Acclaimed feminist author, musician Joy Harjo lands in Tel Aviv to find boycott calls from Native American peers

Acclaimed poet, musician, author and playwright Joy Harjo landed in Tel Aviv today to find appeals from prominent American Indian and indigenous scholars and peers to pull out of a performance at Tel Aviv University scheduled for Monday.

Harjo posted early this morning on her Facebook page that she was boarding a flight to Tel Aviv, which alerted activists and colleagues about her trip.

“Joy is a valued friend and colleague, but I disagree with her decision to go to Tel Aviv to perform. I regret not reaching out to her sooner in this regard, which might have changed her mind,” Robert Warrior, Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told The Electronic Intifada.

Warrior, who is founding president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, has himself signed on to the call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

“I speak out publicly opposing the occupation whenever I get the chance,” Warrior said, “I have been to Palestine twice, and I was a student of Edward Said. Opposing the occupation is among my most important causes.”

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a member of the Mvskoke Nation (also known as Muskogee Creek), Joy Harjo has been nationally and internationally acclaimed for her cultural and political contributions, especially her feminist writing, dating back to the 1970s. She has received numerous awards for her work.

In the video above, Harjo performs, “I Give It Back: A Poem to Get Rid of Fear.”

Harjo unaware of boycott

Given that she was en route to Tel Aviv, Harjo had not responded to an email asking for comment, but soon after landing she posted this message on her Facebook page:

I didn’t know about the boycott until it was too late. My trip was posted here for a month. A person made it their campaign to question my integrity and notify others without speaking with me. I am a Mvskoke person living on occupied lands. I am in support of human rights. My music and poetry take me into the world to speak and sing a compassion that is still beyond me. I am learning yet. Mvto cehacares.

Harjo would have found, on her arrival, several messages including one from playright Ricardo Bracho, which he shared with The Electronic Intifada.

“Please cancel your Monday night event at Tel Aviv University. Do so to honor indigenous and anti-colonial practice and vision worldwide. Do so because Gaza is the world’s largest open air prison. Do so because Palestinians have no Right of Return to their homelands. Do so for the land, the poets, the grandmothers, the children,” Bracho wrote, concluding his note with a verse from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Under Siege.”

Bracho, a playwright, producer and dramaturge whose work has been produced nationwide, is currently the Multicultural Visiting Faculty Member at The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago.

“It’s not too late to cancel”

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, a Native Hawaiian activist, who is on the advisory board of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), told The Electronic Intifada that she “urgently wrote Joy Harjo at midnight once I’d learned she was on her way to perform at Tel Aviv University.”

“I know Joy Harjo stands for justice, healing, and decolonization, so I figured she was simply unaware of the international academic and cultural boycott of Israel,” said Kauanui, an associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University.

“I sent [Harjo] a personal appeal asking her to not cross the picket line called by Palestinian civil society, and outlined the nature of the campaign and its clear guidelines,” Kauanui said.

“Even though you’re already on the plane to Tel Aviv, it’s not too late to cancel Monday’s event at Tel Aviv University – to abide by the international academic and cultural boycott of Israel,” Kauanui’s message to Harjo read.

It also listed the names of almost two dozen Native American Studies Association members who have endorsed USACBI’s call to boycott israel.

Update: 8 December 2012

USACBI has launched a petition calling on Harjo to cancel her show in Tel Aviv.




In response to those saying its not too late to cancel, I would say it could well be quite an expensive move at this point. We should ask if those calling on her 'to do the right thing' are willing to help her with the financial burden. Sometimes I worry if we victimize potential allies by asking them to act in ways they can't afford. Of course this wouldn't apply to red hot chili peppers, or other huge successful groups, but regarding the poor artists.


It is NOT too late for her to cancel and it is not too late for her to ask those urging her to cancel to help bear the financial burden if there is one. I implore her to cancel !!!


Dear Joy,
Please cancel your Monday night event at Tel Aviv University. Do so to honor indigenous and anti-colonial practice and vision worldwide. Do so because Gaza is the world’s largest open air prison. Do so because Palestinians have no Right of Return to their homelands. Do so for the land, the poets, the grandmothers, the children.


Sometimes it is good for someone to go into the body of the state of those who would oppress, and speak directly to the ones in it who could, if they chose to try, to change, or begin to change, the oppressors in charge. Experiencing a good and wise heart in person can feed that change more directly. It can be worth the effort. It is known that the truest change comes from within. Seeds have to be planted in person into the place where they would grow. Mvto.


Durango, It would (possibly, theoretically) be good, if it were not in violation of a call for solidarity in the form of a boycott of Israeli institutions, until Israel comply with international law by ending its violation of the basic human rights of the Palestinian people. Additionally, in the case of Israel, those Israelis who would change their country's policies are actually in favor of boycott. So there is absolutely no excuse for this visit, no way to spin it as potentially productive.


