Posts tagged BDS
Many things you can do this year and resolve to do in 2011:
- You can join the twitter campaigns on December 27 to promote justice for Gaza and remember the atrocities committed by Israel in December – January 2008. The two campaigns are #Gaza2 and #BoycottIsrael.
- Wear Red on Monday, December 27.
- Join and support the BDS Movement – the most powerful and growing movement to delegitimize the apartheid state of Israel. There are simple things you can do like refuse to buy Motorola, Ahava, Veolia, and other products. And there are bigger things you can do by joining your local BDS groups and their campaigns to boycott, divest, and sanction.
Like thousands of other Lebanese fans (and wannabe fans), I was excited about Placebo performing in Beirut this Wednesday. For many years, their music and lyrics, full of hurt and angst and queerness, have accompanied me through phases of depression, anger, calm, and even hope.
Last week the attacks on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla inspired me to learn more about strategies of Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS), widely viewed as a growing movement to end Israeli apartheid and occupation. And so, I put together a quick talk where two speakers explained the basics of the movement to me and some fellow activists. The movement is largely inspired by the similar campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, which was successful back in the 80s due to international pressure. I will not explain much about the movement. Please read about it to find out more. Let me focus now on the issue of Placebo.
I only find out about Placebo playing in Tel Aviv on Saturday (same night of their concert). It was also the same day when I understood why it was necessary to pressure musicians NOT to play in Israel. Our goal is to de-legitimize the state of Israel, which is an enemy state to both Palestine and Lebanon. And boycott should not only be in form of economic boycott on a personal or industry level of companies that are Israeli or that invest in Israel. Economic boycott is not enough. We must also boycott academics, sports, art, and culture that is Israeli or that “invests in” Israel. What does it mean to not “invest in” Israel sports-wise? It means that national sports teams around the world must refuse to play with Israeli teams. The whole world must always, every minute, be pressuring Israel to end its apartheid regime, lift the Gaza blockade, and be held accountable for the crimes committed towards Palestinians and Lebanese over the past 60+ years. Nobody must be playing sports with Israel! Nobody should be performing in Israel either. When a band or a musician perform in Israel, they are not only acting like Israel is a normal state, they are ignoring the fact that only kilometers away from their stage, millions of Palestinians are living in humiliation, starvation, poverty, dirt, rape, fear, depression, hopelessness, and more.
To me, it is as if I went to visit a friend who has someone locked in her basement, crying and starving, while I sit in the living room with my friend having coffee and listening to music. It is not acceptable. It makes my friend’s house seem normal. I would even go so far as to say it makes me an accomplice in the crime. I should no longer be friends with this person. And if I want to be, I should refuse to visit her house until she lets the prisoner in the basement go. The Zionist agenda, on the other hand, works hard to get more artists, more events, more sports teams into Israel to make it seem like everything is normal. Any sane person knows that everything is not normal. Everything, in fact, is rather severely messed up. There is no such thing as: “this is art, not politics” or “why do you have to ruin art with politics?” or “art is above politics.” No, my friends, art springs from the very personal, from the very pains of life, from our struggles, from our feelings, from our oppressions, from our joys, from falling in love, from breaking up, from dreaming, from being, it springs from our hearts and it touches the world. Art is the food of revolutions. Art is always political. And even if you, for some reason, believe art is separate from politics, you should still be able to see the problem in international artists traveling to Israel to perform there as if everything is normal.
I was raised to believe quite strongly that there is no solution to the Palestinian crisis and that Palestinians should just get over themselves and give up. As I read and learn more about the conflict, however, I realize that resistance is important, for me personally, and as a message I must convey to others. I must resist the helplessness promoted by the Zionist entity. I must resist the nonchalance that my family taught me. And I must believe, despite how I have been raised, that there is hope for justice in Palestine. There is hope for justice for all Palestinians. And to me, that hope is in the BDS movement. History has proven that it works since the very first act of boycott the abolitionist movement performed back in the 1700s when the Brits started drinking their tea without sugar because the sugar trade was the backbone of the slavery channels from Africa to America to Britain. There is no doubt in my head. The BDS movement to end Israeli apartheid will work. Check out this song by Artists United Against Apartheid refusing to play in South Africa back in the 80s.
And so, I don’t want any artist, especially one that I love, to play in Israel. Many, such as Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Gorillaz, the Pixies, Gill Scott-Heron, have canceled gigs there specifically in protest of Israel’s war crimes. Others have been pressured to do so but have not cared. Placebo is one of them. They played yesterday. Here is a video of Brian describing how he loved eating hommos in Israel and how attractive its people are:
If I had known about this before Saturday, I would have protested, in the humble ways that I protest.. by blogging, tweeting, writing emails, letters, posting on forums, spreading the word, doing anything I can to ask people to pressure Placebo into not playing in Tel Aviv. I have learned my lesson. I will be more alert about these things now. And I start right now by asking you to join me in asking Elton John to cancel his June 17th concert in Israel. Check out this brilliant video made with Elton’s own songs:
and please spread the word.
