ELVIS COSTELLO: Sometimes a silence in music is better
It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.
One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.
Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent. I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation. Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.
I offer my sincere apologies for any disappointment to the advance ticket holders as well as to the organizers.
My thanks also go to the members of the Israeli media with whom I had most rewarding and illuminating conversations. They may regard these exchanges as a waste of their time but they were of great value and help to me in gaining an appreciation of the cultural scene. I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.
It is a matter of instinct and conscience.
It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts. I have come to the following conclusions.
One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.
With the hope for peace and understanding.
PATTI SMITH: There’s no one in the village – Qana
Patti condemned an Israeli air strike on the Lebanese village of Qana in July as “an atrocity” for which America was partly to blame. At least 56 people were killed, including 32 children. She said:
“These are injustices against children and the young men and women who are being incarcerated. I’m an American, I pay taxes in my name and they are giving millions and millions of dollars to a country such as Israel and cluster bombs and defence technology and those bombs were dropped on common citizens in Qana. It’s terrible.”
There’s no one
In the village
Not a human
Nor a stone
There’s no one
In the village
Children are gone
And a mother rocks
Herself to sleep
Let it come down
Let her weep
ALAN RICKMAN: My name is Rachel Corrie
Rickman edited and directed a play My name is Rachel Corrie, about Rachel Corrie, american activist killed by IDFs bulldozer in 2003. The play was based on Rachel’s diaries and e-mails home, and was censored (put off stage) several times by some theaters. “Rachel Corrie lived in nobody’s pocket but her own. Whether one is sympathetic with her or not, her voice is like a clarion in the fog and should be heard,” Rickman said then.
Watch him talk more about the play in this interview.
ROGER WATERS: We don’t need no thought control
In 1980, a song I wrote, Another Brick In The Wall part2, was banned by the government of South Africa because it was being used by black South African children to advocate their right to equal education. That apartheid government imposed a cultural blockade, so to speak, on certain songs, including mine.
Twenty-five years later, in 2005, Palestinian children participating in a West Bank festival used the song to protest against Israel’s wall around West Bank. They sang: “We don’t need no occupation! We don’t need no racist wall!” At the time, I hadn’t seen firsthand what they were singing about.
A year later I was contracted to perform in Tel Aviv. Palestinians from a movement advocating an academic and cultural boycott of Israel urged me to reconsider. I had already spoken out against the wall, but I was unsure whether a cultural boycott was the right way to go.
The Palestinian advocates of a boycott asked that I visit the occupied Palestinian territory to see the wall for myself before I made up my mind. I agreed. Under the protection of the United Nations I visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw that day. The wall is an appalling edifice to behold. It is policed by young Israeli soldiers who treated me, a casual observer from another world, with disdainful aggression.
If it could be like that for me, a foreigner, a visitor, imagine what it must be like for the Palestinians, for the underclass, for the passbook carriers. I knew then that my conscience would not allow me to walk away from that wall, from the fate of the Palestinians I met: people whose lives are crushed daily by Israel’s occupation. In solidarity, and somewhat impotently, I wrote on their wall that day: “We don’t need no thought control.”
Realising at that point that my presence on a Tel Aviv stage would inadvertently legitimise the oppression I had seen, I cancelled my gig at the stadium in Tel Aviv and moved it to Neve Shalom, an agricultural community devoted to growing chick peas and also, admirably, to co-operation between different faiths, where Muslim, Christian and Jew work side by side in harmony.
Against all expectations it was to become the biggest music event in the short history of Israel. Some 60,000 fans battled traffic jams to attend. It was extraordinarily moving for us, and at the end of the gig I was moved to exhort the young people gathered there to demand of their government that they attempt to make peace with their neighbours and respect the civil rights of Palestinians living in Israel.
Sadly, in the intervening years the Israeli government has made no attempt to implement legislation that would grant rights to Israeli Arabs equal to those enjoyed by Israeli Jews, and the wall has grown, inexorably, illegally annexing more and more of the West Bank.
For the people of Gaza, locked in a virtual prison behind the wall of Israel’s illegal blockade, it means another set of injustices. It means that children go to sleep hungry, many chronically malnourished. It means that fathers and mothers, unable to work in a decimated economy, have no means to support their families. It means that university students with scholarships to study abroad must watch the opportunity of a lifetime slip away because they are not allowed to travel.
In my view, the abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), coupled with its denial of the right of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair-minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance.
Where governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For me this means declaring an intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s policies, by joining the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.
My conviction is born in the idea that all people deserve basic human rights. This is not an attack on the people of Israel. This is, however, a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.
Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa’s Sun City resort until apartheid fell and white people and black people enjoyed equal rights. And we are right to refuse to play in Israel until the day comes – and it surely will come – when the wall of occupation falls and Palestinians live alongside Israelis in the peace, freedom, justice and dignity that they all deserve.
