SOUTH AFRICAN ARTISTS AGAINST APARTHEID
PO BOX 2318
24 January 2011
Dear Macy Gray,
We, members of the South African Artists Against Apartheid collective, would like to thank you for allowing your fans to express their opinion on your performing in Israel. We write to you as fellow artists, fans and (we trust) as comrades trying to create a better world free from racism, exploitation and injustice.
Artists have an ability and responsibility to convey thoughts, ideas and beliefs to their audiences, to draw their attention to important issues, and to create a space for them to do the same.
We are writing to you to encourage you to reconsider performing in Israel. You might wonder what purpose refusing to perform in Israel (in line with the cultural boycott call) 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 to an end 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 to people of colour. 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.
Inspired by the boycott of Apartheid South Africa, Palestinians have called for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign of Israel. As you are aware, this call has been actively supported by some Israelis as well. The aim of the campaign is not to target Israeli civilians, but to draw attention to the unjust acts that the Israeli state commits on a daily basis in their name.
The belief that cultural activities are “apolitical” is simply a myth. Artists have greater followings than politicians do; millions of people admire them and look to them as role models. They have a moral obligation to stand up against injustice all over the world. By performing in a country whose government systematically makes life unbearable for a targeted group of people is to ignore all sense of justice and morality and creates the impression that “it’s none of my business, I’m just here to entertain”.
More and more artists have joined the call for the end of Israeli Apartheid against Palestinians, and this has been supported by some of the world’s greatest moral figures.
In October 2010, Nobel-Prize winner, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, backed the public call on a South African group (the Cape Town Opera) to cancel their scheduled performance in Israel. He passionately appealed:
Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong for Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel. The Tel Aviv Opera House is state sponsored. By luring international artists to perform there, it advances Israel’s fallacious claim to being a “civilized democracy”.
The fact that such prominent and respected figures are speaking out on the issue is an indicator that the boycott movement is rapidly gaining momentum and indeed, peace may have a chance. In time, the voices behind it will be strong enough to change the fate of the Palestinian people. It is our hope that you will put your voice behind this movement, adding to its power, which will eventually contribute to the justice that Palestinians have been waiting on for decades.
We have attached a declaration by South African Artists Against Apartheid. This is accompanied by a record sheet of artists and entertainers who have refused to entertain Israeli Apartheid. We do hope that you will add your name to this growing list.
Finally, we would like to share with you a glimpse, though our lens, of the South African struggle against racism. If you would allow us, we would love to send you a DVD movie - we hope that you will forward us a mailing address for this.
Be on the right side of history. Don’t entertain Apartheid
South African Artists Against Apartheid
- Endorsed by the Cultural Workers Union of South Africa (the cultural union of South Africa’s largest trade union federation, COSATU)