What Does This Have to Do with Artists Playing in Lebanon?
You might say: Ok, fine, I support asking artists not to play in Israel, but it has nothing to do with artists playing in Lebanon. You might say this for a variety of reasons, including perhaps that you really want great artists to perform in Lebanon or that you think: “But all musicians play in Israel!! Do we boycott all of them??” Well, that’s going to be very difficult, of course. But to not boycott just because boycotting is so difficult is lame. That’s exactly what they want us to think: “Hahaha.. idiots! You might as well boycott everything!” Um, no, but I will boycott everything I can.
You might also ask “but then nobody will come to Lebanon anymore!!” Don’t worry. They will still come. In fact, we are such a powerful cultural destination that we can use it to our advantage to convince artists not to perform in Israel. Ideally, they will choose Beirut over Tel Aviv. Yes, we can make that happen. Wouldn’t that be awesome? And not just Beirut, but all the progressive cities in the world. And so to your question: “Will this small action feed the hungry children of Gaza??” I answer: Maybe not right now. But it is part of a much larger movement that will force Israel to end its occupation and lift its blockade. “All because Tori Amos refused to play there??” you will ask again cynically. Not all because, I will say, but partly, yes. Every little push counts.
It gets particularly difficult with music. I will give you a personal example. I love Regina Spektor. I loved her music for a while before I learned that she plays often in Tel Aviv and that she is a vocal supporter of the Israeli state. It made me very sad. But what do I do? Stop listening to her? Who can hate Regina’s music? Not me. Will I go to her concert when she plays in Lebanon? I will want to buy the first ticket. It will be a difficult choice that I am free to make myself. Perhaps I will build a website, explaining to her, as her fan, why she should boycott Israel. Perhaps I will write her emails and letters. Perhaps I will hope that with the support we are building, she will realize that BDS is important. Perhaps I am crazy? Still, I will do something. I will think about it. I will take action. I will not say: “she is above all politics just because she makes great music.” No. Everyone must be held accountable for their choices, artists especially.
But that is still a hypothetical case that (I hope) we will deal with later. I personally see a much simpler scenario to deal with right now. Placebo just played Tel Aviv, enjoyed Israeli hommos, less than a week after the Flotilla murders, while Gaza is still being bombed, are coming to Beirut a week later, and expect me to just smile & go to their concert? Nope. Aslan, performing under apartheid is so incredibly against Placebo’s spirit that I can’t understand it at all. But it’s too late to explain it to them now. Not going on Wednesday and letting people know why I am not going is a small action I can do. I am as free as you are in you going to the concert.
I received this letter from a friend today:
Last week the UC Berkeley Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) Student Senate voted overwhelmingly, 16-4, to pass a divestment bill that targets two US companies, General Electric and United Technologies, which supply military equipment to the Israeli army that were used in operations in the Gaza Strip that have been investigated and classified as possible war crimes by the UN Human Rights Commission Goldstone Report, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International among others.
This historic development at UCB in the international struggle for Palestinian human rights is in danger of being reversed after the ASUC student president recently received a barrage of emails urging him to veto the bill before the one week deadline, Wednesday at 7pm (Pacific time). Please take the time to write a short message of support to the ASUC president for the democratic process that the ASUC senate engaged in, and urge him NOT TO VETO THIS BILL. Including group affiliations or any other information you think would be relevant is encouraged. Below is also a template email if you would prefer to use that. It doesn’t matter if you are affiliated with UC Berkeley or not. Thank you for your support!!
Subject: DO NOT veto the divestment resolution
Dear President Smelko,
I am writing to urge you to NOT VETO the divestment resolution, which calls for divestment from two companies which directly support the Israeli occupation and war crimes in Palestine. These bills call for the end of University funding to Israel’s military arsenal and the weapons that it uses in committing the war crimes recognized by international law and the United Nations. This divestment action builds on the legacy at UC Berkeley to fight systems of oppression and apartheid. In 1984, UC students held the banner of the divestment movement from South African apartheid. UC has also divested from tobacco companies, and carefully scrutinized products potentially coming from sweatshop labor.
This bill will further the efforts to keep the university accountable and responsible for the investments it makes. In a time of economic crisis, and underfunding of our education with budget cuts, it is crucial we show that we as students do not support our tuition funding military occupation. I sincerely hope that you can see the truth in this struggle and help further it.