Open letter to Moldovan punk band Zdob si Zdub: Stand in solidarity with Palestinians!

Punks Against Apartheid (PAA), the international punk rock collective working to educate and mobilize musicians and fans in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, has posted an open letter to Moldovan hardcore band Zdob si Zdub encouraging them to cancel their show in Tel Aviv and respect the global boycott call.

After rescheduling their concert date from November 2011, the show is now tentatively planned for March — but it is currently not on the band’s tour schedule. In their letter to the band, PAA states:

We took notice that you rescheduled your concert date — after some pressure from activists — to March 2012, but that the show still hasn’t made its way onto your March schedule. So now is your chance to come out and say it, to make a commitment to supporting Palestinian liberation! And we want to give you the benefit of the doubt, here: if this was indeed to give yourselves time to learn about the situation and make the ethical choice, then we respect your decision to hold off with the show and offer an open invitation to speak with you and share with you the experience of Palestinians resisting Israel occupation so that you can get a better sense of what we are asking you to do. We are always open to dialogue, so please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns, or doubts, and we will do our best to respond with respect and care.

On the other hand, if the delay was meant to quietly put the ‘issue’ down and avoid undue attention, then we are sorry to say that you are sorely mistaken–we are here to bring it back up again and make sure you don’t forget!

The PAA open letter adds:

We are an international group of punks from the Punks Against Apartheid network who support the human rights-based Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and we are writing you because we strongly believe in music’s potential to transform peoples’ lives. The concert you have scheduled in Israel, however, will not be able to transform the lives of Palestinians living under Occupation and apartheid. In fact, it will play right into the hands of a deliberate strategy by the state of Israel to play up international acts like yours to portray an image of “business as usual” in the apartheid state. Therefore, we urge you to cancel your show and join the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.

The “business as usual” attitude that Israel wants you to support means lending your voice to a military occupation and siege of an entire people, racial apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and mass banishment of refugees. An Israeli group called Boycott from Within, which supports cultural boycott, writes:

“Many artists and public figures who have come to this realization are now publicly supporting the cultural boycott of Israel, which is backed by almost the entire community of Palestinian cultural workers. Among those supporters are Roger Waters, David R Randall and Maxi Jazz of Faithless, Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack, filmmakers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, 500 Montreal artists, over 200 Irish artists, prominent Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South-African Artists Against Apartheid, The Creative Workers Union of South Africa, and the international alliance Artists Against Apartheid. Other artists cancelled their performances in Israel in response to growing appeals, including Elvis Costello, the Pixies, actors Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman, UK band Tindersticks, American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron, and Mexican American rock guitarist Carlos Santana.”

Furthermore, as musicians who played the final concert for Queerfest 2011’s “Stop Homophobia!” concert, you should know that Israel has also exploited struggles for LGBTQ liberation and has hidden its oppression of Palestinian queers by portraying Israel as a “safe haven” for Arab queers. Palestinian LGBTQ activists have called this “pinkwashing”. Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) writes, “The Israeli foreign affairs ministry, Israeli academic institutions, international Zionist and pro Israel groups, and some Israeli LGBTQ organizations/groups [have] worked to capitalize on the modest successes of the Israeli LGBTQ community and pander to anti-Arab, Islamophobic biases by painting Palestinian society as maliciously homophobic.” Not only is this racist in and of itself, but more importantly, Israel simply cannot be a safe haven for any Arab, Palestinian, queer, or otherwise, when a system of racial exclusivity and military separation and occupation is in place. In the words of Haneen Maikey, “When you go through a checkpoint it does not matter what the sexuality of the soldier is.”

It is our intention that no group in the international punk community should be able to feign innocence or ignorance about Palestinian resistance to Israeli domination. You see, as punks, we were raised in a counter-culture that taught us that racism, militarism, sexism, and all forms of oppression were not welcome in our spaces.

In an interview with SUNETE magazine, one of your own members, Roman Iagupov, spoke about how “it’s…hard to cross the borders. To take part in events abroad you have to struggle to get a visa, which is not much fun for an artist”. We ask you to imagine what it is like for a Palestinian artist or fan who would have a very difficult time even getting into Tel Aviv to come to your show, much less any other part of Israel. Palestinians’ lives are governed by the constant presence of borders big and small in the form of Israeli military check points, meaning that most Palestinians don’t even have the luxury of visiting family members only a few towns away without being harassed by Israeli soldiers, whether they have the right “visa” or not. In the case of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are literally enclosed and under siege and are bombed with impunity by Israeli aircraft when it is politically expedient. Under these conditions, border crossing is not only “not fun,” but nightmarish and inhumane.

Out of respect for and solidarity with Palestinians who must resist these realities on a daily basis, we implore you to cancel your show and refuse to cross the international picket line that has been formed against the state of Israel until it fulfills the three basic tenets of the BDS call: ending the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, dismantling racial apartheid inside of Israel, and to respect the right of return for refugees.

For more on Punks Against Apartheid, visit their website 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).