Dear Tricky, dear Adrian,
It grieves me to learn of your scheduled gig in Israel set for 26 February 2015, at a time when Israel continues unabated with its colonial and apartheid designs to further massacre, oppress, dispossess and ultimately violate our very basic rights as Palestinians.
In 1948, Israel ethnically cleansed the Palestinian people from their land in order to systematically form an exclusivist Jewish state. It has since denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands. Palestinian refugees, scattered throughout the world and displaced inside their country, today constitute more than seven million people, which roughly corresponds to seventy percent of all living Palestinians.
In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid.
The movement calls for a boycott 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.” I wish, in my letter to you, to underscore the importance of this Palestinian call, urge you to cancel your appearance in Tel Aviv and stress the rationale for the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
In fact, I was struck — in a very powerful way — after reading the description on your website of your latest single, “My Palestine Girl:”
My Palestine Girl is the album’s heaviest and most political track. A relationship with a Paris-based Palestinian inspired Tricky to think about the challenges of a relationship with someone who lived in Gaza. “Imagine if the love of your life was there,” he says. “It’s a political thing to divide and rule. I’ve been to Israel. The kids I met don’t hate Palestinians. It’s a political thing.”
Reading your words, I’ve decided to write you very briefly, partly about life in Gaza, and partly in the hopes that you will open communication with me as a Palestinian woman in Gaza. Here, in Gaza, where I have been living all my life, we have been subjected to a criminal, inhumane and immoral siege since 2006.
The siege is considered illegal as it represents a form of collective punishment and entirely hampers the freedom of our movement and our access to the most life-saving services such as health and education. As part of this siege, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles, books, crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta and chocolate, but also musical instruments. We are literally caged inside this overcrowded, tormented and strangulated enclave, and face a very tight Israeli security cordon that has sharply restricted our movement in and out — including even international solidarity activists and cultural figures who try to reach the 1.8 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison.
The future becomes unimaginable and hope is hard to maintain. Could you sing for us in Gaza under these conditions, Adrian? Would the Israelis allow us to attend your show? The answer is an unequivocal no.
I have survived three Israeli assaults on Gaza between 2008 and 2014. Three of my relatives were martyred by Israel’s “precision-guided” missiles in the offensive of 2012. In the 51-day massacre in Gaza last summer, Israel ferociously slaughtered more than 2,300 people — wiping out entire families and leaving more than 1,500 of Gaza’s children orphaned — not to mention the hundreds of injured civilians who are now suffering long-life disabilities. Ten thousand Gaza residents are still sleeping on the floors of United Nations-run schools. Many more mothers with their siblings are surviving the heavy winter storms in makeshift shelters or huddling in their bombed-out houses with no heating or running water. All told, 100,000 people remain homeless.
In the wake of this assault — just the latest episode of the long history of Israel’s atrocities — and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy. Arts and culture play a unique role in this branding campaign, 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 it should not be business as normal with a state that routinely violates international law and basic human rights.
Your performance would certainly serve this Israeli campaign to rebrand itself and will be used as a publicity tool by the Israeli government. “It’s a political thing,” as you say.
Please don’t be persuaded by the argument that music builds bridges and can bring smiles to people’s faces, thus ultimately spreading peace! We hear no music here, but buzzing drones, bombs and F16s! Again, “It’s a political thing.” And this is why I am convinced of the importance of artists’ public stances backing the cultural boycott of Israel since it applies the continual pressure that’s needed. Many prominent international cultural figures and artists, including John Berger, Ken Loach, Arundhati Roy, Roger Waters, Sting, Snoop Dog, among others, have also heeded our call and cancelled their participation in festivals or gigs in Israel. Recently, more than 900 influential British artists have signed on to a cultural boycott of Israel.
I wholeheartedly urge you not to turn a blind eye to the realities of Israeli apartheid and to heed our call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it recognizes Palestinian rights and fully complies with international law.
As these words are penned, I have no electricity and the only source of light I have is that of the laptop screen. My heart is truly broken for all the undignified suffering we are witnessing and for being confined and unable to smell the air of freedom like other human beings. The deprivation of our basic rights under the siege has not only been physical but also mental, cultural and psychological. Under a siege, life is reduced to existence or survival as we are dying slowly without medicine, adequate food and electricity and cooking gas. Culture stagnates as there are no resources or mental space for anything beyond the mundane — even to engage in an artistic and cultural discussion is a luxury for people living in Gaza.
Performing in Tel Aviv today is similar to performing in apartheid South Africa’s Sun City. If you are not convinced, I urge you to come and see for yourself if you are lucky enough for the Israelis to allow you into Gaza. This is not about the kids in Israel; this is about the political and cultural institutions that you legitimize by performing there, and about the Palestinian kids (and people) whose voice you silence by ignoring their call for solidarity through boycott.
Please think through Israel’s abhorrent trespasses and say no to performing in Israel.
From besieged and occupied Gaza, Ayah Bashir