OPEN LETTER to Oumou Sangaré…Don’t close your eyes to torment

Dear Oumou Sangaré,

In 2005 Palestinian civil society, almost unanimously, called for international artists to refuse to perform in Israel as part of the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign which is a non-violent method of holding Israel accountable to standards of equality and human rights that nations such as ours are accustomed to. If you perform in Israel it will be a rejection of that appeal made not just by the Palestinian BDS movement, but by the Global BDS movement.

When you booked your concert in Israel, you probably did not think about the siege of Gaza or the Israeli carpet bombing of the Strip with white phosphorous and other brutal weapons resulting in the death of over 1,400 Palestinians, over 300 of them children, as well as the maiming of thousands.

As a typical piece of Israeli propaganda, people are led into meeting the needs of Israelis and concentrating on the Israeli sufferings, while ignoring the much greater sufferings imposed by Israel, which forces millions of Palestinians into living as refugees and in destitution. The boycott is about turning away from the policy of appeasement of the oppressor and of standing in solidarity with the oppressed.

The campaign asking you to cancel your concert has no intention to hurt or embarrass you, however, there was great pain and dismay among many of your fans when they heard you chose to entertain the state that inflicted the slaughter of so many children in Gaza.  Oumou Sangaré, many of your songs denounce violence against women.  The pain Israel inflicts on Palestinian women and children is well represented in children’s artwork and in the piece of artwork entitled “Torment” by Najah.  See
http://boycott-israel-harp-contest.posterous.com/palestinian-art-depicts-womans-childrens-suff

All artists objecting to the Israeli regime’s actions have justified their booked performances in Israel as acts of support for the Israeli “peaceniks.”  Recently, another performing musician, Natacha Atlas, wrote:
“I had an idea that performing in Israel would have been a unique opportunity to encourage and support my fans’ opposition to the current government’s actions and policies. I would have personally asked my Israeli fans face-to-face to fight this apartheid with peace in their hearts…”
Natacha Atlas then confirmed that she decided to cancel, explaining:
“after much deliberation I now see that it would be more effective a statement to not go to Israel until this systemised apartheid is abolished once and for all. Therefore I publicly retract my well-intentioned decision to go and perform in Israel…”
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Natacha-Atlas-Official/125501987488351

Some of the artists who initially breached the boycott and performed in Israel, believing they would be supporting justice by appeasing so called Israeli “peaceniks,”  now wholeheartedly support the cultural boycott.
For example, Roger Waters breached the boycott, then changed his position and later wrote:
“Where governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For me this means declaring an intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s policies, by joining the campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.  This is [however] a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.
Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa’s Sun City resort until apartheid fell and white people and black people enjoyed equal rights. And we are right to refuse to play in Israel.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/11/cultural-boycott-west-bank-wall

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has this view:
“International Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory … 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 … to perform in Israel“.
Oumou Sangaré, your association promotes freedom, justice, and the rights of children and women around the world.  For this reason, we feel you are a musician of integrity, and we hope you will also support the oppressed Palestinians. We know you may have felt the pain of Gaza when Israel pounded it with thousands of tons of explosives. You would know that children in Gaza are not just children.  As in the heartbreaking short film: “One Family in Gaza”, the children do play in the rubble of their house, but their little souls cannot escape the trauma of being shot at and seeing their home bombed and their brother repeatedly shot, even after his death.   Jen Marlowe, made this film showing the children play, she doesn’t show the bombing, but lets their loving parents speak of their anguish:

The Israeli state has a multi-million dollar hasbara [the Hebrew equivalent to propaganda] and thousands of recruits to propagate the hasbara, especially targeting social networks. The Israeli promoters who bring the artists were even invited to the Israeli Knesset to discuss the anti-boycott campaign and the Israeli regime agreed on financial support to those who bring artists from abroad. Israeli ministers have stated the significance of culture in whitewashing the Israel I crimes [though they used different wording but we are happy to send you the quotes].

You don’t need us to tell you how mainstream media in France has been in denial of the Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, starting from the Nakba in 1948, through the current apartheid and racism.
Occasionally we get a big boost to our campaign, when artists choose to make a statement in the media, such as Massive Attack on  http://www.newstatesman.com/music/2010/09/israel-interview-boycott-naja
Similarly, when Elvis Costello posted his message on his own website the international and Israeli media published it widely.

Against the massive well oiled Israeli hasbara, all we have is the public sphere, such as blogging and social networks like Facebook. This is how we inform artists like yourself about the boycott. This is how we spread the word of the BDS to all people concerned with human rights.
In honor of Palestinian woman’s rights,  freedom, justice and the rights of innocent children like the dear ones in Jen Marlowe’s film, please refrain from performing in Israel.
Sincerely,

Don’t Play Apartheid Israel

We are a group, of 780 members, representing many nations around the globe, who believe that it is essential for musicians & other artists to heed the call of the PACBI, and join in the boycott of Israel. This is essential in order to work towards justice for the Palestinian people under occupation, and also in refugee camps and in the diaspora throughout the world.

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