English actor urged to cancel appearance at Israeli festival

The following is an open letter to English actor and UNICEF ambassador Sir Roger Moore sent on 8 February 2009 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:

The Palestinian arts community has received the news of your plans to make a special guest appearance at the Red Sea International Music Festival in Eilat this February in a state of disbelief. At a time of unprecedented Israeli war crimes and grave violations of human rights, condemned by leading United Nations officials and international human rights organizations, with Israel just ending its atrocious assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, after more than 18 months of a criminal siege, described as a “prelude to genocide” by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, your participation in this festival can only be understood as condoning this injustice and celebrating it.

We feel exceptionally disappointed because of your otherwise significant record in advocating human rights, particularly in your capacity as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Israel’s bloody war on occupied Gaza caused the immediate death of over 1,300 people, of whom 410 were children, in addition to injuring another 5,300 people. As UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted in her statement regarding the Israeli aggression on Gaza:

“Each day more children are being hurt, their small bodies wounded, their young lives shattered. These are not just cold figures. They talk of children’s lives interrupted. No human being can watch this without being moved. No parent can witness this and not see their own child.”

In response to this systematic brutality, and to Israel having bombed clearly marked UN schools and storage compounds with white phosphorus munitions and other banned weapons killing dozens of civilians taking shelter under the UN flag, the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International and many leading international jurists have all called for a war crimes investigation. Given this context, your participation in this festival would constitute a gesture of “goodwill” towards a state which is widely viewed by people of conscience the world over as a rogue state above the law of nations, a state that commits severe and persistent human rights violations which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, with utter impunity.

Palestinian civil society also responded by fully uniting behind the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it fulfills its obligations under international law and fully recognizes Palestinian rights. Hundreds of progressive Israeli academics, intellectuals and activists have also come out in support of punitive measures by the international community against Israel to make it accountable for perpetrating war crimes.

Beyond the recent Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, Israel is recognized by the UN and the absolute majority of nations as a repressive occupying power that maintains illegal colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory, violates international law, UN resolutions, and the basic human rights of the Palestinian people. These are not abstract notions, at least not to Palestinians. Israel denies millions of Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes of origin, as stipulated by international law; it is building settlements and a monstrous wall, both of which were declared illegal by the International Court of Justice; it is regularly demolishing thousands of Palestinian homes as a form of collective punishment; it is killing Palestinian children with impunity; it is uprooting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian trees; and its ubiquitous roadblocks are imprisoning Palestinian civilians, denying them access to health care, schools and jobs. Moreover, Israel maintains a system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens reminiscent of South African apartheid. These injustices, among others, have been well documented by leading human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights.

Furthermore, as you may know, virtually all Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural figures have called on their colleagues worldwide to boycott Israeli cultural and arts institutions due to their complicity in perpetuating Israel’s occupation and other forms of oppression against the Palestinian people. Ken Loach, John Berger, John Williams and many other prominent international cultural figures have endorsed this call for boycott. Many artists have heeded our appeals and turned down invitations to participate in Israeli gigs and festivals. These include Bono, Snoop Dogg, Bjork and Jean-Luc Godard.

Moreover, UNICEF last year decided to cut all ties with an Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev due to his companies’ construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. We hope it is not too much to expect conscientious international artists to uphold the values of freedom, equality and justice for all?

In your website you emphasize that you have been drawn into work for human rights, particularly those of children, through your colleague Audrey Hepburn, and you note:

“… I listened to Audrey speak-she was so eloquent and so passionate. She said that there are millions of children out there, and they are dying. Unless we do something about it, we’ll never ever be able to hold our heads up. Also, she said, that has to be pointed out to governments.”

In the spirit of such a noble and brave commitment we appeal to your moral conscience and your record of standing up for principles of human dignity and equality. We sincerely hope that you will withdraw from this event and inform the Israeli organizers and government that you will not attend their festivals as long as Israel continues to deny the Palestinian people its inalienable rights to emancipation and human rights.

Related Links