If you look at the rubbish she wrote on her blog today to excuse why she is going to perform you will realise that she is nothing less than a closet Zionist, and therefore not a person to be trusted with the sensitive task of selling human rights to the people of the Israeli state.


Navajo Nation President to Visit Israel Nation
By: Rhianan Curley KTNN News Native Broadcast Enterprise

WINDOW ROCK, Arizona –At no cost to the Navajo Nation in a less than 24 hours Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and the first lady will be arriving in the nation of Israel to meet with government officials and learn more about their agriculture infrastructure.

According to Deswood Tom, Special Advisor to the President, several Navajo-faith based organizations with non-governmental ties have paid for a week-long excursion for Shelly and the first lady to travel to Israel to discuss and learn of the country’s advance agriculture technology, tourism setup, capital infrastructure and how government services are offered to rural areas throughout the country.

During their visit, Shelly and the first lady will tour agricultural farms near the Gaza strip to learn of the advanced technology of fertigation a process that uses drip irrigation in order to spread fertilizer to crops using less water than other farming methods.

At only 8,000 square miles in total land mass, the Israeli Nation can be compared to the Western Navajo Agency, deriving approximately 80%of crops form fertigation methods, yet exporting a mass majority of agriculture products to much of Eastern Europe and Russia.

In a landmark assembly, President Shelly will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the historic date December 12, 2012 (12/12/12).

According to Tom, Shelly will meet with the Prime Minister and begin dialogue on nation to nation relations and invite him to the Navajo Nation for future talks.

President and Mrs. Shelly are scheduled to depart from the Navajo Nation Friday, Dec. 07 and expected to return Dec. 15.


Please see this site ( and view a "Declaration by First Nations of America" standing as one with the "Chosen Ones of Israel."

Would like to see an extensive petition drive and educational campaign on this one asap.


I regret to see First Nation friendliness with Israel. They must certainly be aware that Israel was established by expelling its indigenous Palestinian population just as Europeans did to them. Even worse, dispossessed Palestinians have been prohibited from return or restoration as provided under international laws. And unlike native Americans, Palestinians remaining as Israeli citizens are denied basic rights of citizens given to Israeli Jews ( Native Americans are at least full citizens of the US. Another 5 million Palestinians live under brutal and degrading occupation and blockade by Israel (see, and Gaza is often referred to as a "reservation."

International laws were established in the post-WWII anti-colonial era precisely to prevent what was done to so many indigenous peoples, but have been ignored and violated wholesale by Israel with US protection under heavy influence by the Israel lobby. Are they unaware that Israel and its US lobby use our ethnic cleansing of Native Americans to legitimize their own ethnic cleansing? Therefore, any perceived Native American approval is VERY important to the Israeli and AIPAC propaganda campaigns. Native Americans are being USED to violate the most basic principles embedded in their own collective memory.

The worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign to force Israeli compliance with universal human rights and international law includes the entire Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of nations that have thrown off the colonial yoke of oppression shared by Native Americans and Palestinians alike. Native Americans have been the oppressed, not the oppressors, and Palestinians, not Israelis, are their natural spiritual and political brothers.

The "Nakba" ("catastrophe" in Arabic) suffered by Palestinians in 1948 and still continuing today with land confiscation, home bulldozing and military attacks has direct parallels with the Native American experience.


Please don't do this. Come home. If it's a matter of finding the way to pay for the plane ticket if the university was going to cover it, don't let that stop you from respecting the picket line. The movement will take care of you if you ask us to. Please just don't do this to the movement and most importantly, to the Palestinians living with an occupation which is all too familiar to you.


This article assumes to much and bases its news on facebook comments? Do you even know what group that brought her there? Her music and poetry bring peace. Tel Aviv University has Palestinian students who may be part of the audience too. Some people ganged up on her on her fb page and probably passed this on to you. The people she went there with are not for bombing and neither is she. More people supported her on her page than dissuaded her when she was already on the plane. Terrible when news is based solely on a few facebook commenters. Talk to her yourself. This is like gossip.


This isn’t personal, no one “ganged up” on her. Everything in the article is factual, and she is quoted. To say otherwise is what constitutes “gossip.” I wrote to Ms. Harjo and have received no response, but nonetheless made sure to include her statement from her FB page. I would still love to hear from her. The Palestinian boycott call is clear. If she decides not to heed it, that is her choice. But there’s no point making ad hoc arguments about her music and poetry bringing peace. Palestinians, as noted in the various linked declarations, did not ask for people to bring music and poetry to Tel Aviv University. They asked for a boycott.


Bravo to her for having the courage of conscience not to submit to the
tactics of the anti-israel groups herein and communicate to whomever
she pleases.


