Baaba Maal photo ©Oxfam

Baaba Maal yet to announce decision on going to Israel

Baaba and Gary YoungeUPDATE 3 SEPTEMBER:  Baaba Maal actively engaged with pro-Palestinian campaigners urging him to respect the Palestinian boycott call, seeming to leave open the possibility that he would not go to Israel on September 20.

Baaba is pictured (left) in discussion with Guardian editor-at-large Gary Younge during the Africa Utopia festival at London’s Southbank Centre, where hundreds of Artists for Palestine UK leaflets were in circulation. A separate protest took place outside the building.

Younge referred to his own experience as a participant in the Palestinian Literature Festival (PalFest) in which artists were obliged to travel to meet their audiences because Palestinians are not themselves free to move around.

“Why would you go to a place where people can’t travel and there is a boycott going on?” he asked.

Baaba said no one musician could make a significant difference, that change required action from world leaders, that his job as an artist was to write and perform songs that say what he believes is right.

A questioner from APUK reminded him that world leaders had failed the Palestinians for six decades, that the point of the boycott was to join large numbers of artists together in solidarity, as in the case of South Africa, and that Israel would take his appearance there as a sign of approval.

Baaba acknowledged the pro-boycott arguments and said he would have to choose between listening to them and not going to Israel, or listening to those who want him to go and represent his people’s culture there.

Asked by Younge to clarify his intentions, Baaba said: “This is not the place for me to say.”


On Aug 29, Artists for Palestine UK  sent a second appeal to Baaba Maal, expressing dismay that he should agree to perform in a city which is under an illegal military occupation and questioning how this can possibly be compatible with his current role as a ‘Global Ambassador’ for Oxfam.

The French version of the letter follows below the English one.
La version française de la 
lettre suit ci-dessous.

London, 29 August 2016

Dear Baaba Maal,

It is a month now since we wrote to you about your decision to perform on 20 September in the Old City of Jerusalem – which is under Israeli military occupation.

We called on you to cancel your show.   We know that this call has been taken up by many people, in many parts of the world.   We are astonished and dismayed that you have not responded to it.

You are a Global Ambassador for Oxfam.   ‘This year,’ says Oxfam’s website, ‘Baaba Maal is calling on world leaders to Stand As One with the more than 60 million people who have been forced to flee their homes by conflicts, violence and persecution.’

You must know that among the 60 million, are 5 million Palestinian refugees who are scattered around the world, most living in refugee camps, and not allowed to return to the homes which they were forced to leave in 1948.   You must know, too, that every month this number rises, as Palestinians are driven out to make way for new Israeli settlements.

This is happening in the very city where you are planning to perform.   Palestinian homes are being demolished by the Jerusalem municipality which sponsors the ‘Sacred Music Festival’ where you have been invited to play.   The fact that the venue for your performance, the al-Qal’a citadel, has been renamed the ‘Tower of David’ is a symbol of this expropriation, which seeks to wipe out the Palestinian past.

We appeal to you: do not perform in a city which is under illegal occupation, whose indigenous inhabitants continue to be under pressure to leave.   Act on your principles, stand up against injustice, do not give consolation to those who are driving a people from its homeland.

Doug Holton, theatre-maker

Jenny Morgan, film-maker

Miranda Pennell, film-maker

Kareem Samara, musician

Farhana Sheikh, writer

John Smith, film-maker

Hilary Westlake, theatre director


Notre lettre en français:



                                                           Londres, le 29 août 2016

Cher Baaba Maal,

Voilà un mois, nous vous écrivions à propos de votre décision de vous produire le mois prochain dans la Vieille Ville de Jérusalem – qui est sous occupation militaire Israélienne.

Nous faisions appel à vous pour que vous annuliez votre concert.   Nous savons que cet appel a été repris par beaucoup d’autres personnes dans de nombreuses parties du monde. Nous sommes étonnés et consternés que vous n’y ayiez pas répondu.

Vous êtes ambassadeur mondiale pour l’Oxfam.   ‘Cette année’, lit-on sur le site de l’Oxfam, ‘Baaba Maal appelle les dirigeants du monde entier à se dresser comme un seul homme avec les plus de 60 millions de personnes qui ont été obligées de fuir leurs maisons à cause des conflits, de la violence et des persécutions.’

Vous devez savoir que, parmi ces 60 millions, il y a 5 millions de réfugiés palestiniens, dispersés à travers le monde, vivant principalement dans des camps de réfugiés, et qui n’ont pas le droit de retourner chez eux en Palestine qu’ils ont été forcés de quitter en 1948. Vous devez savoir aussi que, tous les mois, ce nombre augmente, car les Palestiniens sont arrachés à leurs maisons pour faire de la place pour les nouvelles colonies israéliennes.

Ceci se passe dans la ville même où vous avez projeté de vous produire.   Des maisons palestiniennes sont démolies par la municipalité de Jérusalem, qui parrraine le ‘Festival de Musique Sacrée’ dans lequel vous avez été invité à jouer.   Le fait que le lieu prévu pour votre concert, la citadelle al-Qal’a, est maintenant rebaptisée la ‘Tour de David’ est un symbole de l’expropriation qui cherche à balayer son passé palestinien.

Nous faisons appel à vous : Ne vous produisez pas dans une ville qui est sous occupation illégale, dont les habitants indigènes demeurent sous pression pour la quitter.   Traduisez vos principes en actes, dressez vous contre l’injustice, ne confortez pas ceux qui arrachent une population à sa terre natale.

Doug Holton, créateur de théatre

Jenny Morgan, réalisatrice

Miranda Pennell, réalisatrice

Kareem Samara, musicien

Farhana Sheikh, écrivaine

John Smith, réalisateur

Hilary Westlake, directeur de théâtre


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