I understand that this message probably isn’t the kind you’re used to on the list, but I ask you consider the contents of it thoughtfully.
All of you will remember that when South Africa was still operating under an Apartheid system, bands used to refuse to play there. Sun City, the most famous venue there, was the subject of at least one protest song.
Bands wouldn’t play there because to do so generated income for the White South African system, and implicitly suggested that they didn’t really mind that a racist government had stamped their entry visa. The taxes that were paid on the venue by the promoters went towards prolonging Apartheid, and the venue — of course — was “for whites only”.
Sadly, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are turning the clock of musical conscience back by playing in Israel. This venue will similarly be “for Israelis only”. All 3 million Palestinians are prevented by Israel from travelling to Tel Aviv and are currently under siege in their towns.
Recent news reports said that the Chili Peppers had decided not to go because they were worried about the “security situation.” When he heard about this, Bill Clinton rang them and urged them to go, and they changed their mind. They are playing on August 28 in Tel Aviv.
Here’s the news piece:
“Clinton has the Red Hot Chili Peppers for Israel”
The Jerusalem Post, 3 June 2001
One of the biggest rock bands in the world today was about to cancel its planned concert in Tel Aviv, until a former American president intervened. That, at least, is according to the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot.
The paper suggests that Red Hot Chili Peppers was considering the move because of the security situation.
Former president Bill Clinton reportedly heard of the plan and personally called the band’s lead singer Anthony Kiedis to suggest the concert go ahead.
Clinton said the performance would be a vote of confidence in the diplomatic process and regional peace.
As a result, the band will play on.
The concert is scheduled for Tel Aviv on August 28.
I have nothing against the band but am writing to you on principle because they are setting an unacceptable example for the millions of people who love their music. There is nothing at all wrong with asking them as fans to reconsider this tour date on the basis of supporting human rights for all.
Why exactly is their playing in Israel a bad idea?
The news here gives the impression that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is some sort of war between equal forces, that all Palestinians are terrorists, and that poor Israel has done all it could to make peace with the Palestinians.
This is as far from the truth as it could be.
Palestinians have been living under a military occupation for 34 years. If you were Palestinian, and under 34 years of age, all you would know is the presence of a foreign army in and around your towns.
I had the opportunity to experience what that was like between 1994-1998, when I lived in the West Bank town of Ramallah and worked at Birzeit University, Palestine’s Harvard or Oxford.
Life there on the ground was bad news for Joe or Jane Palestinian, who you should be aware are not any different from Joe or Jane American or Joe or Jane European. The shocking but banal truth is that the vast majority of Palestinians are normal people just like you and me, living in an abnormal situation.
Just as Americans aren’t responsible as a whole for the actions of people like Timothy McVeigh, neither are the Palestinians as a whole responsible for the actions of the few of them who carry out terrorist acts.
After the Oslo process began in 1993, the reality is that things got very bad on the ground for normal people. Very bad. Most human rights violations continued or worsened. And today, it’s even much worse.
Since 29 September 2000, when the Second Intifada began, Israel has killed over 500 Palestinians, crippled 1,500 more, and seriously injured another 15,000. Many of these are children. About half of these deaths and injuries took place out outside of clash situations. That means it happened to people in their homes, on the way to school, in restaurants.
When I was living there, I regularly attended clashes as an observer and journalist. The normal attendee at these were young Palestinians, protesting the occupation with stones thrown at the foreign army on their own land. The foreign army responded with live ammunition and the so-called “rubber” bullets (in reality steel balls with a millimeter of rubber or hard plastic coating) that regularly kill and maim.
In every single case I witnessed, at the 30 or so clashes I attended, those Palestinians that were killed were shot out of stone throwing range, ie. at a distance where they posed no threat to the Israeli soldiers. In September 1996, soldiers danced as they shot people dead, giving each other high fives.
It really was that bad and things are not as they seem on the TV. There’s a lot of reasons for that, and some of the following links will give you an idea why.
Here’s another short intro to what really goes on at clashes, a photo story from just one day in March 1997.
For more about this, see my online photo diary from the time, A Personal Diary of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Today, since the May 22 “unilateral cease-fire” was announced (for which the Israelis have been unjustifiably commended by countries around the world for “keeping”) it’s mind-blowing what’s actually going on on the ground.
As you read it, imagine living there, and being able to do nothing except survive. Israeli activist Jeff Halper, sent out a report yesterday that was similarly shocking, a report about ethnic cleansing going on away from the camera lenses.
Finally, here is a recent report from Human Rights Watch (a US organisation) for those that want a broader overview.
Back to the Peppers. The letter that follows below is written to the Peppers from another fan concerned about the Palestinian people, from his heart.