And every Native American should know that the founder of this aparteid Zhabotinski in his "Iron Wall" praised colonizers of Natives' land and equated Palestinians with the Natives. So, a Zionist hasbarist David E is praising the same people whom his hero Zhabotinski used to condemn for not being happy with genocide by settler colonialists.


communicate to whomever they please, and then Zionists blame BDS ( "tactics of the anti-israel groups") for not letting artists communicate to whomever they please.

BDS against aparteid Israel and down with the stupid hasbara

Alice Bach's picture

Tel Aviv University does have a minority of Palestinian students, but how many from the West Bank?  From Gaza?  None.  Perhaps Israeli Arabs are now identified as Palestinians.  But let us remember they have the ability to live and travel in Israel, oh that blue awiyah!  

The article assumes that any woman whose land and culture have been subsumed under that of an imperialist society should not salute the oppressors of others who share her pain of hushed-up identity.  Difficult not to agree with that point of view.

So long as the people of Tel Aviv live in security through the drones of their governemnt and their armed forces, they are not friends of the oppressed anywhere.  Let us not glamorize poetry and song.  Unless the poetry is about the horrors of imperialism and the eradication of indigenous people, it has nothing to do with Tel Aviv.

if she were performing  in Bethlehem or Ramallah, the audience would understand the plight of American indiginous people. In Tel Aviv it is a farce.


artist's political and citizen commitment is of first relevance; no excuse for indifference, no excuse for ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people!


It's tough to be a hardliner when there are no more "colonies," only vast cities outlined with poverty both here and there. Let her go there and speak if it's hearts and minds we are trying to reach. Christian tradition has been incorporated into our ways for a long time. I can not be a christian and we can not go back. Peace


You mean to tell me that this lady has been about peace for so many years but was unaware of the israeli-Palestinian situation? what planet has she been advocating for peace on?


I agree that long-time peace activists are unlikely to be unaware of BDS. I also agree that if Joy cancels, we should at least pay her airfare home, even if we can't afford to compensate her for whatever Tel Aviv Uni can pay for such good PR.

But I also think it might be a good idea to have her x-rayed on her return, just to be sure that she isn't bringing home any Israeli blood diamonds. Israel exports diamonds, but it has no diamond mines--the diamonds come from Africa and are usually blood diamonds.


According to this site this isn't a one-time performance by Joy Harjo. It says she is Tel Aviv University's Department of English and American Studies Writer-in-Residence this year.

That makes sense. They would have had to provide her with a residence because Israelis are very unlikely to be willing to rent to people of color.

There may be extenuating circumstances, such as if her only alternative would have been homelessness in the US, but judging from her resume, that seems unlikely. Right now it looks like a complete and total sell-out. She's certainly not the only Native American Zionist, but most of the others are openly right-wing and make no pretense of having progressive values..


The link shows a flyer for a November 19, 2012 performance by Joy Harjo at Tel Aviv University. Invited by the Yael Levin Writer-In-Residence Program.

Facebook page on the event: "We are sorry to inform you that Joy Harjo has decided to postpone her visit due to the security situation. The event will be rescheduled soon." Clearly she was aware of something.


You're quite right, it is a total sell-out. But what is particularly nauseating is her pretence on today's blog (stating that she is going to perform) that she supports the Palestinian cause. That is a deliberate deception and merely a smoke screen, since as she says at the start "The Jewish people consider these lands their homelands" but she cunningly says nothing about Palestinian rights to their own land.


It's not plausible that she would not have read up a little on a country where she was planning on being a writer in residence. So whether she knew about the boycott or not is irrelevant. She must haver known about the Nakba and the oppression. That should have been enough to keep her away


For those who say that it would be too expensive for her to cancel at this point: we could create a fund to compensate her losses, and I would personally be happy to contribute the most that I can to that fund. Individuals/groups who can reach her personally: please pass this message across. Thank you.


Elna, before we start an action to pay for her ticket back home, I prefer reading her explanations & clarifications. As the journalist says (not the poet): what did you know, and when did you know it?


Why worry about someone who lives in an intellectual cave performing in Tel Aviv? That is certainly where you'd have to be spending your time to be "unaware until midnight last night" that Palestinian civil society has implored humanity to engage in BDS. She'll perform and return to her cave. Then the nice (Zionist) TV producers will book her. The self promotion dividends of crossing this picket line extend far beyond the price of airfare, or the check Tel Aviv U is going to leave on the nightstand.


Time to call Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode who wil open "again" in Tel Aviv in March...he's well beyond your cave.


I would just like to say that people sell out for money and power quite often. Wether it's a Joy Harjo or a Barack Obama, there are many like them. Let's not trip, let's just continue the hard struggle of human liberation and let the enemy suffer the consequences.