as he maintained his principled position not to entertain apartheid,


While human beings are being willfully denied not just their rights but their needs for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that [performing in Israel] is either ‘normal‘ or ‘ok‘. It‘s neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have. [12]




Please say no to performing in Israel. 


Today, Palestinian civil society is calling on artists to shun Tel Aviv in the same way that South African activists called on artists to boycott Sun City.  All we are asking is for you to refrain from crossing a picket line called by Palestinian society, endorsed by international organizations, and increasingly supported by progressive-Israelis [13].  Palestinian civil society is asking this of you as the most basic contribution to our struggle to achieve peace and justice.



















January 2, 2014


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