Fans of legendary New York-based hip-hop artist MF Doom are demanding that he cancel a scheduled performance in Tel Aviv this week, while student activists and artists in Gaza encourage French singer Mireille Mathieu to do the same. Meanwhile, activists with the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) have released a statement to Filmbase — a “progressive forum for Irish film” — which has agreed to host the Israeli Embassy in Ireland for “Israeli Film Days” beginning 24 November.
“Don’t entertain a doomed apartheid regime!”
MF Doom, a hip-hop artist known for his eccentric and unique lyrical style as well as his mysterious stage presence, is due to play a show in Tel Aviv on 26 November. PACBI released an open letter to Doom on 14 November that demanded he respect the Palestinian-led call for boycott:
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 Israel set for November 26, 2011. Given that Israel is involved in grave violations of international law and human rights we urge you to cancel this show until the time comes when Israel is in compliance with its obligations under international law and fully respects Palestinian rights. … Israel practices ongoing occupation, colonialism and apartheid over Palestinians.
As a prominent artist of African descent, we hope you can relate to the meaning of this racist, multi-tiered system of Israeli oppression, and its devastating impact on our lives and our culture. Refusing to entertain Israeli apartheid is a minimal expression of solidarity with our aspirations for freedom, justice and equality. If you play in Israel, you would be performing for the oppressor while undermining our peaceful struggle for justice.
Many of your fans have expressed their outrage over your coming performance in Tel Aviv. In fact, a local Palestinian contemporary of yours, Boikutt Kutt, has written on your Facebook page: “You’re performing 30 minutes from where I live but I can’t come to your show simply because I’m Palestinian. I live in a prison called the West Bank and I’m a big supporter of your music. Don’t play for the oppressor, don’t play for colonialism, don’t play Apartheid ‘Israel’ … Stand on the right side of history and respect the Palestinian call for boycott.” We join your fans in urging you to stand up for what is right.
“Boycott apartheid in the name of love!”
Responding to French pop singer Mireille Mathieu’s scheduled performance in Tel Aviv on 22 November, artists, musicians and students activists in Gaza have released an open letter to her, encouraging her to respect the Palestinian-led call for boycott and cancel her show.
The letter states, in part:
You once sang about your lament of soldiers going to war, ‘In line, soldiers of love’ calling on them to, ‘leave in the name of love.’ Yet you plan to entertain the Israeli armed forces that control, limit and demean our very existence, many of whom will be in the crowd for whom you intend to perform. Right now Israeli soldiers are committing with impunity all manner of well documented war crimes against us, the indigenous population of Palestine.
We are calling on you now to heed our call to boycott the only apartheid regime in the world that maintains our imprisonment. In what mainstream human rights organizations have called the largest open-air prison in modern history, we tell you that Israel’s five-year blockade, 63 years of dispossession and ethnic cleansing must come to an end. Until then we rely on people of conscience, including artists and musicians, to take a stand and refuse to perform there.
Apartheid debases art!
Activists with the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) launched an email campaign to protest the move by Dublin’s Filmbase forum to host the Israeli embassy for a series of “Israeli film days” beginning 24 November.
I would remind you that the Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry has explicitly stated that it “sees no difference between hasbara (propaganda) and culture.” The information on the Facebook page dedicated to the “Film Days” fails to make the slightest reference to Israel’s status as a rogue state, a serial violator of international law and international humanitarian law, and an illegal occupier of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory. For that reason one can only conclude that these “Israeli film days” will constitute another attempt to whitewash the criminality of the Israeli state by presenting Israeli culture as if it were somehow independent of state propaganda.
Please note that respected Irish filmmakers like Bob Quinn, Joe Comerford, Dearbhla Glynn and Steve Woods, as well as actors like Stephen Rea and Sinéad Cusack, have signed the IPSC’s “pledge to boycott Israel.” Most recently, John Michael McDonagh declined an invitation to be present at the screening of his film The Guard at the Haifa Film Festival, in protest against Israeli politics.
At a time when Irish peace activists have been illegally imprisoned in Israel after their humanitarian ship the MV Saoirse was hi-jacked in international waters by Israeli commandos, hosting these “Israeli Film Days” sends out the worst possible message: that Filmbase is indifferent to its exploitation as a site of propaganda for the state that perpetrates such atrocities. To cancel the event at this point would send the opposite message, and would be perceived worldwide as an honourable gesture of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people who have called for an international cultural boycott of the Israeli state.
PACBI also released a statement on 18 November that echoed IPSC’s demands, adding:
The Israeli embassy is actively promoting this free-of-charge festival on social media, and the festival’s promoters promise an extravaganza of Israeli music, dance, photography, and food dedicated to “celebrating the success of Israeli cinema worldwide.” Given Israel’s intensifying occupation, colonialism and apartheid, we call on Filmbase to cancel this latest Israeli festival which aims at “re-branding” Israel and whitewashing its grave violations of international law and Palestinian rights.
We are particularly surprised that a prominent Irish cultural institution would allow the Israeli embassy to carry out this audacious “Brand Israel” activity on its premises hardly two weeks after Irish peace activists were illegally apprehended by the Israeli navy in international waters, humiliated and imprisoned in Israel after the MV Saoirse was accosted and hijacked by Israeli commandos.