Aurora: Don’t be a sword, cancel Tel Aviv

Aurora says she is a lily, not a sword. As Palestinian and Israeli musicians, we urge her to be true to her word, by refusing to let her music and image be exploited as a weapon of propaganda by the far-right Israeli apartheid regime. Israel explicitly uses all international artists to cover up oppression, particularly those who consciously dismiss moral appeals for them to refuse shows at complicit Israeli cultural institutions.

Barby Club in Tel Aviv, where Aurora is booked to perform two shows in November, is one such cultural institution. Barby brazenly wears its complicity like a badge of honour, most clearly when it handed out free t-shirts to Israeli occupation  forces engaged in the 2014 massacres in Gaza that left more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, dead.

These t-shirts were emblazoned with the phrase “fuck you, we’re from Israel” alongside the club’s own logo, who proudly posted images online. This incident alone should be enough to stir the conscience of any progressive artist, especially Aurora’s, whose own sense of morality is surely troubled by such a glaring example of a hyper-militarised society meshing seamlessly with culture, as it does in apartheid Tel Aviv today.

We are among the Palestinian and Israeli artists who wrote open letters to Aurora, calling on her to cancel her shows in apartheid Tel Aviv. Palestinian artists wrote that “when more than 150 Norwegian artists endorsed the Palestinian, Israeli and international calls to boycott Eurovision in apartheid Tel Aviv in May this year, they demonstrated their moral commitment to do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality.” Meanwhile, Israelis wrote that, as artists, they “can’t sit silent” as long as their “Palestinian counterparts suffer silencing, dehumanisation and violence”.

Another letter to Aurora was sent from Boycott from Within, whose public support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is now endorsed by a thousand Israeli citizens, mostly Jewish. They drew Aurora’s attention to the fact that last year’s so-called Jewish Nation-State Law “enshrines apartheid into Israel’s equivalent of a constitution”. This entrechment of apartheid was only the latest: Palestinian citizens of Israel were already subject to 65 racist laws

As in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the refusal of progressive artists to play Sun City, artists today are asked to do no harm to the nonviolent struggle of Palestinians, by refusing to perform in apartheid Tel Aviv. The growing solidarity between global grassroots movements and Palestinians, including LGBTQ+ organisations, feminist movements, Black liberation, and climate justice struggles, is best encapsulated by Angela Davis’s immortal statement that justice is indivisible.

We do not doubt that Aurora has good intentions. That much is clear from her various statements. The world we live in is often brutally indifferent to suffering, but people are calling on Aurora to cancel her shows at Barby because she can make a difference, because she has the power right now to take a stand and, crucially, not undermine a movement for freedom, justice and equality. Aurora says she sings for her Israeli fans, who are the future, but what future is there if one of the harshest occupations in history is art-washed by international performances?

When one sings on stage at the Barby club, one is 45 minutes away from the apartheid wall built by Israel to keep millions of Palestinians oppressed under martial law. Any statement an artist might make on stage in apartheid Tel Aviv would be overshadowed by the fact that they are crossing an international picket line established by the absolute majority of Palestinian civil society, including women’s organizations. As with apartheid in South Africa, only pressure from the outside on Israel’s far-right apartheid regime can compel it to end the denial of Palestinians’ fundamental human rights. 

We hope that Aurora continues to engage with those of us calling on her to reconsider her scheduled performances. She says that she stands “on people’s side, in the fight against injustice and violence”. We believe her. But we disagree that heeding the call of the oppressed Palestinians is “like looking the other way”. It is the opposite. Before her is the chance to look straight into the eyes of the oppressed, and to tell them she will hear them and heed their moral appeals. So far, despite many agreeable words, she has refused to do so.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a founding member of the largest coalition in Palestinian society that leads the global BDS movement for Palestinian rights, said that Aurora’s dismissal of Palestinian voices means she only “plays into the hands of the oppressor”. We hope that she will instead play a different tune: one of meaningful solidarity.

~ Samir Eskanda is a Palestinian musician
~ Ohal Grietzer is an Israeli composer and mixed-media performer 

* This article was originally published in Norwegian in Dagsavisen

* Photo credit: Mode Steinkjer

Eddie Izzard’s registration for Palestine Marathon this Friday sent back to him by organisers

British comedian Eddie Izzard holds a South African flag beneath a statue of former president Nelson Mandela at the government’s Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, March 20, 2016. Izzard completed 27 marathons in 27 days for Sport Relief to remember the 27 years Mandela spent in prison in 2016. (AP Photo)

MEDIA: Eddie Izzard Misses Palestinian Marathon Following Backlash Over Tel Aviv Gig, Hollywood Reporter 31/3/2017
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Israel bans Gaza runners from Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem’ Middle East Monitor March 30, 2017
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In a development saturated with political and emotional charge, South African runner Mervin Steenkamp came in first, for the second year in a row. Second-placed Thaer Shanaah is from Gaza, the densely populated coastal strip under blockade by Israel’.

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‘No one now regrets boycotting apartheid South Africa’

 UPDATE 09.03.2017 From Israeli Citizens: Radiohead, Please Don’t Play Tel-Aviv
Open letter from Israeli citizens to Radiohead : “We urge you to cancel your performances in Israel and not grant your seal of approval to Israel’s ongoing crimes and human rights violations.” 09.03.2017

London, 7 March 2017

Calls mount for Radiohead to cancel Israel gig 

  • Artists for Palestine UK joins growing appeal to Radiohead to cancel Israel gig
  • Palestinian artists say, ‘Stand with the oppressed,  as Brian Eno, Alice Walker and Roger Waters do’
  • Jewish Voice for Peace in South Florida, USA, says, ‘We urge you to cancel, as an inspiration to young people everywhere’

Artists for Palestine UK (APUK), whose Artists’ Pledge for Palestine has over 1200 signatories, called today for UK band Radiohead to cancel their concert in Tel Aviv, scheduled for July 19.
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PACBI STATEMENT – Art should not be used to cover up apartheid: Boycott the Zabludowicz Art Trust!

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has issued the following statement about the Zabludowicz  Art Trust.

pacbi logo

Art should not be used to cover up apartheid: Boycott the Zabludowicz Art Trust!

Occupied Palestine, October 26, 2015 — The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls for a boycott of the Zabludowicz  Art Trust for its deep complicity in Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid.

The Zabludowicz Art Trust directly supports Israel’s oppression of Palestinians through its funder, The Tamares Group, which is responsible for investments in Knafaim, an Israeli­-based holding company, focused on the aviation industry, with major holdings in several Israeli companies including Kanfey Tachzuka, which provides maintenance services to the Israeli Air Force[1], notorious for its ongoing commission of war crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. Continue reading