BDS roundup: mounting calls on Alicia Keys to cancel Israel show

In this latest roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement:

  • Palestinians, international activists continue to pressure Alicia Keys to cancel Israel show
  • African American scholars, activists affirm Jim Crow analogy in Palestine
  • Methodist regional bodies vote to divest from US companies involved in Israel’s occupation
  • Protesters call attention to former US ambassador’s ties to Caterpillar during his commencement speech at University of Washington

Sustained pressure on Alicia Keys

- Worldwide: Despite calls by high-profile activists such as Alice Walker and Roger Waters to cancel her show, despite a petition signed by more than 15,000 people around the globe, and despite sustained campaign efforts by Palestinians and international solidarity activists, US singer-songwriter Alicia Keys has ostensibly chosen to cross the international picket line and said she is committed to performing in Tel Aviv on Thursday, 4 July.

As The Electronic Intifada previously reported, organizational appeals, a Facebook group and a petition — with nearly 16,000 signatories — have been initiated by boycott activists asking Keys to cancel her show.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation released a statement on 2 July highlighting various actions in which activists are still taking part. The group stated:

Given Alicia’s important work for children affected with HIV, Defence for Children International Palestine wrote to her explaining how Israel mistreats Palestinian children and why she as a children’s rights advocate should also stand up for Palestinian kids. The US Campaign’s letter to Keys, which was endorsed by more than 50 organizations across the country, urged her to respect the boycott so Israel does not use her decision to whitewash its oppression of Palestinians.

More than 15,500 people have signed the petition asking her to cancel, which was delivered last month to the New York office of her charity Keep a Child Alive by US Campaign Steering Committee member Andrew Kadi and others. Several media outlets have already covered the campaign including MSNBC’s The Grio, USA Today, and BET.

Alicia’s response so far has been: “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.”

Let her know that due to Israeli oppression and restrictions, the vast majority of Palestinians will be unable to join her in Tel Aviv as part of her efforts to unify audiences.

In a press release, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) added that the delegation of Palestinian-Americans, who represented coalitions of more than 500 US organizations and delivered the petition on 11 June, met with staff at Alicia Keys’ organization “who explained that they were aware of the ongoing efforts to encourage Keys’ cancellation.”

USACBI added:

Delegates passed along materials that included details of the global boycott campaign and reports from rights organizations documenting Israel’s violation of Palestinian children rights, which they confirmed Keep a Child Alive’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Twyman, received.

Andrew Kadi of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, who delivered the petition explained, “We assume Alicia Keys wasn’t familiar with Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights, when scheduling, because her performance is legitimizing a country that systematically undermines her nonprofit’s mission, that ‘every person has the right to health care and that all children deserve a future.’ Israel routinely denies Palestinians health care and systematically destroys the futures of Palestinian children, denying their rights to education and health care, and regularly arresting Palestinian children and then torturing the vast majority of them, according to a report we left for her from Defence for Children International Palestine.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian, Israeli and international activists have been recording video testimonies urging the singer to cancel her show and respect the boycott call. So far, two dozen videos have been posted to the Facebook group “Alicia Keys: Don’t Be Fallin’ For Apartheid, Cancel Israel.” Here are two of the videos:

Israeli activists with the Boycott From Within campaign have also released an open letter urging Keys to cancel her show.

In related news, USACBI stated on 26 June that Alicia Keys’ legal team took action to remove a popular YouTube video produced by Palestinian activists and which showed Palestinian women protesting Israel’s military occupation to the tune of Keys’ song “This Girl Is on Fire.”

YouTube stated that the video was removed due to a claim by “Alicia Keys c/o Ziffren Brittenheim LLP” of “copyright infringement.”

