UK, Irish artists saluted for principled boycott stance

The following statement was issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on 15 August 2010:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the British dance group Faithless for declining to play in Israel this summer. The cancellation of the group’s Israeli gig is the latest in a string of cancellations of performances in Israel by artists and musicians of conscience, artists who say no to normalizing relations with Israel, no to business as usual with a state that practices the most pernicious forms of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

We applaud Faithless frontman Maxi Jazz for the unequivocally clear message explaining the band’s decision:

“While human beings are being wilfully denied not just their rights but their NEEDS for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that this is either ‘normal’ or ‘ok.’ It’s neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have.”

This statement brings to focus the fact that performing in a state that practices occupation, colonization and apartheid, as Israel does, cannot be regarded as a purely artistic act, if any such act exists. Regardless of intentions, such an act is a conscious form of complicity that is manipulated by Israel in its efforts to whitewash its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. This is because artistic performances in Israel promote a “business as usual” attitude that normalizes and sanitizes a state that has committed war crimes over several decades — in Gaza, Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev), and recently in the high seas against international humanitarian relief workers aboard the Freedom Flotilla.

An artist who performs in Israel today — just like any artist who violated the boycott and performed in Sun City, South Africa, during apartheid — can only be seen by Palestinians and people of conscience around the world as motivated by profit and personal gain far more than by moral principles. We know that Israeli concert promoters offer large sums of money to lure international performers as part of Israel’s “Brand Israel” campaign, designed explicitly to hide Israel’s criminal violations of human rights under a guise of artistic and scientific glamour and a deceptive image of cultural excellence and “liberalism.”

Artists who courageously take principled positions on the side of justice deserve the highest commendation. We also take this opportunity to reiterate our appreciation to the 150 Irish artists and writers for their endorsement of the pledge to boycott Israel:

“In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge not to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel, nor to accept any funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights” (“IPSC ‘Irish artists’ pledge to boycott Israel’”).

We urge all artists of conscience to follow the example of Faithless dance group as well as the brave Irish artists and writers. In particular, we urge them to heed the Unified Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, and to respect the PACBI Guidelines for the International Cultural boycott of Israel.

Once again, hats off to Faithless: you are faithful indeed!