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PACBI-SCORPIONS: Wind of Change for Justice or Apartheid?

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PACBI | 28/09/2010

SCORPIONS: Wind of Change for Justice or Apartheid?

An Open Letter from PACBI


Dear Scorpions,


Occupied Ramallah, 28 September 2010 -- The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned from various sources that you are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on October 4, 2010.  Your performance in Israel was only recently announced on your official tour website. Prior to this, when we contacted your agents and lawyers to inquire about your performance we received ambiguous responses. Your now scheduled performance violates the appeal of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement [1] which urges people of conscience throughout the world to isolate Israel until it ends its colonial and apartheid oppression against the Palestinian people, as was done against the apartheid regime in South Africa. We urge you, as a band known for its commitment to support the “wind of change” and the falling of the Berlin Wall, not to perform in apartheid Israel that is building a far more cruel and illegal [2] wall on occupied Palestinian land.  


We have also recently learned of previous concerts your group has performed in Israel [3] and the positions Klaus Meine took in the July 2006 war that Israel waged on Lebanon [4].  Your overall positions have made it imperative to call on you to take a morally consistent position in view of your past politics advocating justice and a dream for change.  We are also addressing you to call your attention to the growing international movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.  We are hoping that you will heed the Palestinian call, and adhere to the international picket line supported by Israeli activists [5] and many international groups and prominent individuals [6]. 


Not listing the Israel concert on your website as part of your tour may be a slip or a disingenuous tactic to hide from criticism for playing in Israel and to avoid the boycott movement.  Regardless, now that the world knows you plan to entertain apartheid Israel, we ask you not to.  


Origins of a Movement


Leading to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) [7], and inspired by the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, PACBI, supported by key unions and cultural groups, issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel in 2004, appealing to international artists to refuse to perform in Israel [8] or participate in events that serve to equate the occupier and the occupied [9] and thus promote the continuation of injustice.  This call is supported by devoted anti-racist activists around the world, from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to best-selling African-American author Alice Walker.  As Bishop Tutu recently noted in a historic statement unequivocally supporting the Palestinian boycott campaign against Israel:


I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, 'Why are our memories so short?' Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? … When we say 'Never again!’ do we mean 'Never again!’, or do we mean 'Never again to us!’? [10]


Reconsider Your Past Positions


Many in the boycott movement are fans of your music and grew up singing and dancing to your songs.  The “Wind of Change,” in particular, gave us hope for a better world and future.  For this reason it came as a disappointment to learn that you have taken part in cultural propaganda efforts aimed to re-brand Israel, hiding its colonial and apartheid reality [11].  Specifically, your reference to Germany’s past should not serve as a pretext for silence or apathy towards Israel’s crimes, nor should it be used to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.  The lessons of Germany’s past should teach us all to reject all forms of racism, racial hatred and discrimination, to support the oppressed in the world lest they suffer from further oppressions by those in power, not to support a state that institutionalizes racism against its "non-Jewish" citizens.


Addressing this taboo issue, long-time Israel lobbyist and current University of London academic Henry Siegman has recently written [12]:


A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants. Of course, the inmates of Gaza are not destined for gas chambers, as the Jews were, but they have been reduced to a debased and hopeless existence.

Fully 80% of Gaza’s population lives on the edge of malnutrition, depending on international charities for their daily nourishment. According to the UN and World Health authorities, Gaza’s children suffer from dramatically increased morbidity that will affect and shorten the lives of many of them. …

Particularly appalling is that this policy has been the source of amusement for some Israeli leaders, who according to Israeli press reports have jokingly described it as 'putting Palestinians on a diet.' That, too, is reminiscent of the Hitler years, when Jewish suffering amused the Nazis.

Given your positions, it is important that you understand why the BDS movement is calling on you to boycott performances in Israel and why your positions on peace and on Israel are misplaced.  Peace, as you know, is not a word that can be thrown about lightly, nor can it be achieved if those in power refuse to recognize the rights of the oppressed.


Some of the violations your position is supporting are:


- Israel’s brutal and unlawful military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank.  All the while, Israel fortifies its colonization of Palestinian lands by expanding the network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements.


- A growing system of Apartheid towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel, with laws and policies that deny Palestinian citizens the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy. These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people's daily lives.


- Israel ethnic cleansing, in 1948, of more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form a Jewish state.  Since then, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands.  It also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Negev. Today, there are more than 7 million refugees, still struggling for their right to return.


Boycott Israel


Israel has used artists, musicians and other cultural workers as part of a campaign to Brand Israel [13], a campaign that has been launched by the Israeli government and promoted by institutions throughout the country in order to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and project a false image of normalcy.  But after Israel’s war of aggression against Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead [14], predominantly civilians, and led the UN Goldstone Report to declare that Israel had committed war crimes [15], and after the flotilla massacre, many international artists have refused to conduct business as usual with a country that places itself above international standards.  Elvis Costello [16], Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart [17], and the Pixies are but a few of the artists who have refused to perform in Israel in the past year. 


As Holocaust survivor and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Stephane Hessel wrote [18] after Israel’s deadly attack on the humanitarian relief Gaza-Bound Flotilla a few months ago:


The absence of meaningful action from governments to hold Israel accountable to international law leaves open one path for citizens of conscience: to take this responsibility upon themselves, as done against apartheid South Africa. Non-violent citizen-led initiatives, exemplified by the Flotilla and the various boycott and divestment campaigns around the world, present the most promising way to overcome the failure of world governments to stand up to Israel's intransigence and lawless behavior.


The “Wind of Change” is upon us again. You can decide whether you wish to support "change" towards entrenching occupation and apartheid or change towards freedom, justice and upholding international law. If the latter, we hope you shall refuse to entertain Israeli apartheid! 








[2] In July 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion condemning Israel’s wall and colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian land as illegal.

















Posted on 28-09-2010

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