USACBI added:

Rana Hamadeh, a Palestinian protester featured at the beginning of the removed video standing atop an Israeli military vehicle waving a Palestinian flag (video from that protest), explained, “It is enough that we face physical and emotional violence and restrictions on our daily lives. But now we are also being silenced on the internet. I think if Alicia Keys understood the call to boycott, she would agree to honor it. She said that music ‘is meant to unify audiences in peace and love.’ Emulating South Africa’s successful anti-apartheid boycott movement, the Palestinian boycott campaign will ultimately bring about peace and unify our land in a way that playing a concert on stolen land certainly won’t.”

She added “Alicia Keys should protect Palestinian children’s rights, and listen to the message from Palestinian women, rather than silencing them.”

The makers of the video also expressed dismay at Keys’ removal of the empowering video. A number of videos that include the music and lyrics from “This Girl Is On Fire” have not been removed from Youtube.

Affirming the Jim Crow analogy

- US: Sparked by a media storm over Alice Walker’s open letter to Alicia Keys in late May, a coalition of African American scholars, activists, writers, journalists and social critics have penned a letter standing by Walker’s analogy “between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the Jim Crow segregation in the United States that many of us experienced, and struggled against through the civil rights movement.”

The letter was posted to the website for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation on 1 July, and reads, in full:

On May 29th, novelist Alice Walker issued an open letter calling upon Alicia Keys to cancel her scheduled concert in Israel. The letter has created an immense stir, as those who wish to ignore the situation facing the Palestinians hasten to draw a false wall between the experiences of African Americans under Jim Crow and Palestinians today, attacking Alice Walker’s person in the process, in major media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the Daily News and the New York Post. In signing this letter, we affirm the accuracy of parallels drawn between the experience of African Americans in the U.S. under Jim Crow and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The reality of the Palestinian situation is nothing short of horrendous. Israel has refused to comply with United Nations resolutions calling for a withdrawal to the Green Line of 1967; no recognition has been given by Israel of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, in clear violation of international law and precedent; Palestinian land has been consistently seized by the Israeli government since 1948, often under the false pretense of security reasons; Palestinian citizens of Israel face de facto and de jure discrimination, including several dozen laws discriminating against them, and inferior education resources; a so-called separation wall has—again in violation of international law—been established through and around Palestinian lands.

The list of the discriminatory treatment Palestinians face, which fits the definition under international law of “the crime of apartheid,” seems endless. UN Special Rapporteur and South African John Dugard made comparisons between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and apartheid in a 2007 report, as has famed South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who traveled the world advocating for a boycott of South Africa under apartheid. More recently the former South African ambassador to Israel sent a letter condemning Israel for its “replication of apartheid.” A 2012 report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, while also drawing attention to conventions on apartheid, framed Israel’s treatment of both its Palestinian citizens, and those living under military rule in the occupied territories, in terms of segregation and racial discrimination.

We stand against bigotry and racism in all their forms, and wish to express that the treatment Palestinians face shares much in common with what African Americans experienced under Jim Crow segregation in the USA. Apartheid is not a system limited to South Africa between 1948-1994. Apartheid was established as a universal crime by the international community in 1973 and again in 2002. but it is a system whose origins can be found in Jim Crow segregation and in settler colonies established by Europe around the world.

We stand by Alice Walker’s analogy between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the Jim Crow segregation in the United States that many of us experienced, and struggled against through the civil rights movement. It is therefore no surprise to us, that, in response to Israel’s systematic discrimination, our acclaimed sister Alice Walker has urged Ms. Keys to employ the time-honored, peaceful method of boycott and to cancel her upcoming concert in Israel.

A full list of signatories can be found here

Methodist regional bodies divest

- US: A total of nine United Methodist regional conferences, representing thousands of churches, have divested from US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.

On 20 June, the United Methodist Kairos Response issued a press release stating that “four annual or regional conferences in New England, Minnesota, Pacific Northwest and Upper New York have voted this month to divest or have their funds divested from companies involved with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”

The four regional conferences join five others — West Ohio, New York, Northern Illinois, California Nevada and California Pacific — which have already voted in favor of divestment.

The United Methodist Kairos Response adds:

The companies targeted in the recent resolutions included Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard and, in Minnesota, General Electric. All play significant roles in the occupation.

