PACBI Statement

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Now is not the Time to Perform in Israel

August 1, 2012
It is with great disappointment that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned of your scheduled performance in Israel set for September 10, 2012 [1].  We write to add our voice to the many appeals that you must surely have read by now.  We had hoped that the international solidarity, with letters from India, Lebanon, Italy, Israel and the US, not to mention individuals who have appealed to you both publicly and p
It is with great disappointment that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned of your scheduled performance in Israel set for September 10, 2012 [1].  We write to add our voice to the many appeals that you must surely have read by now.  We had hoped that the international solidarity, with letters from India, Lebanon, Italy, Israel and the US, not to mention individuals who have appealed to you both publicly and privately, would have convinced you that your future performance in Israel is not well conceived.  We hope that a personal appeal from us, a campaign that enjoys overwhelming consensus amongst Palestinian civil society, will convince you otherwise.   
We understand that one of your former band members, Hillel Slovak (May he Rest in Peace) was Israeli.  We cannot begin to assume his political positions, whether or not he would still want you to play in Israel, and how his views may have changed over the years.  It would be disrespectful of us to pretend to know how the deceased might act today.  All we can ask is for you to understand for yourselves Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, and to postpone your performance until a time when Israel does not practice colonialism, occupation and apartheid.  Playing in Israel to honor your friend and former band member would be a decent act, but not when it comes at the expense of our people’s struggle for freedom, justice and equality.  There is a time and place for everything.
Today, Palestinian civil society groups are 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 [2].  Palestinian civil society is asking this of you as the most essential contribution to their struggle to achieve peace and justice.
The argument that artists often use, and one that you might perhaps still believe in, is that music builds bridges and can bring smiles to people’s faces, thus hopefully spreading a message of peace.  However, in light of a global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which by now you must be aware of, your message on stage will come as a blow to our people’s movement (see below for a brief history of our campaign).  Our struggle demands messages of solidarity and acts of protest, not hollow messages of peace; it is this that we hope you will understand.  We believed you would because we know you are an ethical and politically mindful band who has stood up for social and political injustices.  Moreover, your message on stage will be drowned by Israel’s well-oiled publicity that will use you to rebrand itself as a normal state that promotes music and culture [3]
If you remain unconvinced because of claims that a cultural boycott of Israel may infringe on freedom of expression and cultural exchange, 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. [4]
The growing strength of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has led to serious counterattack by the Israeli state and related Zionist organizations.  In Israel, an anti-BDS law was passed last year that would ban support for BDS as well as for partial boycotts targeting Israel or any of its complicit institutions [5]; we hope this law has not been used against you if you have even considered supporting the Palestinian civil society appeal.  Outside Israel, Zionist organizations have begun to fund programs to counter our movement.  In a further show of the effectiveness of the BDS movement, support has begun to come from unexpected circles such as the Israeli Ex-Foreign Minister Alon Liel, who most recently expressed that cultural boycott “is needed,” and wrote that he “can understand the desire, by people of conscience, to reassert an agenda of justice, to remind Israelis that Palestinians exist,” and that he “can understand small but symbolic acts of protest that hold a mirror up to Israeli society.” [6]
In refusing to publish her book with an Israeli publisher, Alice Walker recently invoked her own brave boycott of apartheid South Africa.  She wrote of how she decided to wait to bring her works to the people of South Africa, believing “deeply in non-violent methods of social change though they sometimes seem to take forever.”  Her waiting paid off, and she was so happy that after the downfall of that regime she was able to share her work.  In relation to Israel, she concluded:
I would so like knowing my books are read by the people of your country, especially by the young, and by the brave Israeli activists (Jewish and Palestinian) for justice and peace I have had the joy of working beside.  I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen.  But now is not the time.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, one day, you may come to perform in this land, and we will all welcome you with open arms.  One day you may come and bring smiles to all our faces, but that day has not come yet.  Stand with Alice Walker, with Gil Scott Heron, with Elvis Costello, with Roger Waters, and with many others, and tell Israel that now is not the time.
In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, PACBI issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid [7].  The 2004 Palestinian call appealed to international artists to refuse to perform in Israel or participate in events that serve to equate the occupier and the occupied [8]and thus contribute to the continuation of injustice.  Following this, in 2005, an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing BDS campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality [9].  The BDS movement adopts a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights standards as other nations. It is asking artists to heed the boycott call until “Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid." [10]
Israel subjects Palestinians to a cruel system of dispossession and racial discrimination
Perhaps you are not familiar enough with Israel’s practices, widely acknowledged as violations of international law. If this is the case, then we hope you will reconsider your planned concert after thinking through some of Israel’s trespasses.  Your performance would function as a whitewash of these practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual. Concretely, Israel routinely violates Palestinians’ basic human rights in some of the following ways:
  1. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live under a brutal and unlawful military occupation.  Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank.  All the while, Israel continues to build its illegal wall on Palestinian land and to support the ever-expanding network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements that divide the West Bank into Bantustans.
  1. Palestinian citizens of Israel face a growing system of Apartheid within Israel‘s borders, with laws and policies that deny them the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy.  These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people‘s daily lives. In many ways this system strikingly resembles Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa.
  1. Since 1948, when Israel dispossessed more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form an exclusivist Jewish state, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands.  Israel also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev).  Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees still struggling for their right to return to their homes, like all refugees around the world.
  1. In Gaza, Palestinians have been subjected to a criminal and immoral siege since 2006.  As part of this siege, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles, books, crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee and chocolate, but also musical instruments from reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison [11].
Could you possibly perform in such a state with a clear conscience?


August 1, 2012


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