Red Hot Chili Peppers

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS                                                                    
c/o Warner Music
75 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10019

23 May 2012

Dear Red Hot Chili Peppers,

South African Artists to Red Hot Chili Peppers: Don’t Entertain Apartheid, Choose the Right Side of History!

We are South Africans artists who have recently learned that in the course of your upcoming international tour (which will include Bulgaria, Greece, Lebanon and Turkey) the Red Hot Chili Peppers are also planning to perform in Israel in September.

We appeal to you to heed the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel. As you may know, the boycott enjoys the support of the overwhelming amount of Palestinian civil society (including artists and artist groups) and an increasing number of progressive Israelis.

You might wonder what purpose refusing to perform in Israel might serve? As a people whose parents and grandparents suffered under (and resisted) Apartheid in South Africa, our history is testament to the value and legitimacy that the international boycott had in bringing an end to the Apartheid regime in our country.  When artists and sportspeople began refusing to perform in South Africa, the world’s eyes turned to the injustices that were happening here. This then created a wave of pressure on politicians and world leaders representing their constituencies, to insist on a regime-change - this contributed to a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa. The same is not only possible for Palestine-Israel, but inevitable. The question is: on which side of history do you want to be? Performing in Apartheid South Africa during the 80s, or in Israel today, is choosing to be on the wrong side of history.

As South Africans, we recognise the role that internationally-recognised artists like yourselves played in helping us to end apartheid in our country. It is this recognition, along with our belief in you, that leads us to join the many others around the world who are calling on you to cancel this part of your tour.

We understand how difficult it would be for you to reject an opportunity to share your enthusiasm and skills with others. Bands like you are the reason artists want to exist. Your music motivates beyond concert stages, penetrating into the intimate personal spaces of individual human lives and transforming them forever, the way only true art can.

Unhappily, matters are not so simple in this context. Art does not simply take place in a vacuum. The belief that cultural activities are “apolitical” (or that you are simply performing music, not getting involved in politics) is a myth. You performing in Israel will be a slap in the face of Palestinians (who have, since 2005, asked international artists not to perform there) but it will also be tacit support for the Israeli regime and its practices of apartheid.

The audiences before whom you would perform at Haryakon Park in Tel Aviv will not include your Palestinian fans from Gaza or the West Bank - they are barred from traveling to Tel Aviv. They are excluded, like how Blacks were excluded under Apartheid in South Africa, by laws which shut them out of places in a land which, historically, is as much their own as those who are permitted to attend.

These are laws which the International Court of Justice (the highest court on this earth) has declared to be illegal and in violation of international human rights law, just as apartheid was declared to be illegal in our country. The Court found that the fundamental rights of people who would otherwise be enjoying your performances have been violated and their rights to a cultural life and to self-determination denied. By agreeing to perform before segregated audiences – whether in Israel, Gaza, or the West Bank – the Red Hot Chili Peppers would be used by those responsible to claim legitimacy (with or without your consent) for the injustices and humiliations they are inflicting on Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza as well as those living anywhere else in Israel.

From our own experience of the cultural boycott of South Africa which we ourselves called for, we had no sense of being its unwilling victims and isolated from the rest of the world. In fact, our experience was precisely to the contrary – we were strengthened by a powerful sense of world-wide solidarity with us and support in our struggle for freedom.

As Palestinians (and an increasing numbers of progressive Israelis) have themselves called for the boycott, we have no doubt that they will feel as heartened and encouraged in their struggle as we were.
We urge to you to stand by them, to exclude Israel from your tour, and be on the right side of history.

Joni Barnard, Mpho Madi, Aslam Bulbulia and the rest of the SA Artists Against Apartheid collective