BDS roundup: Zakir Hussain cancels performances in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

In this week’s roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement: Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain cancels his performances following appeals by BDS campaigners in India and Palestine; boycott activists in the Middle East urge Cirque du Soleil to cancel their show in Israel; Punks Against Apartheid appeal to the Red Hot Chili Peppers not to cross the picket line; Gaza families demand that the British Queen remove a blood diamond display in Tower of London; and student activists in Gaza seek to expand their solidarity and strategies with international students.

Zakir Hussain, prominent Indian musician, cancels Tel Aviv and Jerusalem performances

Following appeals by Indian and Palestinian BDS campaigners, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain announced that he was canceling his upcoming shows in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The performances were scheduled for next month.

Two weeks ago, INCACBI, the Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, wrote a letter to Hussain — a leading performer and composer of traditional and contemporary Indian music — appealing to him to cancel his scheduled shows. Their letter, which was signed by more than 85 Indian artists and musicians, stated:

Doing otherwise would inadvertently lend a stamp of approval to Israeli policies of colonialism, apartheid and occupation. Should Israel be admitted into the global cultural arena when it does not respect international law and recognize the Palestinian people s right to freedom, equality and justice? At a time when the international movement to isolate Israel is gaining ground in response to the escalation of Israel’s colonial and racist policies, we urge you to reflect upon the ethical implications of your accepting an invitation to perform in Israel. Your performance in Israel would help whitewash Israel’s practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual.

The group also noted that Hussain played in Ramallah at a benefit for Palestinian refugee children in February, performing with the group Remember Shakti. INCACBI added:

In addition to your music, this is what we admire you for. So please don’t let your wonderful music be used to legitimize home demolitions, illegal raids, the use of white phosphorous, political and child imprisonments, racist marriage bans, piracy and execution in international waters, collective punishment, Occupation, checkpoints, roadblocks, and the bombing and closing of educational institutions. If you cancel your performance in Israel, you will also be encouraging other artists to follow your lead. And your fans all over the world will know you stand for justice and an end to apartheid.

On 11 June, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Hussain had canceled his performances. In the article, Hussain’s managers stated that “he encountered strong objections to his visit to Israel, which manifested themselves in personal requests and an Internet petition that garnered signatures from more than 85 Indian artists.” Haaretz added the unsubstantiated, unattributed allegation that “the reason given was fear for the personal security of Hussain and his musicians, due to tension in the region.”

Nevertheless, INCACBI and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) both issued strong statements of support and gratitude to Hussain for respecting the BDS call.

INCACBI posted on its website that:

The members of INCACBI and all your Indian fans are so glad to hear you have cancelled your performance in Israel scheduled for July 2012.

No artist can create or perform without paying attention to the injustice in the world around him, or the bravery of people’s struggles such as the one in Palestine. As someone who makes wonderful music, we are happy you have remembered this.

We do hope you will join INCACBI ( and show the way to other Indian artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers to speak up for a just peace in Palestine and an end to apartheid.

We would also like to add a postscript: rumours from Israel that Palestinians were going to be invited to the concert and given entry permits to attend should be treated with the contempt they deserve. Such familiar public relations stunts — attempted most recently during Madonna’s visit to Israel — only underlines the fact that the Israeli government uses Palestinians to whitewash its crimes.

In their letter, PACBI added that:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) would like to applaud and thank the world-class musician, Zakir Hussain, for canceling his performance in Israel. Hussain’s cancellation, coming on the heels of similar cancellations by Cassandra Wilson [and] Cat Power, among other international celebrities, has rattled the Israeli establishment and triggered even wider debate on the fast growth of BDS, particularly in the cultural domain, and its direct connection to Israel’s intensifying crimes against the Palestinians.

… We thank Hussain for his courage and hope that one day in the near future he will more vocally support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel, as a morally consistent and peaceful form of resistance supported by the majority of Palestinian civil society institutions. We also wish to thank the great efforts by the Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (INCACBI) for appealing directly to Hussain and taking persistently working towards the freedom, equality and justice of the Palestinian people. The solidarity of the Indian people is a key component to our struggle.

