French comedian urged not to entertain Israeli army veterans

The following is an open letter to French Comedian Anne Roumanof sent on 19 February 2009 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:

We know that your stand-up comedy brings laughter and joy to many French-speaking people around the world. As such we are shocked and disappointed to learn that you are going to perform in support of handicapped Israeli veterans and victims of terrorist attacks in Geneva on 2 March 2009. Your performance in this show would constitute an act of support and solidarity with the Israeli army, which is Israel’s main instrument for the systematic oppression and brutal subjugation of the Palestinian people. It would contribute towards “polishing” the international image of an aggressive military force that has a long history of involvement in massacres and the documented ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land.

We hope you agree that this is the opposite of everything that comedy should represent. There is nothing funny about the Israeli army’s human rights record. There should be no place for comedy or comedians working to support its image abroad while Palestinians still suffer from Israel’s vicious military aggression. As we write, Israel continues to build settlements and an apartheid infrastructure of roads, blockades and the Wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Israel denies millions of Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their lands; it is destroying Palestinian homes; killing Palestinian children with impunity; and uprooting hundreds of thousands of Palestinian trees. Moreover, Israel maintains a system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens reminiscent of South African apartheid. Your performance in support of the Israeli army will be telling the Palestinians that their suffering — the product of colonialism and racism — doesn’t matter. You will be giving a slap in the face to Palestinian comedians, musicians, artists, filmmakers, writers and poets, who keep hope alive in circumstances meant to suffocate and crush them.

We are therefore writing to ask you to reconsider your decision to perform for the benefit of the Israeli army. We wonder how anyone could stand on a stage and make the audience laugh in support of veterans of an army that has just ended its atrocious assault on the occupied Gaza Strip. No doubt you are aware that this operation killed more than 1,300 people, of whom 410 were children, in addition to injuring another 5,300 people. This war has been described by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a “prelude to genocide.” His description was in response to the Israeli army’s annihilation of entire extended families; its destruction of neighborhoods, villages, schools and UN buildings; and its use of white phosphorus munitions and other controversial weapons in one of the most densely populated areas on earth, where more than half the population are children. The UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International and many leading international jurists have also called for investigations into possible war crimes by the very forces you would be acting to support.

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. In response, in the past few weeks, throughout the world, groups of artists, comedians, film-makers, students and academics, have consolidated their efforts to show solidarity with the occupied Palestinians, to condemn Israel’s war crimes and its apartheid regime, and to call for effective political action such as boycotts, divestment drives, and sanctions (BDS). The latest have been many eminent French academics who recently issued a statement in support of punitive measures by the international community to make Israel accountable for its war crimes.

We hope you will be amongst the international artists, including Bono, Snoop Dogg, Bjork and Jean-Luc Godard, who have heeded calls to boycott Israel and its cultural activities until it fulfills its obligations under international law and fully recognizes Palestinian rights.

Editor’s note: Following the sending of this open letter, Anne Roumanoff canceled her participation in the gala for Israeli veterans according a report on Le Post, a French-language website. The report states that the comedian’s spokesperson, contacted by the website, confirmed that Roumanoff “will not do this gala.” It also cited a report in the Swiss newspaper La Tribune stating that Roumanoff’s cancelation was the result of “pro-Palestinian pressure.”

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