If any of this makes you think that it’s a bad idea for the Peppers to play Israel as long as Israel continues its repressive military occupation against the Palestinian people, then write and let them know you’re a fan and that this bothers you. We used to support bands like U2 and Peter Gabriel for taking stands against South Africa. This should be no different.
Keep it simple, be polite, ask them to take a stand for human rights worldwide, and ask them not to support the Israeli state by playing there.
Correspondence can be sent to Starla Angel, the news director of the official Peppers website. Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please ask the Chili Peppers to do the right thing. Any concert in a country that is brutally repressing a civilian population is not just another tour date. It’s a statement that what’s going on doesn’t really matter that much. And the fates of people like you and me — even if they speak a different language and live in another part of the world — should matter very much.
From: Raja Swamy
Date: Thu Jul 5, 2001 8:14 pm
Subject: Please do not Play in Israel!!!
Dear Red Hot Chili Peppers band,
You are scheduled to play in Israel on August 28, 2001. It was revealed that you reconsidered your earlier decision to desist after former U.S. President, Bill Clinton intervened on behalf of Israel.
You live in a country where you are the minority group. Now the vast numbers of the minority group happens to be ‘IN’ “your country” on account of your government having militarily attacked, and militarily occupied their land and lives.
Imagine this: for 33 years, the minority group faces tanks, barricades, soldiers with machine guns, as they walk to school everyday, plant their crops, go to work, drink a cup of tea with friends, sing a song in the sunset, play soccer with friends, mourn the loss of relatives, attend each others’ weddings, and so on: military occupation that is accompanied by constant abuse, physical, and mental abuse, irregardless of whether you are a 4 year old boy innocently playing in your home or an 80 year old retired farmer, watching the sunset in his backyard.
Abuse at the hands of soldiers, abuse at the hands of new European people who have suddenly appeared in your backyard, in your frontyard, in your homes, everywhere, ready to take what is yours for generations and generations. The newcomers are spiteful, and covet your land; they want to see you and your people dead or gone. The soldiers are their buddies; the ‘settlers’ attack, the soldiers ‘defend’ and you and your community is reduced, reduced, reduced from homes to camps, from smiles to tears, from peace to continuous nightmares, from seeing the young tender plants grow in the ancient farms to being drowned in seas of blood; 500 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli armed forces since October 2000.
Palestinians have no army, nothing comparable even in the remotest sense to the armed forces of Israel. They use stones, as did little David against the giant Goliath; is that violence, or is it violence to launch a missile from a helicopter against three unarmed elderly ladies shopping for vegetables in the marketplace? The latter happened, and what did Israel do? They blamed the Palestinians! Is this for real man?
You, dear band, represent the culture of youth, rebellious, innocent, and yet daring; daring to challenge the arbitrary norms and values imposed by the cultures of older generations; it is tyhe rebelliousness that you show today, that inspired your parents’ generations to overthrow the evil of segragation. Today, Israel practices the worst form of segragation against Palestinians, whose land it ocupies illegally.
Did you know, if you are a Palestinian, you have to drive a car with blue license plates? Did you know, if you are a Palestinian, and get attacked, killed or abused by an Israeli, your attacker will get away scot free, with perhaps a scolding from a judge? On the other hand, did you know that if you were an Israeli, and accused a Palestinian of anything, most likely that Palestinian would be dealt with as if he or she were guilty?
Did you know, Israel sanctions torture while most countries reject it? Did you know Israel has young children, (among whom could be many of your young fans!), in prison, who are locked up with adult criminals, subject to horrendous torture and sexual abuse? For what? For throwing stones on an Israeli tank? FOr being Palestinian? For being alive? Is this something your conscience can overlook? I doubt it!
Dear, Red Hot Chili Peppers. What would you have sung about if you were Palestinian? Could you hold true to your conscience and still perform to entertain a nation that engages in such brutality? Could you look into the face of a Palestinian child after doing this and feel good about yourselves?
I think not, dear band. Please reconsider your decision. It will be a great sign of support for human rights, democracy and the equality of all human beings, as you will help bring Israel to account for its wanton cruelty against the Palestinian people.
If you would like more information on this issue, I would be more than happy to point resources to you and share with you facts and figures.
I urge you to reconsider your decision to play in Israel. If your sponsors insist, then you should insist in playing a solidarity peace concert in occpuied Palestinian to a Palestinian audience too! That would be something eh!? If not, just imagine, how would it have been if the Beatles were made to play in a country where six million people were being massacred while German officers and their wives were drinking and dancing to ‘Its been a hard day’s night…’ Just imagine!
P.S. If you want to know of other artists who have boycotted Israel as an act of outrage against Israel’s human rights violations of Palestinians, I will be happy to send you the info.
Raja Harish Swamy