AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
London, 18 October 2016
Dear Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands,
We’re wondering why the Chemical Brothers, so formidably progressive in the London and Manchester DJ scenes, seem about to let down our great cities’ record of radicalism.
Your recording company, Virgin EMI, may tell you that playing Tel Aviv on November 12 is a cool thing to do.
But Tel Aviv’s hipster vibe is a bubble on the surface of a very deep security state that drove out half the indigenous Palestinian population in 1948 and has no intention of letting their descendants back in.
If you do play Tel Aviv, it’s entirely likely you won’t be taken to visit the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. But you could, right now, look up the July 2016 edition of its publication, Military and Strategic Affairs, and read Israel Defence Force Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot musing on ‘The Challenges Facing the Israel Defence Forces’.
Does he at any point convey the slightest hint that the Israeli army is preparing to withdraw its illegal military occupation from Palestinian territory, as the entire international community (and any possibility of a peace settlement) require? He does not. He says, ‘There are 161 communities [he means Israeli settler communities] in Judea and Samaria [what the rest of the world calls the Occupied West Bank], inhabited by 400,000 Israelis who live among approximately two million Palestinians… The IDF’s duty is to provide security, so that the inhabitants of Judea and Samaria [he means the Jewish inhabitants, the settlers] are secure and feel a sense of security.’
The Chemical Brothers move around the world in complete freedom, but the price of the settlers’ ‘sense of security’ in occupied territory is enormous for Palestinian artists and their communities. Their freedom of movement is stymied at every turn – vast military checkpoints; roads to towns and villages deliberately blocked; land stolen in the name of ‘security’; and so on. If you want to get a sense of what that suffocation feels like, you could splash out £8 and watch the Oscar-shortlisted and Emmy Award winner ‘5 Broken Cameras’, by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi (the trailer is here).
If you go to Tel Aviv, your presence will be used by the Israeli authorities to reassure their citizens that all’s right with the world and nobody really cares that the Palestinians are suffering. You could step back from this. Last month, Brian Eno told the Israeli dance company, Batsheva, who were using his music in an Israeli embassy-sponsored event in Turin, that while they might not be able to distance themselves from the Israeli government, he could, and he would. You have the power to make the same choice. Please don’t go.
Caryl Churchill, playwright
Liz Lochhead, playwright, National Poet of Scotland 2011-16
JD Meatyard, musician
Jenny Morgan, film-maker
Maxine Peake, actor
Miranda Pennell, film-maker
Kareem Samara, musician
Farhana Sheikh, writer
Roger Waters, musician
Hilary Westlake, theatre director
W: artistsforpalestine.org.uk / FB: facebook.com/ArtistsforPalestineUK / T: @ArtistsforPalestineUK
Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, due to perform in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday 20 September, is a Global Ambassador for Oxfam.
Artists for Palestine UK has engaged in discussion with Oxfam in the hope the organisation would dissuade him from going ahead with the performance.
We have argued that an NGO which recruits artists to promote its values needs to make sure the artists’ actions are consistent with those values. Baaba Maal appearing in occupied East Jerusalem is not, we’ve argued, consistent with Oxfam’s stated opposition to Israeli colonisation policy.
We are making public an edited version of our most recent letter to our Oxfam interlocutors.
UPDATE 11 Sept: Il Fatto Quotidiano today printed a full page interview with Eno.
Italian newspapers are reporting opposition to Israeli state sponsorship of a performance by Batsheva dance company, due to take place tomorrow (Sept 6) in Turin.
La Republica has published in full a letter sent in June to Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin by composer Brian Eno, explaining why he has withdrawn permission for his music to be used in the performance. La Stampa has quoted from it and the story has been picked up by Italian news agency ANSA.
See here a translation by Stephanie Westbrook of BDS Italia of the Republica article, plus the text of Brian Eno’s letter.
The Edinburgh Fringe’s renowned open platform for all forms of artistic expression produced a curious juxtaposition this year, as Palestinians deployed creativity to shatter the bonds of political repression while Israeli state apologists cloaked a discredited political message in threadbare cultural clothing.
The gulf between the two was demonstrated in the pages of Scotland’s press, the airwaves and in the streets, as well as in performance and display spaces across the city.
UPDATE 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.
The 2016 Edinburgh Fringe once again offers a much-needed platform for Palestinian artists to demonstrate their talent, creativity and vitality despite the extraordinary difficulties they face in their daily lives and in producing, exhibiting and performing their work. But this year “the biggest arts festival on the planet” has shocked friends of Palestine with a last minute addition to the programme organised by groups committed to promoting Israeli interests and undermining those of Palestine. A letter of protest from Artists for Palestine UK is attracting growing support and a local campaign is gathering strength.
Sneaked onto the online programme after the printed version was published, the International Shalom Festival scheduled for August 17 is an initiative of COFIS, the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland, and StandWithUs – two pro-Israel advocacy organisations that work with the Israeli Embassy to undermine and oppose campaigning work in support of Palestinian rights.
“I’ve been a fan of Baaba Maal for around a quarter century. The thought of him playing in apartheid Israel instead of showing solidarity with the Palestinian people makes no sense to me” – audience member at the WOMAD festival.
The campaign to persuade renowned Senegalese musician Baaba Maal to reconsider his decision to perform on September 20 in Occupied East Jerusalem made headway last week with his appearance at two music festivals in the UK and boycott calls spreading internationally.
Israeli citizens urged him to act in solidarity with the Palestinian people, addressing him in his own words: “I stand as one because I believe we all deserve to live in safety.”
The call was taken up in France at the same time as leaflets headlined “Baaba Maal: Don’t support apartheid Israel” were well-received by the crowd at Baaba’s gig at the WOMAD, Charlton Park, festival in southwest England on Saturday July 30. They were mentioned by Financial Times reviewer David Honigmann in his festival report.
Artists for Palestine UK, working together with campaigners in France, Senegal, Palestine and Israel, has addressed an open letter to the renowned West African musician Baaba Maal, urging him to withdraw from a planned appearance at an Israeli musical festival in the Old City of Jerusalem in September. A French language version of the letter follows the English text below.
Artists for Palestine UK has written to the organisers of the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe enclosing a letter of protest from the founder of Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, over the inclusion on the Fringe programme of an event billed as “probably the most significant pro-Israel advocacy event of the year in the United Kingdom”.
Leanne Muhamad, a student at Wanstead High School who is British-Palestinian, won the “Speak out” challenge after giving this impressive performance to enthusiastic applause. But one day later, the Speakers Trust decided Leanne will no longer be sent through to the grand final of the public speaking competition. It seems that giving a personal account of the Nakba and a plea for end to discrimination against Palestinians is not acceptable in the UK in 2016. Once Leane’s win was retracted, the video was removed from the Speak Out Challenge website and Youtube channel, but we managed to retrieve the copy below.