Activists to Bono: Don’t honor Israel!

The following is an open letter from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to musician and activist Bono, issued on 22 February:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned that you have been invited by Israeli President Shimon Peres to take part in a conference designed to mark Israel’s contributions to medicine, science and conservation. We urge you, as a prominent activist on issues of global inequality and a campaigner for basic human rights, to say no to Israel, especially since the invitation coincides with celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state. With the creation of this state 60 years ago, “Palestine ceased to exist except in the hearts and mind of Palestinians,” [1] of whom three quarters of a million were dispossessed and uprooted from their homes and lands, condemned to a life of exile and destitution.

Israel at 60 is a state that is still denying Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned rights, simply because they are “non-Jews.” It is still illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Israel is continuing the construction of its colonies and massive Wall in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice of July 2004. It is still persistently and grossly breaching international law and infringing fundamental human rights with impunity afforded to it through munificent US and European economic, diplomatic and political support. It is still treating its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized discrimination.

We urge you to reject the invitation from a man who has nothing to do with the lofty ideals of progress in science, medicine and the environment. His decades-long political career includes war crimes committed against the Lebanese and Palestinian people.

In 1996, when Israel still occupied southern Lebanon, Shimon Peres as Prime Minister launched “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” causing 400,000 Lebanese to flee their homes, with almost 800 of them fleeing to a UN base in Qana, South Lebanon. On 18 April the Israeli army shelled the UN shelter in Qana, killing 102 civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly. Many more were injured. Human Rights Watch, the UN and Amnesty International subsequently disproved the myth that the Israeli army did not deliberately intend to shell the UN base. Shimon Peres said at the time, “In my opinion, everything was done according to clear logic and in a responsible way. I am at peace.”

Peres is on record for being responsible for other war crimes, from building colonies on occupied Arab land to endorsing a policy of extra-judicial killings, by which Palestinians and other Arabs are murdered without the benefit of a trial or, in fact, any evidence other than that provided by Israeli intelligence. Peres also supports the siege of Gaza and the elaborate system of checkpoints all across the West Bank. He defends the demolition of Palestinian homes, and he justified the atrocities committed by the Israeli army in its recent war on Lebanon in 2006.

We, like all other Palestinians and international supporters of human rights and international law, expect you to uphold the highest standard of respect for the human rights of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, which has been under a hermetic siege imposed by Israel for almost two years. Poverty is rampant, and the lives of the ill, children, and the elderly are in danger. Difficult and brave decisions need to be taken in support of Palestinians exactly like South Africa was supported long before it became fashionable to do so. Instead of legitimizing Israeli war criminals by accepting their invitations, people of conscience who respect international law and justice should shun them.

In 2005, inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, Palestinian civil society called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it fully complies with international law and recognizes the fundamental human rights of the people of Palestine. A specific call for cultural boycott of Israel was issued a year later, garnering wide support. Among the many groups and institutions that have heeded the Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel are Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; the British University and College Union; the two largest trade unions in the UK; the Church of England; the Presbyterian Church (USA); prominent British architects; the British National Union of Journalists; the Congress of South African Trade Unions; the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario; celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger; and Palme d’Or winner director Ken Loach.

We strongly urge you to uphold the values of freedom, equality and just peace for all by rejecting the invitation to attend a conference in Israel celebrating that country’s contribution to science and scholarship. Israel is not a member in good standing of the global community of scientists and scholars, and cannot be honored as such. After all, “it’s not about charity, it’s about justice.”

[1] Arundhati Roy, “Come September,” speech delivered in New Mexico, US, 2002.

Related Links