“Building a common resistance” from the US to Palestine

Pressure is mounting on the iconic UK-based band Radiohead to cancel their July gig in Tel Aviv.

Dozens of artists, musicians and intellectuals have signed an open letter to Radiohead urging the band members “to think again – because by playing in Israel you’ll be playing in a state where, UN rapporteurs say, ‘a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people.’”

The band has previously been known for its antiwar stances and subversive, socialist distribution strategies. Radiohead’s plan to cross the international picket line has disappointed many fans.

“We have had no response from the band and all the journalists who have responded to that open letter … who have approached the band for comment, have been reporting that the band has no comment,” Jenny Morgan of Artists for Palestine UK told The Electronic Intifada podcast.

“We know that numbers of the people who signed that open letter have approached Radiohead privately,” Morgan added. “They haven’t gotten anywhere. They haven’t managed to change the band’s mind. “

In late April, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters told The New York Times that he had spoken with Radiohead about the importance of abiding by the boycott demands, but that the bandmembers have to “make up their own minds.”

Radiohead fans and activists with Jewish Voice for Peace recently attended the band’s Berkeley concert and unfurled a banner that read “We love you Radiohead, don’t play in apartheid Israel. You don’t belong there,” referring to a lyric from their legendary song “Creep.”

Building a common resistance

A recent discussion between Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and Nyle Fort, a minister, scholar and an activist with the Movement for Black Lives, explored the twinned struggles and strategies for Palestinian liberation and Black liberation.

Fort said that he became engaged with the Palestine liberation struggle as an activist resisting police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. “We were getting tweets from Palestinian youth activists showing us how to respond to the tear gas,” he said.

In his organizing work, Fort said that “Palestine became central to the way I thought about justice, because I realized it’s not enough to simply get justice for Black people in this country if Palestinians aren’t free in theirs.”

He joined a Dream Defenders delegation to Palestine shortly thereafter.

Barghouti, who recently won the Gandhi Peace Award for his work as a human rights defender, has been subjected by Israel to a travel ban and open threats by that state’s top ministers.

“Transactional organizing” is not sufficient, Barghouti warned, at a time when far right-wing authoritarian movements and politicians are gaining popularity in the US, in Israel and across Europe. “We’d better do much more than just ‘You come to my demo, I’ll come to yours,’” he said.

“We need to do a lot more to build a common resistance to this far right … a united front that emerges across the world that truly, organically connects the struggles.”

Recalling his time as an engineering student at Columbia University, Barghouti said he participated in the South African anti-apartheid movement.

“When my fellow engineering students saw me holding the sign ‘Abolish Apartheid,’ one of them asked me, ‘Do you really believe that apartheid would be abolished in your lifetime? Why are you wasting your time, you’re an engineer, for God’s sake.’ So I said, ‘Well, I don’t believe it will be abolished in my lifetime, but I’m doing it out of a moral obligation.’”

He added: “But it was abolished in my lifetime. And this gives us eternal hope. So it’s extremely important to really organically connect our struggles for Black justice, for Latinos, for the feminist movement, LGBTQI, climate change, and so on.”

Listen to the interview with Jenny Morgan and the discussion between Omar Barghouti and Nyle Fort via the media player above.

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

Thank you to Jewish Voice for Peace for the use of their audio of the Barghouti/Fort event.

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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).