Dear Blixa and Teho,
Since the beginning of this campaign, we have been pondering the fact that Blixa has made a film for television on the ex-Israeli musician and activist Dror Feiler, which is due to air on the Arte TV channel four days before Blixa’s own planned concert in Tel Aviv on 15 September.
It is commendable that this film will shine a light on Dror’s activities, which most significantly include his participation in several of the flotillas to break the Israeli government’s brutal siege of Gaza. However, Blixa’s planned concert in Tel Aviv, four days after the broadcast of this film, would completely negate any positive impact coming from it, and would amount to both an affirmation and amplification of Israeli propaganda. The proximity of the broadcast to Blixa’s scheduled breach of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) call inevitably gives the impression that the former in some way is expected to justify the latter. The Israeli government, by viewing “culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank”, has created a zero-sum game scenario, the iron logic of which allows for no ambiguity and can only be successfully opposed by a boycott. By weaponising culture itself, the Israeli government further compels artists to decide between providing it with further ammunition or refusing to be complicit in this. It is precisely for this reason that Palestinian civil society has called for a cultural boycott of Israel.
In addition, while the tension arising from the broadcast of the film and the breach of the boycott immediately afterwards appears to give rise to an interesting dialectic, this scenario is achieved at the expense of Palestinian suffering. It seems, therefore, that Blixa is instrumentalising Dror Feiler, but also, and more importantly, the wider political situation as a whole purely for effect. By the same process the Israeli government will be able to instrumentalise Blixa for its own propaganda aims. We wonder if Blixa feels comfortable being used by a state that employs culture as a weapon while also using physical weapons such as cluster bombs and white phosphorous against the Palestinian people, killing and maiming thousands.
Furthermore, artists should not think that in using their performances in Israel as a platform to criticise the state and its policies they are constructively contributing to the Palestinian cause. They are doing nothing of the sort, but rather they facilitate Israeli government in its propaganda by allowing it to portray itself as a democracy tolerant of criticism, when, in fact, this is not the case.
Nor is the argument valid that there are other states in breach of international law, the point is that the Palestinian people have called for a boycott, just as those struggling against South African apartheid did. All that is being asked of you is that you not cross the Palestinian picket line.
Even if there is no direct government involvement of funding in this particular gig, PACBI’s guidelines stipulate “In general, PACBI urges international cultural workers (e.g. artists, writers, filmmakers)… where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israel, its lobby groups or its cultural institutions, or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global cultural sphere.” And “It must be emphasized that a cultural product’s content or artistic merit is not relevant in determining whether or not it is boycottable.”
The reality is that for Israel any show that isn’t cancelled because of BDS appeals is considered a political victory over the Palestinian struggle and international solidarity with it. Hence any artist that’s been appealed to and refused to boycott is a win for Israel, in the view of the state.
Performing in Tel Aviv means playing for a segregated audience, on ethnically cleansed land, can you really see yourselves doing that?
For these reasons, we must repeat, with added emphasis, what so many international groups wrote to you in their first letter: “The call to boycott Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights was first made in 2005, by over 170 (now over 200) Palestinian civil society groups. The boycott is a non-violent tactic against oppressive state power. It would be extremely disappointing if artists of your stature chose to break this call for solidarity with the Palestinian people, particularly at a time when Israel is escalating its daily attacks on them.”
In all of this the plight of the Palestinians is once again pushed into the background and the foreground struggle becomes that of yet another high-profile western artist refusing to use their position of privilege to stand in solidarity with people who have only asked that they do no harm. Therefore we would like to conclude by quoting the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel’s letter to you:
“We are asking you to not side with the oppressor by performing in Tel Aviv 15th September. Don’t let your music normalize the racist brutality and the ethnic cleansing Palestinians suffer from day in day out under the control of the Israeli Apartheid regime. Instead, let your music stand on the right side of history. If you do so, you will look back with a clean conscience when the day arrives that we Palestinians are granted the same human rights as anyone else.”