Finally, we want to recognize the efforts of Palestinians who had themselves contacted Hussain and brought this issue to our attention. These individuals who will remain anonymous have been an instrumental part of the consistent growth of the BDS movement.

Punks Against Apartheid issue appeal to Red Hot Chili Peppers to cancel their scheduled gig in Tel Aviv

As part of the ongoing — and growing — international appeal to the Los Angeles-based rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers to respect the BDS call and shelve their performance in Tel Aviv this fall, activists with Punks Against Apartheid issued their own open letter to the band.

PAA was at the forefront of the successful campaign to urge punk legend Jello Biafra to cancel his gig in Israel last year.

PAA’s letter states, in part:

We, Punks Against Apartheid, are writing you to urge that you cancel your show in Tel Aviv in September. We do so as artists, activists, musicians, and people who place themselves in the strong anti-racist tradition that formed punk and which keeps it relevant today.

… [W]hile some in the mainstream may have forgotten this history — scratching their heads at why a bunch of no-good punks would bother with a band as commercial as RHCP — we have not, and we intend to remind you and your fans of these roots. Because your proximity to punk as a band should have put you in touch with the best tendencies of rebel music, of music as a form of resistant community–and that is something to be cherished, not to be rejected by playing in Israel. By doing so, you would be, in the words of the Israeli group Boycott from Within, serving “the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes and creating an image of Israel as a “modern state”.

It is for this reason that we were saddened and disappointed to hear of your announced show in Israel. We would have thought that RHCP would be aware of the pressing issues of racism and war in today’s world, something no one — especially punks — could miss. We would have thought that your experience in the scene that catapulted you to fame, a scene known for its strong principles and solidarity with struggles worldwide, would have been aware that Israel’s intention in making such a big deal about your gig is part of a cool, calculating game to cover up its crimes against Palestinians.

… It will remain to be seen whether or not the fame and commercialization RHCP has goten over the years has completely wiped out any integrity you ever had, or if there are still punks beneath the flashy lacquer.

We ask you this as fellow punks, from a scene that, rather than being dead, is becoming a threat again! Maybe not on the national scene, but in our small communities we are building–and what is more true to punk’s origins than local, vibrant DIY-scenes, everywhere from Chicago to Indonesia? Take a second to honor these scenes and the grassroots, political resistance they represent and say no to playing in September.

Cirque du Soleil’s scheduled performance in Tel Aviv inspires BDS campaigns in the Middle East

Upon learning that acclaimed Canadian acrobats and circus arts performers of Cirque du Soleil have scheduled a performance in Tel Aviv, BDS activists in Jordan and Qatar have initiated boycott campaigns calling on Cirque du Soleil to cancel.

This week, activists with Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalization have sent out an action alert and are circulating a petition encouraging the circus to respect the BDS call.

QAYON stated on 7 June that:

Doha has a rich history in welcoming and advocating arts and cultural exchange, but the choice by Cirque du Soleil to perform in Israel is tantamount to condoning the policies of an apartheid state. As people of conscience we are writing to ask you to respect the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

This week, PACBI has also written a letter appealing to them to cancel.

PACBI’s statement reads, in part:

It is with great disappointment that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned of your scheduled performance in Tel Aviv which opens on August 8th, 2012. Given that Israel is involved in grave violations of international law and human rights we urge you to cancel this performance until the time comes when Israel is in compliance with its obligations under international law and fully respects Palestinian rights.

You note on your website that your performance titled ‘Allegria’ (Jubilation) is a baroque ode to the energy, grace and power of youth. Yet, by performing in Israel, you are placing this ode and energy in the service of Israeli colonization and apartheid, which brings sorrow and misery to the Palestinian people. Moreover, it is both cynical and hard to believe that a group such as yours, that is so dedicated to global citizenship and social involvement would stand against the wishes of a people’s movement for citizenship, freedom, equality and justice. It is for this reason that we appeal to you to reconsider your performance.