And another, more recent letter by Waters.
18th August 2013 Warsaw
To My Colleagues in Rock and Roll
Nigel Kennedy the virtuoso British violinist and violist, at The Recent Promenade Concerts at The Albert Hall in London, mentioned that Israel is apartheid. Nothing unusual there you might think, then one Baroness Deech, (Nee Fraenkel) disputed the fact that Israel is an apartheid state and prevailed upon the BBC to censor Kennedy’s performance by removing his statement. Baroness Deech produced not one shred of evidence to support her claim and yet the BBC, non political, supposedly, acting solely on Baroness Deech’s say so, suddenly went all 1984 on us. Well!! Time to stick my head above the parapet again, alongside my brother, Nigel Kennedy, where it belongs. And by the way, Nigel, great respect man. So here follows a letter last re-drafted in July
25th July 2013
To My Colleagues in Rock and Roll.
In the wake of the tragic shooting to death of un-armed teenager Travon Martin and the acquittal of his killer Zimmerman, yesterday, Stevie Wonder spoke at a gig declaring that he will not perform in the State of Florida until that State repeals it’s “Stand your ground” Law. In effect he has declared a boycott on grounds of conscience. I applaud his position, and stand with him, it has brought back to me a statement I made in a letter I wrote last February 14th, to which I have referred but have never published.
The time has come, so here it is.
This letter has been simmering on the back burner of my conscience and consciousness for some time.
It is seven years since I joined BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) a non violent movement to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank ,and ,violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. The aim of BDS is to bring international attention to these Israeli policies, and hopefully, to help bring them to an end. All the people of the region deserve better than this.
To cut to the chase, Israel has been found guilty, independently, by international human rights organizations, UN officials, and the International Court of Justice, , of serious breaches of international law. These include, and I will name only two:
1.The Crime of Apartheid:
The systematic oppression of one ethnic group by another.
On 9 March 2012, for instance, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/CERD.C.ISR.CO.14-16.pdf) on Israel to end its racist policies and laws that contravene the prohibition against racial segregation and apartheid.
2.The Crime of Ethnic Cleansing:
The forcible removable of indigenous peoples from their rightful land in order to settle an occupying population. For example, in East Jerusalem non Jewish families are routinely physically evicted from their homes to make way for Jewish occupants.
There are others.
Given the inability or unwillingness of our governments, or the United Nations Security Council to put pressure on Israel to cease these violations, and make reparations to the victims, it falls to civil society and conscientious citizens of the world, , to dust off our consciences, shoulder our responsibilities, and act. I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel, to shed light on these problems and also to support all our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Israel who are struggling to end all forms of Israeli oppression and who wish to live in peace, justice, equality and freedom.
I am writing to you all now because of two recent events.
Word came to me, the first week of last December that Stevie Wonder had been booked to headline at a gala dinner for the Friends of The Israeli Defence Force in LA on 6th December 2012. An event to raise money for the Israeli armed forces, as if the $4.3,000,000,000 that we the US tax payers give them each year were not enough? This came right after The Israeli defence Force had concluded yet another war on Gaza, (Operation Pillar of Defence), according to human rights watch, committing war crimes against the besieged 1.6 million Palestinians there.
Anyway, I wrote to Stevie to try to persuade him to cancel. My letter ran along these lines, “Would you have felt OK performing at the Policeman’s Ball in Johannesburg the night after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 or in Birmingham Alabama, to raise money for the Law Enforcement officers, who clubbed, tear gassed and water cannoned those children trying to integrate in 1963?”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu also wrote an impassioned plea to Stevie, and 3,000 others appended their names to a change .org petition. Stevie, to his great credit, cancelled!
2. Earlier that week I delivered a speech at The United Nations. If you are interested you can find this speech on YouTube.
The interesting thing about these two stories is that there was NOT ONE mention of either story in the mainstream media in the United States.
The clear inference would be that the media in the USA is not interested in the predicament of the Palestinian people, or for that matter the predicament of the Israeli people,. We can only hope they may become interested as they eventually did in the politics of apartheid South Africa.
Back in the days of Apartheid South Africa at first it was a trickle of artists that refused to play there, a trickle, that exercised a cultural boycott, then it became a stream, then a river then a torrent and then a flood, ( Remember Steve van Zant, Bruce and all the others? “We will not Play in Sun City?”) Why? Because, like the UN and the International Courts of Justice they understood that Apartheid is wrong.
The sports community joined the battle, no one would go and play cricket or rugby in South Africa , and eventually the political community joined in as well. We all as a global, musical, sporting and political community raised our voices as one and the apartheid regime in South Africa fell.
Maybe we are at the tipping point now with Israel and Palestine. These are good people both and they deserve a just solution to their predicament. Each and every one of them deserves freedom, justice and equal rights. Just recently the ANC, the ruling party of South Africa, has endorsed BDS. We are nearly there. Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or 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.