Acclaimed poet, musician, author and playwright Joy Harjo landed in Tel Aviv today to find appeals from prominent American Indian and indigenous scholars and peers to pull out of a performance at Tel Aviv University scheduled for Monday.
Harjo posted early this morning on her Facebook page that she was boarding a flight to Tel Aviv, which alerted activists and colleagues about her trip.
“Joy is a valued friend and colleague, but I disagree with her decision to go to Tel Aviv to perform. I regret not reaching out to her sooner in this regard, which might have changed her mind,” Robert Warrior, Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told The Electronic Intifada.
Warrior, who is founding president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, has himself signed on to the call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
“I speak out publicly opposing the occupation whenever I get the chance,” Warrior said, “I have been to Palestine twice, and I was a student of Edward Said. Opposing the occupation is among my most important causes.”
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a member of the Mvskoke Nation (also known as Muskogee Creek), Joy Harjo has been nationally and internationally acclaimed for her cultural and political contributions, especially her feminist writing, dating back to the 1970s. She has received numerous awards for her work.
In the video above, Harjo performs, “I Give It Back: A Poem to Get Rid of Fear.”
Harjo unaware of boycott
Given that she was en route to Tel Aviv, Harjo had not responded to an email asking for comment, but soon after landing she posted this message on her Facebook page:
I didn’t know about the boycott until it was too late. My trip was posted here for a month. A person made it their campaign to question my integrity and notify others without speaking with me. I am a Mvskoke person living on occupied lands. I am in support of human rights. My music and poetry take me into the world to speak and sing a compassion that is still beyond me. I am learning yet. Mvto cehacares.
Harjo would have found, on her arrival, several messages including one from playright Ricardo Bracho, which he shared with The Electronic Intifada.
“Please cancel your Monday night event at Tel Aviv University. Do so to honor indigenous and anti-colonial practice and vision worldwide. Do so because Gaza is the world’s largest open air prison. Do so because Palestinians have no Right of Return to their homelands. Do so for the land, the poets, the grandmothers, the children,” Bracho wrote, concluding his note with a verse from Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Under Siege.”
Bracho, a playwright, producer and dramaturge whose work has been produced nationwide, is currently the Multicultural Visiting Faculty Member at The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago.
“It’s not too late to cancel”
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, a Native Hawaiian activist, who is on the advisory board of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), told The Electronic Intifada that she “urgently wrote Joy Harjo at midnight once I’d learned she was on her way to perform at Tel Aviv University.”
“I know Joy Harjo stands for justice, healing, and decolonization, so I figured she was simply unaware of the international academic and cultural boycott of Israel,” said Kauanui, an associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University.
“I sent [Harjo] a personal appeal asking her to not cross the picket line called by Palestinian civil society, and outlined the nature of the campaign and its clear guidelines,” Kauanui said.
“Even though you’re already on the plane to Tel Aviv, it’s not too late to cancel Monday’s event at Tel Aviv University – to abide by the international academic and cultural boycott of Israel,” Kauanui’s message to Harjo read.
It also listed the names of almost two dozen Native American Studies Association members who have endorsed USACBI’s call to boycott israel.