Open Letter to Macy Gray
February 9, 2011
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) views with great dismay your upcoming performance in Tel Aviv, despite your acknowledgment that “what the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting” . Furthermore, PACBI has learned that you intend to go one step further in your support of the Israeli state by meeting with members of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) on this trip. In doing so, you would be electing to serve directly the interests of the campaign to Brand Israel . This is a campaign that has been launched by the Israeli government and promoted by institutions throughout the country and abroad in order to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and project a false image of normalcy. To be sure, you have served this near-ambassadorial position for Israel several times in the past: playing at the opening of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles in 2008 , and most recently visiting the consulate on request of its diplomats and releasing a statement declaring your support for Israel .
PACBI has also learned that you intend to visit Ramallah on your tour, a suggestion raised in the past by all those who have tried to appease the occupied Palestinian people while going against our call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). PACBI and the great majority in Palestinian civil society have repeated time and again that such a move would be categorically rejected as a further act of normalizing Israel’s crimes by receiving the blessing of the Palestinians and using it as a fig leaf. The very fact that you had to think of a separate trip to visit the Palestinians is itself an acknowledgement of the existence of the apartheid regime, whereby occupied Palestinians cannot attend your show just minutes away.
What is most distressing is that you can no longer hide behind the idea that you do not know. On top of the numerous blog postings that have popped up over the last month, some of which were quite informative and well reasoned, representatives from PACBI, BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (BFW), as well as Israeli activists, have spoken to you privately on several occasions, emailed you extensively, answered your many questions, and provided you with many credible references from UN and respected human rights organizations. Macy Gray, you know about the siege of Gaza, the apartheid wall, the occupation, the laws discriminating against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the war on Gaza, the Israeli imprisonment of Palestinians and human rights defenders, the colonization of Palestinian land by settlers, and Israel’s refusal to recognize the Palestinian right of return. You know about the South African struggle against apartheid and how central the cultural boycott was to it. And you know Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s position in support of BDS against Israel, including in the cultural field, as a non-violent and most effective form of struggle to end Israel’s own apartheid and colonial rule.
Yet, instead of heeding the Palestinian call for BDS, you have offered your own “way” of helping – in what feels like a patronizing attempt to dictate the terms of the Palestinian people’s struggle – by wanting to visit Palestinian schools or play a show in Ramallah, as though the Palestinian people need your pity. We have asked, as an occupied people, for the minimum act of solidarity by not playing in Tel Aviv. We have been answered with your dismissal of our struggle in favor of your own way of helping, as though you know better. While we acknowledge there are many ways to help, we ask that people who do so are not directly delegitimizing the popular will of the Palestinian people. By playing in Tel Aviv you will do this and more. Your action will imply support of the occupation and the colonial Israeli state, denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and dismissal of a system of apartheid.
You have been asked several times, and South African Artists Against Apartheid have written you, but we ask you again publicly: would you have played in Sun City in South Africa under apartheid? Would you have played in Sun City and then visited Soweto to appease the oppressed? Would this not have been a stab in the face of the black population of apartheid South Africa? The answers will be made clear to all of us soon. We continue to insist that you ought to reflect on all this and opt to stand on the right side of history. Do not be complicit in Israel’s apartheid and massive violations of human rights.