The following is an open letter sent to the Beatles on 2 February 2008:
Forty-three years ago, the government of Israel banned your performance in the country for fear you would corrupt the minds of Israeli youth. Now, Israel is extending an apology and an invitation to you, hoping you will forget the past and agree to help celebrate its 60th “birthday.” The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urges you to say no to Israel, particularly since the creation of this state 60 years ago dispossessed and uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and lands, condemning them to a life of exile and destitution.
There is no reason to celebrate! 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. 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.
Now, more than ever, Israel is committing horrific war crimes, especially in the occupied Gaza Strip, where its illegal and immoral policy of collective punishment — through a hermetic military siege and an almost complete blockage of fuel, electric power, and even food and medicine — is pushing 1.5 million Palestinian civilians to the brink of starvation. Without electricity, incubators are shutting down; hospitals are fast coming to a standstill; water is not being properly purified nor separated from raw sewage; whatever is left from the local economy is undergoing a meltdown; and the most vulnerable sectors of the population, the children, the elderly, and the acutely ill, are languishing under unspeakable hardships. Do you see any reason to celebrate?
Israel’s military occupation — the longest in modern history — is not an abstract notion to us. It manifests itself in willful killings of civilians, particularly children; wanton demolition of homes and property; uprooting of more than a million fruitful trees; incessant theft of land and water resources; denial of freedom of movement to millions; and cutting up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans, some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks.
In light of the above, performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa at the height of the apartheid era. Indeed, Israel has created a worse system of apartheid than anything that ever existed in South Africa, according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard, and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, among others.
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 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; Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; 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 joining this growing boycott against Israeli apartheid. Nothing less would do justice to the legendary legacy of the Beatles.