The following is an open letter to Latin musician Mercedes Sosa sent on 21 July 2008 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:
When Palestinian artists and human rights activists first heard the news of your planned performances in Israel, we felt let down, betrayed, more than angry or apprehensive. We thought to ourselves, how can Mercedes Sosa, the quintessentially progressive diva of freedom songs in Latin America, sing in Israel, a colonial and apartheid state whose war crimes have reached new lows, systematically and deliberately destroying Palestinian society and engendering a process of slow ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine?
Your visit to Israel would not only violate the Palestinian civil society’s Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it fulfills its obligations under international law, it would also contribute to Israel’s relentless efforts at whitewashing its increasingly tarnished image as a persistent violator of international law and basic human rights. With its criminal siege of Gaza, Israel has created the world’s largest prison, condemning 1.5 million Palestinians to misery, poverty and, in thousands of cases, slow death.
This year, Israel is celebrating its so-called 60th anniversary and is inviting many prominent international artists, like yourself, to perform in it to help it promote a deceptive image of normalcy. It is worth reminding you that the creation of the state of Israel 60 years ago dispossessed and uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and lands, creating the world’s largest refugee population, millions who still yearn to return to their homes but are denied their UN-sanctioned rights simply because they are “non-Jews.”
Moreover, Israel is still illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 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 (ICJ) 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. Is this a country someone of your record in defending human rights would like to be associated with or, worse, celebrate?
In 2006, virtually all leading Palestinian artists and cultural figures called for a world-wide cultural boycott of Israel, similar to that imposed on apartheid South Africa. To date, many prominent international cultural figures, including Ken Loach, John Berger and Jean-Luc Godard and some artists’ unions, like the Irish Aosdana, have heeded the Palestinian Call and shunned Israel.
We sincerely hope that you shall cancel this visit to apartheid Israel and uphold the values your name has for decades been associated with: freedom, equality and human dignity.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee, BNC, an alliance of major Palestinian political and social forces, mass organizations, networks and unions, including:
- Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine
- General Union of Palestinian Workers
- General Union of Palestinian Women
- Palestine Right of Return Coalition
- Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
- Palestinian NGO Network
- Federation of Independent Trade Unions
- Union of Palestinian Farmers
- Union of Arab Community Based Associations
- National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba
- Civic Coalition for the Defence of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
- Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative
- Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign
- Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel