BDS roundup: Yardbirds cancel Tel Aviv show; BDS activists urge two singers to do the same

Two superstar singers from Morocco and Mali, Hindi Zahra and Oumou Sangaré, respectively, have scheduled upcoming shows in Tel Aviv despite the ongoing Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid policies.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has posted public appeals from BDS groups pressuring Zahra and Sangaré to cancel their shows and respect the boycott call.

On 31 October, PACBI posted an article from al-Akhbar English that focused on the BDS campaign — including the Gaza-based Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel, who wrote an open letter — to encourage Zahra to cancel her show. The article stated:

Hindi Zahra (b.1979) was intensely criticized as soon as news emerged of her scheduled performances in Tel Aviv on November 11 and 12. Her fans in Morocco were shocked to learn that the Moroccan-French singer was performing in Israel. Cultural normalization with the Zionist state is still a red line for many Moroccans. They have always been critical of cultural festivals and events that take place in their country that include Israelis.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) wrote an open letter to Zahra demanding that she not perform in Tel Aviv. Her performance, they argue, would contribute to whitewashing the image of the Israeli occupation. Activists on twitter and Facebook launched a campaign calling on the artist to cancel her gig.

“Performing in Tel Aviv is an act of normalization with the Zionist entity’s apartheid policies and occupation of Palestinian territories,” activist Ishraq Maatouk wrote on twitter. She added, “Performing in Tel Aviv is supporting the ethnic cleansing policy, which has rendered the Palestinians refugees.” Many fans of Zahra, who is originally from Kharibka city, reminded her of Israeli crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

In their open letter, PACBI wrote, “How can you agree to entertain a state that practices occupation, apartheid and systematic ethnic cleansing, especially in occupied Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev), and that denies our refugees – who constitute the majority of our people – of their inalienable right to return to the homes from which they were exiled upon the establishment of the state of Israel on the ruins of our homeland?”

The letter continues, “We appeal to you as a human, a Moroccan, an Amazigh (Berber) to cancel your show in Tel Aviv, so as not to be used by Israel, as many others have been, to cover its violations of international law and human rights, and to avoid becoming, as a result, an accomplice in beautifying the crimes of the occupation state.”

In late September, PACBI also posted an appeal by the French BDS campaign to Malian singer Oumou Sangaré to cancel her concert, scheduled for 9 December. The Italian BDS campaign has also published an open letter to Sangaré, encouraging her to cancel her concert and respect the BDS call. The French appeal stated, in part:

We are surprised that you, who are so committed to the respect of human dignity, would give a concert in a country that has been violating international law for so many years.

Oumou Sangaré, you know that while hundreds of music lovers may enjoy your voice in Tel Aviv, there will be thousands of others who will be deprived of it, because they will be relegated behind a wall of separation. 

… Today, many artists have chosen not to perform in Israel until it changes its policy. Among the filmmakers, Ken Loach, Jean-Luc Godard, Meg Ryan, Dustin Hoffman or Mike Leigh; among the musicians, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Gorillaz, The Pixies, Massive Attack, Gilles Vigneault, Lhasa, Vanessa Paradis and others, have recently canceled their performances in various Israeli cities.

… Oumou Sangaré, we ask you to join the artists who are boycotting Israel as long as it does not respect international law, and therefore to cancel your concert at the Opera of Tel Aviv.

The Italian BDS campaign’s letter, sent by email to The Electronic Intifada, added:

It is with the understanding that Israel will continue its human rights violations as long as it enjoys impunity and is treated as a normal, civilized, democratic State, that we call on you to cancel your concert in Tel Aviv. Just as artists refused to perform in Sun City during the
boycotts of apartheid South Africa, we call on you to refuse to perform in Israel.

You once said, “I speak of the women of Africa and of the whole world. I fight for the improvement of women’s situation. So I sing her cause.” We ask you to continue singing for her cause, the mother, wife, sister and daughter, but not in the country whose very policies deny Palestinian women the rights you have fought so hard to defend.

As one of the few to have had the honor of performing at the ceremony for the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we simply cannot see you performing just a few kilometers away from where millions are suffering under oppression.

Please honor the Palestinian women who struggle to defend their rights, as well as your music, which has given hope to so many people, by cancelling your concert in Israel.


BDS victory: Yardbirds cancel show in Tel Aviv

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) announced on 25 October that UK rock legends Yardbirds decided to cancel their upcoming show that was scheduled for 29 October in response to BDS campaigners.

USACBI stated:

Many Yardbird fans are thrilled to hear that these British legends, famous for the unmatched single “For Your Love,” will not play in apartheid Israel.

… It comes with great applause that the Yardbirds have chosen to ride the “wave” supporting justice for the Palestinians via consumer boycotts, academic boycotts, and cultural boycotts.


Artists Against Apartheid: Boycott the Creative Community for Peace

PACBI also published an open letter by Artists Against Apartheid (AAA) to the global BDS activism and Palestine solidarity community, urging people to boycott the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), which they say is a “complicit propaganda institution seeking to normalize Israeli apartheid and strongarm entertainers into its service.”

AAA added:

Fearing encroaching pressure from the Palestinian led global BDS movement, CCFP has mobilized to counteract the cultural boycott of Israel, making itself a target of the human rights campaign in the process.

Capitalizing on ignorance, the CCFP proudly calls Israel “the only democracy in the region“ surrounded by states known for their human rights violations, while offering no solutions to any human rights violations anywhere in the Middle East. Of course CCFP does not acknowledge the human rights violations being carried out daily by the Israeli state throughout Palestine-Israel.

One of CCFP’s founders, Steve Schnur, wants artists to know “what Israel is really about – the freedom, the democracy and equal rights”, but CCFP does not acknowledge that more than 30 laws racially discriminate against Palestinians and anyone the state does not deem to be “Jewish”.

CCFP wishes to make the claim that “art transcends politics” but is engaged heavily in political propaganda on behalf of an apartheid state. The only artist known to be included in CCFP’s advisory board is Idan Raichel, a self-proclaimed cultural ambassador who stated: “We certainly see ourselves as ambassadors of Israel in the world, cultural ambassadors, hasbara ambassadors, also in regards to the political conflict.”


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).