… Your performance in Israel would constitute a rejection of the appeal from over 170 civil society organizations that comprise the Palestinian BDS movement.

Meanwhile, the cultural boycott activism blog Refrain Playing Israel reported on Tuesday that a charity in Jordan returned 30 free tickets it was given by Cirque du Soleil.

Refrain Playing Israel noted that:

The Jordan Times announced in May that Cirque du Soleil would be performing in Amman. Friends of Jordan Festivals (FJF) approached charity societies, inviting them to buy tickets and provide them to underprivileged children for free, and one organization in Jordan has decided to reject an offer of 30 free tickets to the upcoming show in Amman.

Dr. Momen Hadidi (Director of the National Center for Forensic Medicine) and Head of the Jordanian team for Family Protection Project, a society for the protection of victims of domestic violence, became aware of Cirque du Soleil’s intention to entertain apartheid Israel, and the ongoing campaign to ask Cirque du Soleil to cancel their shows in Israel. The 30 free tickets his organization had been given were then returned.

The Jordan campaign to ask Cirque du Soleil to respect the boycott said:

“We thank Dr. Hadidi for this wonderful position on this and we call on all societies and institutions that were given the free tickets to go back and take a clear position against the normalization of apartheid.”

Other businesses who do not wish to go public have also returned tickets. Many individuals are also reportedly cancelling their bookings, according to Majd Muhsen in Amman.

Additionally, a Twitter hashtag, #CdSCancelIsrael, has been set up to encourage Cirque du Soleil to cancel their performance.

Gazan victims of Israeli attacks demand British Queen remove “blood diamond” display in Tower of London

The Irish-Palestine Solidarity Campaign reported on 11 June that surviving members of the Samouni family in Gaza — of which dozens of relatives were killed in Israel’s 2008-09 attacks — “have issued an appeal to the British Queen to remove the Steinmetz Forevermark Jubilee Diamond which De Beers put on display in the Tower of London to mark the Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee.”

IPSC reported that:

In the appeal, posted to YouTube, Helmi Samouni, speaking on behalf of the family said: “On behalf of the surviving members of the Samouni family and the hundreds of other families in Gaza who have been killed by war crimes committed by the Givati Brigade of the Israeli Army, we are shocked and disappointed by the decision of De Beers to present the Queen of England with a diamond manufactured by the Steinmetz Diamond company –- a company which supported the Givati Brigade during the Israeli war on Gaza late 2008 as they murdered 29 members of our family in cold blood. We the Samouni family call on the Queen of England and the British people to decline this gift. We demand that De Beers be instructed to remove this offensive blood diamond display immediately.” (Translated from Arabic - see: for video)

Sean Clinton, coordinator of the Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds campaign for the Boycott Israel Network (BIN) and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign stated: “Diamonds that generate revenue used to fund a regime guilty of war crimes, in this case Israel’s apartheid regime, are de-facto blood diamonds. We call on De Beers to show respect for the surviving victims of the diamond-funded Givati Brigade’s actions in Gaza and remove the Forevermark Steinmetz Jubilee diamond from the Tower of London.”

Outreach to international students from the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Students in Gaza have formed the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) and are “seeking to expand their collaboration and participation in events and activities with solidarity activists at international universities.”

Their full appeal is below, including contact information.

PSCABI members participate in many activities here in Gaza and are heavily involved in supporting the international student solidarity movements, especially with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns. PSCABI members frequently write letters out of Gaza, some of which we have listed below, encouraging people to participate in the boycott and thanking people who have supported the Palestinian cause.

PSCABI members are available to share ideas, participate via Skype or other technology in remote events, organize and strategize together, hear about your activities and provide information and narratives as Palestinian university students for your distribution, and provide access to voices speaking directly from besieged Gaza.

If you are interested in:

  • communicating with PSCABI
  • hosting a Skype conference with a PSCABI member
  • developing your organization’s relationship with PSCABI

please contact us at


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).