In addition, at least five other conferences have asked the denomination’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to divest its holdings in companies that profit from the occupation. Two more conferences, Susquehanna and Eastern Pennsylvania, established official task forces this month to examine the issue.

As United Methodists learn about Israel’s land confiscation, home demolitions, and the segregated systems of transportation, water, and laws that discriminate against Christians and Muslims, there is a strong sense that the church must act. Palestinian Christians have called on churches around the world to help end the occupation of their land.

According to John Wagner of United Methodist Kairos Response, “Our denomination has a long history of upholding human rights around the world. The question now is whether we will bring the same resolve to the situation in the Holy Land, where our fellow Christians have asked for our help.”

Protest of former US ambassador’s ties to Caterpillar

Israeli occupation forces use a Caterpillar bulldozer to destroy a Palestinian home in the al-Tur neighborhood in Jerusalem, May 2013. 

Sliman Khader APA images

- Seattle, Washington: Palestine solidarity activists gathered outside the commencement ceremony at the University of Washington on 15 June to hand out fliers calling attention to the commencement speaker’s ties to Caterpillar.

The speaker, former US Ambassador Jon Huntsman, is on the board of Caterpillar Inc., whose bulldozers and other construction vehicles are used by the Israeli military to demolish Palestinian homes and destroy agricultural land. Rachel Corrie, a college student from Olympia, Washington, was crushed to death by a militarized Caterpillar D9 bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003. She was attempting to defend a Palestinian family’s home from imminent demolition by the Israeli army.

In a news report by KIRO-7 TV in Seattle, activist Amin Odeh said that the protesters’ demands include having Huntsman meet with the Rachel Corrie Foundation and stop selling bulldozers to the Israeli military.

Odeh added in a written article accompanying the television report, “For someone who lived there for half my life, I’ve seen a Caterpillar bulldozer used by the Israeli army to destroy homes, to destroy farms, destroy hopes for Palestinian people for a better future.”

More recent BDS news from our Activism and BDS Beat blog:




I agree with Alicia Keys that music (and art in general) has a way of unifying people. This may bring more good and allow more eyes and hearts to be opened so that Israelis and Palestinians may one day see each other as friends rather than enemies.


The white South Africans used to say that about the sporting boycott of their apartheid regime, the ANC and the Black population replied that this was rubbish as the whites had no intention of " one day see each other as friends rather than enemies." Historians generally agree that the boycott movement contributed towards the ostracization of the white South African regime which eventually bought about it's downfall.

The same applies to the current government in Israel, they have no intention whatsoever of allowing,condoning, advocating, friendship between Israelis and Palestinians, one only has to read the racist comments of prominent Rabbis supporting Netanyahu to understand that;

The BDS movement is slowly focusing world attention on the barbaric practices of Israel towards it's Palestinian neighbours and eventually it will succeed. When it does those who were supporting the apartheid policies either by condemning BDS outright or suggesting it is not necessary / ineffective will no doubt deny ever having done so. !


There should be no tug-o-war with artists in politics. They should be able to perform wherever they choose without any retributions or aggravation by activists or political groups. I don't see how her not performing there could help anything but by performing there she is bringing her music to some people who love and want to see and hear her. Seems like a good thing to me.


'Holocaust Encyclopedia'

"Having rejected a proposed boycott of the 1936 Olympics, the United States and other western democracies missed the opportunity to take a stand that—some observers at the time claimed—might have given Hitler pause and bolstered international resistance to Nazi tyranny."

"Judge Jeremiah Mahoney, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, led efforts to boycott the 1936 Olympics, ........In his view, participation would indicate an endorsement of Hitler's Reich."

"The Catholic journal The Commonweal (November 8, 1935) advised boycotting an Olympics ......."

"Individual Jewish athletes from a number of countries also chose to boycott the Berlin Olympics. In the United States, some Jewish athletes and Jewish organiztions like the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee supported a boycott of the Berlin Games"

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).